Yes, being charged with a DUI can negatively affect your chances of getting child custody, whether it is full custody or joint custody. The extent to which it influences custody depends on factors such as any other charges or convictions you have faced, your relationship with the co-parent, the circumstances surrounding the charge and the strength of the evidence against you.
The “good” news is that a DUI charge normally does not affect legal custody, which lets you make decisions about your children’s medical care, religious education and cultural education, among other things. It is physical custody, the issue of where the children live, that you are more likely to lose out on. The ways in which a DUI charge affect physical custody can be indirect and far-reaching, too.
One indirect effect has to do with your ability to drive. For example, if your driver’s license has been suspended, how can you transport the children to their activities? If you live within walking distance of many destinations, this could be a nonfactor. On the other hand, if you and your co-parent rely heavily on cars to get around, it could be important. Your ability to drive may also influence your employment prospects, and employment plays into custody talks in several ways.
A history of alcohol abuse and/or DUIs can also paint a new charge in a more sinister light than if it was a first-time charge. Allegations of driving intoxicated while you have children in the car can also be used against you. With a first-time charge, any arguments of innocence, of flawed field tests or discrepancies in blood or breath tests may carry more credibility.
A history of other charges, such as violent charges or drug charges, even if they are old, can also take on weight or more weight with a new DUI charge.
Relationship with the co-parent
Many co-parents work together to settle divorce matters out of court. This can be the case even when you have a DUI charge pending against you. That said, you may need to agree to parenting plan stipulations such as taking alcohol classes even if you are not convicted, or not driving the children for at least one year.