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What effect will a DUI or DWI have on your child custody case?

If you are a person that has an ongoing battle with substance abuse issues then you know better than anyone just how much of an impact addiction can have on your life. Make no mistake, whether it is drugs, alcohol, prescription medicine or another addictive substance you likely understand that the behavior that you are engaging is in bad for your health and bad for your relationships with the people most important to you.

Unfortunately it is a different subject altogether when it comes to actually being able to stop the behaviors. Among the difficult parts of being a family law attorney is being exposed to our clients’ and opposing clients’ behaviors that are clearly having a undesirable effect on their lives and the lives of their children. It is probably similar to the feeling that their family members have: being in close contact with the person but just being unable to do anything about it.

The most frequently abused substance that I have seen parties to family law cases abuse is alcohol. Whether alcohol is being abused recreationally or as part of an ongoing addiction the effect is often similar. It could be that your drinking is limited to your time at home where only your children are made to suffer from erratic behavior and dangerous decision making. If you are involved in a family law case involving those children then your past actions will have an effect on your case moving forward.

What would happen if you were arrested for DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated)? Are you aware of what the effect would be on your case and on your future ability to parent your children? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC seeks to share some information and perspective that we have gained in our years of representing people that have gone through family law cases with our office.

The best interests of your child

In any family law case involving your children, a judge will apply what is known as a “best interests” standard against any action of yours in relation to your child. What is or is not in your child’s best interests is up to the judge’s determination but your ability to make decisions that are intended to keep your child safe is at the top of a judge’s hypothetical list of attributes that a parent should have.

Let’s counterbalance the point I just made by discussing a case that I was involved with in 2017. An opposing party in a child custody case was arrested for DWI while his son was asleep in the backseat of the car. Our client hired us to file a modification lawsuit on her behalf in order to see that her ex-husband’s visitation time be severely reduced and that he be forced to undergo random alcohol testing to ensure that he is not drinking.

This was a case that never saw the inside of a courtroom. The opposing attorney understood the significance of his client’s actions and never pushed back too hard on the reasonable demands that our client was making. She simply wanted to keep her son safe. The outcome- her ex-husband being arrested with her son in the back seat asleep- was probably the best case scenario for the people involved in that story. The situation obviously could have been much worse.

Do not put yourself in this man’s position. You can choose to a large extent whether or not you will let an addiction take hold of your life to the extent that you decide to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Nobody is going to argue that addiction isn’t real and isn’t powerful. However, what I am arguing is that if you let the addiction take you for a ride (literally) it can have a profound effect on your family law case in a negative way.

Parents in Texas family law cases share responsibilities

Ideally in a Texas family law case, you and your child’s other parent will always be put into positions where you can share the burdens and joys of parenting your child. In very rare instances is one parent’s time and access to their child curtailed severely for any reason. However, once it becomes apparent to a judge that one parent is unable to provide a safe and stable environment for the raising of a child then a judge is forced to restrict access to the child for that parent.

Add in a DUI or DWI and that is a game changer. Evidence of an arrest on these charges can be one of the worst things that could happen to your case. Any favorable evidence that you can collect to present to a judge can rarely overcome a DUI or DWI. Parent of the year plaques, perfect attendance at baseball games, an otherwise impeccable history of parenting could be down the drain (for a period of time) after an arrest related to alcohol.

That’s not to say that eventually you would not be able to get back to even ground with your child’s other parent. Time heals many wounds, even if not completely. However, for a period of time after an arrest and conviction on DUI or DWI charges it is hard to argue that you have the judgment necessary to always act in the best interests of your child. Depending on the judge a conviction from five years ago may not be that relevant in their eyes. A more recent arrest and conviction almost assuredly will factor largely into their decision making regarding your case.

Sole Managing Conservatorship

Sole Managing Conservatorship is the likely outcome for you if you are found to have had a recent or ongoing problem with DUI/DWI arrests. Sole Managing Conservatorships still allow you to have time with your child but on a smaller scale than in a Joint Managing Conservatorship. Perhaps more important, however, is that your right to make decisions for your child will be severely curtailed under this type of conservatorship.

That is one thing that many parents do not consider, initially at least, to be as important. The focus is always on time and is rarely on decision making. As parents we hang on to the memories that we have shared with our children and do not value the ability to make decisions involving their education and health care with as much fervor.

If a judge determines that you are a safety risk to your child then it is impossible for him or her to find that you should have much contact with him or her. How much driving (especially in the Houston area) is necessary for you to go see your child right now? Probably a significant amount. Driving is a reality of living in Texas.

Where to go from here if a DUI/DWI will be a factor in your divorce or child custody case

Having an experienced family law attorney by your side in a family law case is essential. If you are the parent who has a DUI/DWI conviction on your record you absolutely need to be able to counter the arguments and evidence that will be presented against you. With the facts already being harmful to your case it is critical that you be able to present alternative facts and evidence for a judge to consider. Acknowledging your bad acts is important but not backing down in the event that your opposing party tries to be too aggressive when restricting your access to your child is important too.

Questions on DUI or DWIs and how they can affect your family law case? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you have any additional questions for one of our licensed family law attorneys please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. A free of charge consultation with one of attorneys is only a phone call away and can provide you with peace of mind and answers to your questions.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring, Texas Child Custody Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Child Custody Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our Child Custodylawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Child Custodycases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County,Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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