How a DWI/DUI May Affect Your Child Custody Case in Texas
Obviously, substance abuse is a serious problem, but it can have particularly damaging repercussions to a child custody case in Texas. Although substance abuse ranges from prescription medicines to recreational drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, the most common example of substance abuse that comes up in divorce and child custody cases involves alcohol. In fact, many contentious custody battles involve allegations of at least one (sometimes even both) of the parents abusing alcohol.
When one party accuses the other parent or conservator of having a substance abuse problem, the court will normally order a drug or alcohol test, depending on the evidence in play. But what if the substance abuse involves a DWI or DUI conviction? Will it automatically kill any chance for you to have custody of the children?Impact of a DUI/DWI Conviction in a Child Custody Case
Even if you have a DWI/DUI record, there is no way of knowing if a judge will automatically rule out the possibility of you keeping the children. A conviction, however, is all but guaranteed to impact the court’s assessment of your ability to care for your children, affecting everything from visitation rights to the likelihood of being granted sole custody of the kids. It’s for this precise reason why it’s critical to get in touch with a Texas family law attorney as soon as possible.When Did the DWI/DUI Charge Happen?
The timing of the DWI/DUI conviction or pending charge is important in a child custody case. If it happened recently, it becomes an instant red flag in the eyes of a family court judge, who may conclude that you are unfit to be granted visitation rights, let alone sole custody of your child/children.
Not only that, if your DWI/DUI conviction happens weeks before the divorce or right in the middle of everything, you could be looking at a Texas jail sentence of 3 to 180 days. If you have a string of prior DUI convictions, the sentence will most be longer. On the other hand, if the DWI/DUI conviction happened many years ago, the impact on the custody battle—if any—will be minor.
Still, it is best not to make any assumptions. Be sure bring up your conviction record with your Texas divorce attorney so you can plan ahead for the likelihood of your ex-spouse using it against you. Remember, the biggest factor in a Texas child custody dispute is the prevailing standard of the judge ruling in the best interests of the child. This means that, as far as the family court is concerned, any record of delinquent behavior by either parent counts as a strike against their ability to care for their children. A DWI/DUI conviction, regardless of when it happened, can be an indication that you are an irresponsible parent incapable of caring for a minor.What Happens if You Lose Visitation Rights or Custody?
If the non DWI/DUI spouse succeeds in using your criminal record to disqualify you from having visitation rights or child custody, you could be looking at a significantly reduced role in your children’s lives. If your ex-spouse has sole managing conservatorship, he or she has the exclusive authority to make all decisions for the children with or without your input. Worse, you may even be denied visitation rights on the basis that you are incapable of providing safe transportation for your children.
All these issues raise the importance of getting in touch with a Texas family law attorney, ideally, someone with a strong record of helping clients with DWI/DUI convictions or pending charges. If you have more questions about child custody law in Texas, get in touch with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation.