Can a DUI Impact Child Custody in California?

A child custody decision that is made by the courts in California will always put the child’s best interest first. The courts will carefully analyze any issues that may compromise the safety, welfare or well-being of the child. This can include a parent’s driving under the influence (DUI) arrest, charges or conviction. 

How Might a DUI Affect Child Custody?

A driving under the influence conviction means that you were found guilty of operating a motor vehicle in California with an illegal blood alcohol content (BAC) level or any amount of intoxicating drug in your system. Although a DUI will not automatically take away your child custody rights as a parent, it will become part of the court’s decision-making process. The courts will determine if the DUI is a sign of larger issues that could risk your child’s safety, such as alcoholism, a substance abuse disorder, or a pattern of child neglect or endangerment.

It is more likely that a DUI will affect a child custody decision in Orange County if there are other issues surrounding the crime, such as:

  • If the child was in the car with the parent at the time of the DUI arrest.
  • If there were aggravating circumstances, such as a car accident or bodily injuries.
  • If there was a DUI hit-and-run accident.
  • If it was an extreme DUI, meaning an excessive BAC (over 0.15 percent).
  • If the parent received a DUI while driving on a suspended license.
  • If there is more than one DUI conviction or arrest on the parent’s record.

In these scenarios, the courts may decide that the parent’s criminal record jeopardizes his or her ability to take proper care of a child. This can result in the other parent securing sole custody or a greater portion of shared custody.


If I Have Two DUIs Can That Impact Child Custody?

In most cases, a single DUI on your record will not mean that you will lose a custody case unless the offense was especially severe or you had your child in the car at the time. The courts understand that everyone makes mistakes. However, if you have two DUIs on your record or more, this can show the courts that you have a pattern of making bad decisions and could pose a risk to your children. 

If you have two or more DUIs, you will be viewed as a repeat offender and at a higher risk of substance abuse, addiction, further DUIs in the future and possibly endangering your children. It is highly likely that your ex-spouse will bring up your multiple DUIs during a child custody case to use as leverage against you and seek a greater share of custody. With two DUIs on your record, the proceedings may not go in your favor.

What Are My Options if I Have a DUI During a Divorce?  

It is important to hire a child custody lawyer in Orange County if you have a DUI on your record during a divorce or legal separation case. One or more DUIs will create concern over your ability to properly care for your child. Your lawyer can help you build the strongest possible case to protect your right to child custody or visitation. 

For example, if you are eligible to have the record expunged, your lawyer can help you do this before your child custody case to reduce the odds of it interfering. If you can show that you have since gone to drug or alcohol counseling and rehabilitated after your DUI arrest, or that it does not affect your ability to care for your children, this can also prevent the courts from using it as grounds to take away your custodial rights. 

If the courts do not rule in your favor and give full custody to your ex, it is still possible to request a modification in the future once you have taken steps to show the courts that you are fit to care for your children. An attorney can help you review your options for reunification and submit a request for a modification when the time is right. To learn more, contact Boyd Law for a free child custody consultation in Orange County.

Boyd Law serves many locations across Orange County including: