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DUI and Child Custody

If you’re a parent who was recently arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), and you’re separated or divorced from your child’s other parent, you may be concerned about what your ex might “do” if they find out about your DUI arrest.

Suppose you were arrested for DUI somewhere in Orange County. Your child was not in the car that night, so fortunately you aren’t facing child endangerment charges. However, you have custody and the other parent has visitation. If your ex finds out that you were drinking and driving, will they jump at this opportunity to say that you are “unfit” and that they, not you, should have custody? It’s possible.

If you’re the one that drives your kid to and from school, the other parent may argue that you’re likely to drink and drive with your child in the car, and this claim could be a cause for concern, especially if your ex would jump at the chance to use your DUI to get the kids.

DUIs & Child Custody Battles

While an isolated drunk driving incident without the child present shouldn’t change custody, a history of drug or alcohol abuse, in addition to a new DUI can be a problem. Generally, family courts frown upon parents with substance abuse problems. So, if there is a documented history of alcohol abuse, including a DUI that could jeopardize the general public and your kids, it can be a serious issue.

Alcohol Abuse Convictions

Family courts are concerned about drug and alcohol convictions; any drug or alcohol conviction can have a negative impact on child custody. A DUI conviction, especially for a second or subsequent offense will reflect negatively upon you in the court’s eyes. However, the older the DUI conviction, the easier it is to show that it was an isolated incident. On the other hand, a recent DUI conviction is viewed as poor judgement and reckless behavior, thus it would be harder to overcome in a child custody proceeding.

What if I Go to Jail for DUI?

A jail sentence can pose a stability issue; family courts don’t usually like it when kids are bounced around from relative to relative as a parent serves out their sentence. If your ex proves they can provide a stable and loving home environment, they have a greater chance of getting custody of your kids.

Since child custody cases vary widely, there is no “one size fits all” approach to how a family law judge handles a parent’s DUI conviction. If a custody decision is very close, a DUI conviction can be the final factor that influences a child custody order.

Are you a parent who was recently arrested for DUI? Protect your parental rights by contacting an Orange County DUI defense lawyer at our firm!