5 Ways a DUI Can Affect Your Divorce or Child Custody
By: Jay Tiftickjian, Attorney
Getting divorced is complicated and stressful enough, but being charged with a DUI can make the experience even worse. If you are dealing with a DUI charge while you are going through divorce proceedings, you should get the assistance of both a highly qualified Colorado DUI lawyer and a highly qualified Colorado divorce lawyer to guide you through the process.
To help you understand some of the complications that can arise, we created this list of 5 ways a DUI can affect a divorce:
1. DUI Costs
Getting a divorce can be expensive, and if you are facing a DUI at the same time, then you will have the fees and other costs of a DUI to deal with as well. For a first-time DUI conviction in Colorado, fines, court costs, and probation monitoring can be well over $2,000. When you add in other out-of-pocket expenses, costs can rise to over $5,000, and that doesn’t even take into account legal fees for your defense. Note that costs will be even higher if there were injuries or property damage. You can also expect increased insurance expenses of around $3,000 over a 5-year period.
2. Lost Income
You should also calculate any lost income if you need time off work to make court appearances for either your divorce or DUI case. If you have to do time in jail, then your income will come to a complete halt, or any income you make may very well be paid to the jail for alternative sentencing programs like Electronic Home Monitoring or Work Release. The combined financial stress from the divorce and the DUI can affect not only your own physical and mental health, but also your ability to function at work, and the well-being of your children, family, and close friends.
3. You May Be Judged an Unfit Parent
The Colorado legal system makes decisions concerning the children of divorcing parents according to the best interests of the child. If you are convicted of a DUI and you had your child or children with you in your vehicle at the time of your arrest, the court may consider that evidence of child abuse. In a contested custody proceeding, that might be enough for the court to award sole custody of your children to your spouse.
Even if your children weren't with you when you were arrested, the courts take a dim view of parental substance abuse in general when considering the best interests of the child. If you have been charged with a DUI, you need to be prepared for the possibility of your spouse filing for sole custody and using the arrest and potential conviction against you in court.
4. Losing Driving Privileges
Even if you are awarded joint custody of your children, if you lose your driving privileges because of your DUI, that could make it difficult for you to get to work, or to spend time with your children. The ability to drive and meet the daily needs of the children will be an important factor that the court considers in determining parental rights in a disputed child custody case.
5. Other Complications
Problems at home or in a relationship, such as a marriage, are often precursors for excessive drug or alcohol use that all too often result in legal troubles. If your use or abuse of drugs and alcohol impair your ability to make reasonable safe and rational decisions, then a court may use this information to determine your ability to care for your children and what is in the best interest of the child.
In addition to the above, any conviction for an alcohol-related offense will likely result in probation. The length of probation can vary, but during this time of probation your ability to travel out-of-state will be limited. In addition, you will likely be required to do community service hours, attend alcohol classes, a MADD panel, and submit to monitored sobriety throughout your period of probation. The requirements of probation are costly and time consuming. The latter could impact the amount of time you have to spend with your children, as many of these requirements are often completed at night and on the weekends.
DUI and criminal defense attorney Jay Tiftickjian has literally written the book on DUI defense. He is also the editor of the 2015 Colorado Criminal Defense Bar's DUI Defense Manual, and has written other books and articles for both legal practitioners and the general public. If you have been charged with a DUI, please contact Tiftickjian Law Firm or call (303) DUI-5280 to set up a consultation.