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How a DUI Conviction Can Impact Child Custody Arrangements

Posted on July 20, 2023 in DUI Consequences

You may know that a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction in Arizona could result in jail time, a suspended license and a fine, but you may not realize that it could also impact your custody agreement if you share parenting time with an ex-spouse. In Arizona, the family courts can take a DUI conviction into consideration when making child custody determinations.

The Impact of a DUI Record on a New Child Custody Case

If a divorce or legal separation involving minor children goes to trial in Arizona, a judge will examine a variety of factors to determine the best child custody arrangement for the family, but the main consideration is always what is in the child’s best interest. This means what will best protect the child’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being. 

A judge will look at each parent’s ability to take care of the child to determine child custody. He or she may use a parent’s criminal background to make this determination, if applicable. If you have a DUI conviction on your record, this could hurt your chances of getting the child custody arrangement that you desire. 

Being arrested for or convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol could show a judge that you have a history of substance abuse. If your conviction involved a DUI with a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle, this could be used as evidence of potential child endangerment. Both of these issues could harm your character and responsibility as a parent in the eyes of a judge.

If a judge orders shared child custody, a DUI conviction on your record could reduce the percentage of parenting time that you are given with your child. A judge may cite evidence of potential child neglect or abuse due to your history of drug or alcohol use as a reason for this decision, based on a DUI arrest. Your shared parenting plan could be a 25/75 split rather than 50/50, for example.

How a DUI Conviction Could Affect an Existing Custody Agreement

If you and your ex-spouse already had a child custody agreement in place when you were arrested for allegedly driving under the influence, your arrest and any subsequent DUI conviction could affect your parenting plan. A DUI could be a reason for the courts to alter your existing plan and reduce or even eliminate your custodial rights as a parent. A DUI could affect your custody arrangement in many ways, including:

  • Incarceration may make it impossible for you to have custody of your child.
  • Your arrest and detainment could be proof that you cannot provide a stable environment for your child.
  • If you lose your driver’s license, you may be unable to drive your child to school.
  • You may lose your job if you cannot drive yourself to work or if you are a commercial driver.
  • Your ex-spouse may use your DUI conviction as an argument against shared custody.
  • If the DUI involved a serious car accident, this could be proof of potential child endangerment.

You may lose primary custody of your child or your shared parenting time plan may be converted to a sole custody agreement in favor of your ex-spouse if you are convicted of a DUI in Arizona. You may also have to go through drug or alcohol counseling or have your driver’s license reinstated before you can file a request with the courts to revert to your original parenting plan.

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Arizona, the best way to protect your custodial rights as a parent is with help from a DUI defense attorney at the Rosenstein Law Group. Our Tempe DUI defense lawyers can help you fight a DUI charge and minimize its effects on your life as much as possible, including potential child custody consequences.

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