‘Tis the season for more drunk drivers on the road. Studies have shown two to three more people die in alcohol-related crashes during the holiday season than any other time of the year; and 40 percent of these fatalities involve a driver impaired by alcohol. Those who are going through a divorce or separation are generally more susceptible to drinking and being a part of these statistics because of the emotional impact and stress of the situation. Divorce is a complex process by itself, but adding a DUI into the equation creates an additional layer of issues to sort through, particularly in regards to creating financial burdens and custody issues.
Financial Burden of DUI & Divorce
There are many couples that separate and face heavy financial burdens because divorces are generally expensive. Lawyer fees and court costs alone can creep into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the issues involved. Additionally, couples must divide their assets in as equal shares as possible, which means that the DUI-spouse could potentially have less financial resources available to defend a DUI charge. Limited financial resources creates an even bigger burden when a DUI-spouse is forced to hire an attorney; and, if convicted, will have to pay fines and penalties to the court.
A DUI can also affect a court’s decision to award spousal support. In a recent California case, a judge found that the DUI-spouse could be awarded support because her DUI conviction limited her opportunity to secure work for herself, even though she was fully capable of working full-time. Because cases such as this could greatly affect the non-DUI spouse, it is important to seek advice from an attorney that is well-versed on this matter in order to sort out the complexities that are involved.
Negative Impact on Child Custody
But a DUI can cost a lot more than just money, it can affect the custody agreement the couple may have. The non-DUI spouse can certainly seek sole custody if it is in the best interest of the child once the DUI-spouse has been charged with a DUI. A change in custody could drastically affect the DUI-spouse’s relationship with the child. Losing custody could mean that the DUI-spouse may not have the ability to make decisions pertaining to the well-being of the child, including decisions related to medical treatments and education. Often times, a DUI results in a loss of driving privileges. This could greatly affect the amount of time the DUI-spouse is able to spend with the child, which could have a negative impact on the child and could lead to a change in the dynamic between the DUI-spouse and the child.
A divorce is a highly individualized situation with many factors that can affect the outcome. It is crucial to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney, like Jane Wesley Brooks, CFLS, helping you navigate the intricacies of the divorce process. If you are considering a divorce and need help with issues that you may be facing, contact JWB Family Law for a consultation.