Will a DWI Hurt My Child Custody Case?

Posted by Josh Valentine | Jun 24, 2019

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.

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.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar