A child custody case and a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction are equally life-altering events. But when considered alongside each other, any family can expect overwhelming odds.
In Florida, courts consider a range of determinants to identify how to appropriately award parents of sole or joint custody. Often, the judge grants sole or exclusive physical custody, or where the child lives, to one parent. Then, joint or shared legal custody, or major decisions on the child’s needs, to both parents.
But, ultimately, the final decision still depends on each party’s circumstances. The judge always errs in the child’s best interests. This standard means that each parent must continually advocate for their child’s welfare.
Therefore, a DUI conviction reflects poorly on a parent’s fitness to be a good model for their child. After all, a criminal record carries significant drawbacks on parental obligations.
How a DUI affects child custody arrangements
Whether an ex-couple is in the middle of processing a child custody agreement or already has existing custody arrangements, a parent’s DUI offense may count as a substantial change requiring court-approved modifications.
Depending on its severity, a DUI conviction often entails prison time, fines, administrative fees, license revocation and community service hours. These penalties can lead to a parent’s:
- Loss of driving privileges that may hinder their mobility to bring their child to school and other extracurricular activities
- Reduced or loss of income, making it difficult to provide for their child’s basic needs, like food, clothing, shelter, and educational or social requirements
- Damaged credibility, especially if they potentially endangered their child inside a moving vehicle
- Failure to build a stable and secure environment because a criminal record carries a societal stigma that may be too much for their child to comprehend
These ripple effects may vary considerably. Courts may still look at other relevant factors unique to the case. For example, they may take into account how long ago the DUI was committed, if there were other prior DUI convictions or if the parent has a history of alcoholism.
How to move forward
An ex may also use the other parent’s DUI case to establish how “unfit” they are for a child custody award. But if the parent with a DUI firmly believes that it is in their child’s best interests to have both parents frequently and continuously present, they may fight for their parental rights. A representative can help build an individualized legal plan to afford them the chance they deserve.