DUI & Child Custody – More than Just Money?
Everyone knows that a conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol can be a very expensive proposition. One first-time DUI conviction can easily end up costing a driver over $10,000 in associated fines and costs in most states today. However, the non-financial aspects of a DUI conviction can often turn out to be far more costly than the monetary penalties.
While the fines for driving under the influence vary from state to state, there are no bargains. It is a good bet that a DUI in any of the 50 states will be accompanied by fines that increase with the severity of the amount of intoxication. As the blood-alcohol level goes up, the severity of the charges and financial penalties increase as well. Average first-time DUI fines are well above $3000 in most every state today, with some states tripling that amount. And that is just the basic fine.
Additional costs associated with a DUI conviction can also include attorney’s fees, driving classes, license reinstatement fees, vehicle towing and impound fees and a significant increase in insurance premiums. The insurance problems can be especially daunting as many companies will drop a driver altogether after a DUI conviction, forcing them to second-tier insurance providers that charge suitably high rates for high risk drivers. Just one DUI can trigger increases in other forms of insurance as well. The rates for homeowner’s policies, life insurance, and policies on recreational vehicles like boats and motorcycles can all be negatively affected by one DUI.
In addition to the monetary penalties, DUI convictions can result in other hardships that are not as immediately recognizable. Offenders can find themselves on the wrong side of the law when it comes to their education and employment too. Some schools and jobs require notification of a DUI conviction, and will impose administrative penalties or other sanctions as a result.
Perhaps the most surprising and overlooked consequence of a DUI conviction can be the effect on a divorce proceeding. Most people have no idea that drinking and driving could impact their parental rights to be granted custody of their own children, but they can. In the United States today, drunk (or intoxicated) driving is viewed with a critical eye that is accompanied by increasing disapproval and ever increasing penalties. Society does not view a drinking driver as a responsible adult or parent. In the case of a contested divorce, a DUI conviction by itself can be an effective tool for painting a spouse as unfit to care for children. A DUI conviction presented in divorce court can go a long way to show that it would not be in the best interests of a child to allow the offending parent to retain even partial custody. The proof is in the conviction, and there is little that can be done after the fact to change it.
The negative effects of a DUI conviction on child custody rulings is not likely to be a factor in amicable partings like uncontested, no-fault divorces where both spouses agree on proposed custody arrangements. If the divorce is a bitter and protracted court battle however, drinking and divorcing drivers should expect the worst. Most responsible people don’t need another reason not to drink and drive these days, the financial penalties are already severe and becoming tougher every day. Social drinkers who might be contemplating a divorce should take note that drinking and driving can also cost you your kids, and that is a price that is far too high for anyone to be able to afford.