Woulda, shoulda, coulda — if you get charged with DUI you are too late to play that game. And to top it off, you have a child custody case pending. Is it game over? As with so many real-life events, the answer depends on circumstances. While you — and your children — are better off if you never play around with drinking and driving in Virginia, you may not lose your custody case.
Convicted of a DUI? Virginia Doesn’t Play That!
In Virginia, conviction for DUI first offense is a minimum $250 fine and revocation of your driver’s license for one year. Do it twice, and you step up to a $500 fine and three-year revocation, with the possibility of up to a year in jail. To really trash your life, get that second DUI offense within a decade of the first one and you have a mandatory 10-day jail sentence (imagine spinning that to your boss).
Keep at the booze (or drugs) and Virginia keeps right on escalating:
- Second DUI within five years of first — 20 days in jail
- Three DUI convictions within 10 years — Indefinite license revocation
- Conviction for DUI third offense or DWI felony — Minimum $1,000 fine; indefinite license revocation; prosecution as a Class 6 felony
- Third DUI conviction within five years — Six months in jail
It keeps going, too, for all you creative types weirdly intent on pushing your luck. These convictions apply whether you are operating a car, truck, boat, moped or watercraft.
How Your DUI Affects Your Children
Besides setting an abysmal example for your children of how adults should not behave, a DUI conviction can also complicate your custody battle. If you thought your ex-wife was on a warpath before the DUI, imagine the ammunition you just gave her with that target on your back.
If your DUI conviction predates your divorce, you may have little or no problem. Just about every adult Virginian has some blot of shame in their past, and if you have abided by the judge’s orders, paid your fine, and kept a clean record since, the family court judge will likely not hold the DUI conviction against you.
If, though, the DUI conviction comes while you are divorcing, or after, when you are trying to wrest custody of your children from their mother, you and your attorney have an uphill row to hoe.
The Type of Custody Matters
The effect of a DUI conviction on your custody case also depends on which type of custody you are applying to win:
- Legal custody — The right to make educational, religious, medical and extracurricular decisions for your child
- Physical custody — The right to have your children live with you
Legal custody is generally easier to win even with a DUI conviction than physical custody. While you may have trouble viewing this from another’s perspective, keep these seven words in mind: “In the best interest of the child.” In Virginia, every legal decision has to have your kids’ best interest at its core, so think of the judge presented with a Dad who cannot drive, who was so reckless as to endanger himself and others by driving while intoxicated (or drugged). Is your home safe for your own children? Are your habits so loose and ill-considered that your children will get the wrong ideas?
Success through Strategy
Divorce can often be a freeing experience for Virginia Dads, no doubt. But for others, it can be the unraveling of their lives, followed by difficulties that seem to only get harder and more expensive the longer you face them. If you, like the state of Virginia, keep those seven words in mind, though, you can likely prevent falling into the self-pity that leads to a DUI conviction. If you already have one conviction, fight hard to protect yourself and your children from another one.
Your attorney and you can develop a plan to face the challenge head-on. Rid your home of any temptations; sever ties with friends who may lead you to make the same mistake twice. Join a support group, and show the judge the genuine progress you have made toward rectifying your mistake.
Above all, set a worthy example for your children. Own your behavior, and explain to them how adults make mistakes that have serious consequences. When fighting for physical custody, your home and life will be inspected and open to scrutiny by the court. Do not shy away from this, but demonstrate to anyone checking up on the home environment how you provide a safe, wholesome, supportive home for your children. Remember your children could be interviewed, too, about your habits and home life. This is why honesty with them about your DUI conviction is crucial.
Hire a Team of Lawyers Representing Men and Fathers ONLY!
You and your attorney must work as a team during a child custody case. Hide nothing, because the last place you want your attorney to hear about your DUI conviction is in a hearing before a Virginia judge. Do not downplay the seriousness of even a first offense, even from years before. Your case is not unique; in 2015, Virginians had 20,768 DUI convictions, says the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, a rate of more than 56 a day. Attorneys working in all disciplines are familiar with the issues created by driving while under the influence.
At The Firm for Men, we are not judges; we are attorneys working hard for you. Call us at 757-383-9184, or contact us online. We can help you understand the effects of a DUI conviction on your child custody case, and we can build a strategy to win this very serious game.