Visitation rights are the only thing keeping many parents in touch with their children. If you had previous child custody problems or you are currently going through a child custody dispute, many issues may limit you to visitation only. This could strip you of 50/50 joint custody or other parenting schedules that might give you more time with your children. If you are facing potential charges for driving under the influence (DUI), a conviction or a record of DUI could interfere with your child custody rights and potentially affect your right to visitation. The Salt Lake City DUI defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden discuss.
Can I Lose Visitation if I Get a DUI in Utah?
Drunk driving is a serious offense in Utah, but it is not usually one that says enough about a person to justify a court taking away their child custody rights. Courts can indeed look at current or past criminal convictions and use them as evidence that the parent is dangerous and might not be fit to have custody or visitation rights. However, even in cases with the least amount of parenting time, a parent is still usually entitled to visitation on one weeknight, alternating weekends, and a few holidays. Courts typically do not deny visitation and strip away those rights unless the parent is literally unavailable to parent or demonstrates a substantial risk to the children’s health or safety.
A DUI conviction can demonstrate to the court that you have a problem with substance use, and it may indicate that you need drug or alcohol rehabilitation. These issues can be serious problems that the other parent will highlight to the court in an attempt to get full custody. Even if you beat the DUI charges against you, the child custody court will not need the same high level of proof that the criminal court does for a conviction, and the substance use issue could be used against you even if you weren’t convicted of DUI.
If the DUI charges against you were for repeat DUI offenses, this might arise to a serious enough level of crime that the court will consider you a danger to those around you. The court might see your repeat offenses as an indication that you are not responsible or that you could crash your car or end up being arrested, thus becoming unable to be there for your kids.
Moreover, a fresh conviction for DUI might mean that you will be spending time in jail for the offense. While you are in jail, your children may be allowed to visit you, but you certainly cannot go see them or have them stay at your house overnight. To deal with this, the court might award full custody to the other parent for the period you will be incarcerated, and you will need to go back to court once you are out of jail to get custody back.
How Serious DUI Charges Affect Child Custody in Utah
DUI charges in Utah vary greatly based on whether the offense was the driver’s first DUI offense or whether they are a repeat offender. Penalties might also increase if the defendant caused any injuries during the crash or committed automobile homicide. If your child was in the car when the DUI happened, these factors could make the offense seem more serious and show the family court that your drunk driving does indeed make you a risk to your children’s safety. If you were accused of a DUI involving any of these factors, the court might even see you as a danger if your kids were not in the vehicle, as there is a risk you could potentially drive like this around your kids.
DUI charges in Utah are also automatically upgraded if you have a child in your car at the time of the offense. This means that if your child is under 16 and they were a passenger in your vehicle, you could spend more time in jail if you are convicted of drunk driving. This could block you from having custody for a longer period of time and potentially prevent you from regaining custody later.
If your child was in the car with you and faced injuries, you might also be charged with other offenses for neglecting or endangering your child. These offenses are some of the most serious offenses the court will look at for a child custody case, as they directly speak to the child’s safety and well-being under your care.
It is absolutely vital that you speak with a lawyer about charges for vehicular homicide or a DUI involving serious injury, or if you are being charged with a DUI that took place while your kid was in the car with you. In many cases, courts could see a conviction for this kind of offense as a serious enough problem to justify blocking visitation or child custody rights, especially if the offense will lead to jail time. Talk to a lawyer about how severe your charges are and how they could affect your child custody case.
Call Our Salt Lake City DUI Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you can avoid a DUI conviction in the first place, the court might not be able to use those charges against you in a custody battle. Our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers work to keep our clients out of jail and fight the charges against them so that they can stay free and keep their custody rights. Our attorneys also represent parents in custody battles, helping them fight to keep visitation and custody rights. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our attorneys at Overson & Bugden today at (801) 758-2287.