A divorce is a stressful event, especially when children are involved. Some people turn to alcohol to deal with the stress of a divorce or child custody dispute, which may lead to a drunk driving arrest in North Carolina. Even if it was a one-time mistake, a DWI or other drug or alcohol offense can impact your child custody case.
What Does the Court Consider in a Child Custody Case?
The basis for determining child custody in North Carolina is “what will best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” This is a broad standard that could involve just about anything, both positive and negative. Some of the factors used by the court include:
- Any evidence of either parent's relation to drug or alcohol abuse,
- The ability of each parent to provide a stable home environment, and
- The overall safety of the child.
A DWI conviction alone may not be evidence that a parent has an alcohol problem, cannot provide a stable home environment, or put the child's well-being in danger. However, a criminal conviction related to drugs or alcohol can be a negative factor for the court and make the court look more closely to see if there are other problems, especially problems related to substance abuse.
How Serious Was the DWI?
The seriousness of the crime and facts surrounding a driving while impaired offense can affect the impact of a DWI conviction. If there are additional signs of drug or alcohol abuse, placing others in danger, or multiple run-ins with the law, the family court judge may place greater weight on the individual's fitness as a parent. Additional aggravating factors in a DWI can include the following.
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .015% or higher
- DWI and reckless driving
- DWI with a child passenger
- Multiple DWI convictions
- DWI with an open container
- Drug DWI and/or possession of drugs
- DWI on a revoked license
- DWI causing injury or death
- DWI hit and run
- DWI and evading police
Increased Scrutiny on Alcohol After a DWI
A DWI on your record may also give the court a reason to look for other evidence of a past or current substance abuse problem. Even if the other evidence was not related to a crime, the court or opposing lawyer may look for additional harmful evidence, including:
- Workplace discipline related to drugs or alcohol,
- Drug or alcohol treatment, or
- Social media posts showing drinking or taking drugs.
Is there anything I can do after a DWI to remedy my image?
There are steps a parent can take if convicted of a DWI in North Carolina to help remedy the problem. The more time that has passed since the DWI (without any additional run-ins with the law) will generally mean the DWI has less impact on your child custody case. Additionally, it may be a good idea to proactively seek alcohol abuse treatment or counseling to show the court that the parent took the matter seriously and took action to address any potential problems. Talk to your family law attorney about your case and things you can do to help your child custody dispute.
Dealing With a Prior DWI Conviction in Shelby
Just because you have a DWI conviction does not mean you are an unfit parent. DWIs are some of the most common criminal offenses in the U.S. and often involve someone having just a little too much before getting behind the wheel. An experienced North Carolina family law attorney can help your child custody case by showing the conviction was an isolated incident and you have taken steps to address the issue, prioritizing your child's safety. At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped parents in child custody disputes in Shelby, Gaston County, and across North Carolina. Contact us today for a consultation.