A conviction for drunk driving in Colorado Springs can have far-reaching consequences, but perhaps none are so personal and life-changing as how a DUI affects child custody orders. But that does not mean that all hope for your parent-child relationship is lost with a single arrest.
How the DUI will impact your parental rights depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the conviction, including when the offense occurred, the level of charges filed against you, and most importantly, your conduct since the conviction.
You need an experienced attorney who can advocate for your parental rights.
Determining the Child's Best Interests In Custody Battles
When a family court judge in Colorado Springs rules on child custody, they base their decision on one thing and one thing only. What arrangements are in the child's best interests?
Several factors go into the final decree for parental responsibility. Many of these factors are influenced by whether or not both parents can effectively put the child's interests first, raising them in a physically and emotionally safe environment.
To that end, in some cases, a conviction for DUI affects child custody proceedings.
A First Time DUI May Have No Effect On Child Custody
A first-time DUI in Colorado Springs, in and of itself, may not have any impact on child custody determinations or existing parental rights. The fact is that people make mistakes and bad decisions all the time, and one wrong decision doesn't mean you're a bad parent or are a risk to your child's safety or well-being.
However, if that DUI is representative of more significant concerns about your fitness as a parent, El Paso County judges can and will consider the conviction when issuing orders for parenting time and parental responsibility.
How Second and Subsequent DUIs Affect Child Custody
Suppose your criminal record contains two or more convictions for driving under the influence. In that case, the court may see that as evidence of poor judgment and an indication of a problem with alcohol abuse. A parent's issues with substance abuse directly impact their ability to care for their children and will be weighed heavily by a Colorado Springs judge in making initial parenting time determinations.
A DUI affects child custody by placing any number of painful limitations on how and when you spend time with your kids, including:
- Reduction in parenting time
- Change in the child's primary residence
- Required supervision during parenting time
- Required alcohol testing or treatment as a condition of parenting time
- Prohibition on driving with the child in the car
Failing to comply with these requirements could threaten your rights to have any say in your child's upbringing. Your parental rights are at stake, and you need a family law attorney who understands what this could mean for you and your child(ren).
In addition, the loss of driving privileges that often follows a DUI conviction can make your parenting time arrangements much more challenging. If you can't pick up or drop off your kids at school; are unable to take them to soccer practice or the doctor, a judge may consider these limitations when deciding what arrangement is in the child's best interests.
A DUI When Your Children Are In The Car
If you were driving under the influence with your kids in the car, an El Paso County judge might view your actions as a direct threat to the safety of your children, calling into question your ability to ensure the well-being and health of your children.
This can also result in additional criminal charges for child abuse or child endangerment. These charges will require time and effort to resolve, and during that time, you can expect to have restrictions on your parental rights.
A New DUI Conviction Can Make A Contentious Break-Up Even Worse
Any Colorado Springs parent who is going or has gone through a contentious divorce or break-up knows that child custody and visitation issues can be emotionally taxing and the source of intense conflict. When a parental DUI becomes an issue between divorced parents, it can be explosive and lead to potentially devastating consequences.
In such a case, a DUI affects child custody because the non-offending parent will have the right to petition El Paso County court to revisit the existing parenting agreement. This reassessment may result in the loss of parental rights.
Concerned About How A DUI Affects Child Custody?
For many parents, a conviction for driving under the influence is a headache that lingers long after you have paid the penalties imposed by the Colorado criminal justice system. Your reputation and relationship with your children are also at stake. To ensure that your parental rights are protected, you need an experienced Colorado Springs child custody lawyer specializing in criminal defense.