Will DUI Affect Child Custody?
The state of Colorado takes drunk driving very seriously. Being charged with DUI brings a host of serious consequences including, fines, mandatory rehab, prison time, restricted or loss of driving rights, loss of employment opportunities, and reputation. While you may already be aware of these consequences, you may be wondering how it will impact having custody of your child. The short version is that it indeed can negatively impact the custody rights of a parent found guilty of a DUI Charge.
Being Found an Unfit Parent
In cases of divorce, due to Colorado no-fault divorce laws, and has no bearing with regards to the granting of a divorce. In situations of child custody, this is not the case. Instead, the other parent must provide evidence that the “alcoholic parent” is unfit and thus should not be granted custody of the child(ren). Reasonable, legal use of alcohol will not be a consideration in child custody situations. Although, if substance abuse impairs the parent’s ability to be a safe and responsible caretaker, the courts will take this into consideration when considering the allocation of parental responsibilities.
Proving a Spouse is an Unfit Parent
You can accuse your ex-spouse of misconduct, but it will not stand up in court unless you provide substantial evidence that your accusations are true. In order for the parent in question to be considered unfit by the courts, there must be proof that he or she is a danger to the child(ren). Substantial evidence includes any police reports regarding alcohol-related crimes and DUI, other records, and picture evidence that supports your stance that the other parent abuses substances. Additionally, other people including friends and family who have experienced the parent’s alcoholic behavior may need to testify to the truth of your accusations in court.
Furthermore, after compiling evidence of the ex-spouse’s issue with alcohol abuse, you must also prove how this behavior puts or can potentially put your child(ren) in danger while under that parent’s care.
After you have proven the viability of the parent is unfit, the courts may still give the offending parent the chance to clean up their act. Often, the parent will have a certain amount of time to complete an alcohol abuse rehab program or substance abuse counseling to see if he or she can become a parent worthy of custody.
You may be wondering if those who simply made one bad choice will be penalized the same as repeat offenders? The answer is typically no. If you have received only one DUI, it is unlikely it will reduce your parental rights that are already in place or negatively impact future child custody rulings. The exception to this is in cases where there is a prior question as to a parent’s moral fitness; thus, a DUI may then be taken into consideration when determining rights for parental time and responsibilities.
The Best Interest of the Child
No matter what the outcome, the best interest of the child is always the most important consideration for the courts when ruling on issues of custody. In severe cases of substance abuse, a parent may be required to have supervised visitation. This allows the child to maintain a relationship with the parent, but within a supervised situation to ensure their safety and well-being.
Regardless, of your place within a DUI situation, be sure to consult a skilled Colorado lawyer regarding the logistics of your case.