Can a DUI Affect Your Divorce or Child Custody Case?
The short answer is yes. Getting a DUI in Maryland can have a big impact on all areas of your life, including a family court matter. At our office, we help people with criminal cases as well as divorce, child custody and other family law disputes. So, we understand how these two areas often overlap and impact each other. Many people facing a bitter and painful child custody dispute or divorce may self-medicate their emotional turmoil through alcohol, leading to high rates of DUI. Likewise, getting a DUI can show a lack of responsibility and lead to unforeseen consequences in family court.
DUIs Are Usually Admissible Crimes in Divorce Court
In most cases, evidence that you were caught drinking and driving is relevant and fully admissible in a family court matter. Under Section 7-103 of the Maryland Family Code, a criminal conviction – even a misdemeanor – can be grounds for divorce. Therefore, it is only reasonable that a DUI conviction would be admissible in a divorce court proceeding.
DUIs Are Also Admissible Crimes in Custody Disputes
When you are fighting over the right to have custody of a minor child, the judge will use a very broad standard to determine what is in the “best interests of the child.” This requires the judge to look to all sorts of evidence to decide whether the child is in a healthy environment. If one spouse is gainfully employed, has a stable home life, and has no criminal record, and the other has a recent drunk driving charge, a judge will likely see this as evidence of a deeper problem, perhaps an alcohol dependence or addiction, as well as proof that the person is not in a position to take care of a minor child.
You Do Not Have to Be Convicted for the DUI to Affect Your Family Court Case
Many people mistakenly believe that something is not relevant unless there’s a conviction. This, however, misunderstands the way criminal and civil cases work. There is a different standard of proof in criminal court and civil court. In criminal court, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence. This is a heavy burden to meet. However, in civil matters, the standard is generally preponderance of the evidence. This means that the other side must only prove that it is more likely than not that you did the act. Even worse, when it comes to things like child custody, the judge has broad discretion to decide what he or she believes happened and whether you present a suitable home for the child.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Often judges, in their attempts to protect minor children, make unpleasant decisions that may be overly harsh. If your DUI was due to your depression during a divorce, and you have no prior history, a skilled attorney can often work to minimize the damage and show a judge that your behavior was isolated and unlikely to reoccur. Likewise, if you beat the DUI charge, this can be used to argue against unnecessary collateral punishment in a civil matter.
At the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A., we understand that every case is unique, and we pride ourselves on taking a personalized and compassionate approach to every case. Call us today to get help with all your criminal defense and family law needs.