The process of determining which parent is better suited to be legally awarded parental rights can often be stressful and complicated; however, a DUI charge can intensify the experience and make it even more unpleasant. Since a DUI is a criminal charge, settling child custody is not typically part of the court’s agenda; however if there is an active child custody case a DUI can definitely be included as a decision making factor.
As the court is primarily concerned with upholding the best interests of the child, parents who were charged operating a vehicle while impaired may find their charge may be used against them, even if their children were not in the car at the time.
In order to understand some of the difficulties that can impact the process, the following points outline some of the potential complications that can arise from a DUI when involved in a child custody case.
Unfit Parent Ruling
Decisions for the child’s rights are made in accordance with how they will be best cared for. Parents who were driving under the influence with their children in the car when they were convicted may be accused of child abuse, and this could be used as evidence against them in court. In a custody hearing that is contested, the court may choose to award full parenting time and rights to the spouse not convicted of DUI. The judge has sole discretion over this matter, and if the defendant had no previous history of drug or alcohol abuse, the DUI charge may be given less consideration. However, any history of DUI convictions could be unfavorable for the parent trying to obtain custody.
The best interests of the child will typically always be given more weight than giving the parent a break when it comes to substance abuse. Parents who have been charged or arrested with DUI should be aware that there is a strong possibility the conviction may be used against them if their spouse desires sole custody. If the event was a single, one-time instance that will not inhibit their ability to parent, the defendant should be prepared with evidence to prove that.
Expenses to Expect
Going through divorce proceedings can often be an expensive process; but if you have a DUI that you are also addressing, the costs and requirements of that conviction will also need to be dealt with. First-time offenders of DUI may encounter charges over $2,000 when settling court fees, probation monitoring fines, and additional expenses if property damage or injury took place. Those seeking to resolve a DUI charge in addition to winning a custody case will need to prove to the court that they can pay their due fees to the state, and properly care for their child.
Driving Privileges Removed
Individuals who lose the legal right to drive may encounter difficulties when attempting to spend time with their child, take the child to necessary medical appointments, or simply when needing to get to work. Parents must be able to meet their children’s daily needs and if they are school aged they will likely need to be picked up regularly. The court will consider parental driving rights when making decisions regarding parenting rights when a custody case is disputed.
The court is primarily concerned with whether or not parents can make rational and safe decisions when they are in charge of the care for their children. They may also take into consideration whether any previous time apart because of the DUI impacted the parent’s relationship with the child. The judge may deem it more favorable for the child to remain with the other parent, especially if they acted as the primary provider for a longer period of time.
If a parent has demonstrated that their alcohol or drugs use is abusive or could be dangerous to their child, a court may not deem it in the best interest of the child for them to be awarded with primary custody. As there are many factors that can impact a child custody hearing, parents may need to seek legal counsel if they have been convicted with a DUI charge.