Even one DUI has the potential to affect a parent’s right to custody of their child. Whether in Family Law Code child custody adjudications or Welfare and Institutions Code dependency hearings, a DUI can affect how the court will decide on a child custody matter. This is especially true if the child was in the car with the parentwhen he or she was arrested for DUI or if the DUI was aggravated by circumstances such as an accident, a hit-and-run,injuries, or other DUI sentencing enhancements.

In a child custody battle between parents, a DUI can be used by one parent against the other to convince the court that the parent is a risk to the child. If the parent has more than one DUI, this may be especially convincing evidence and the more recent the DUI or DUIs, the more detrimental to the child it might be in the eyes of the court. The decision of the court in any child custody case is what is in the best interests of the child or children. The judges have great latitude in making this decision.

Will a parent lose custody over one DUI? Probably not, but the apportionment of physical custody time to a parent with a DUI might be impacted. Will multiple DUIs or aggravated DUIs cause a parent to lose custody? Almost certainly if the DUI was committed with the child in the car and likely if the parent has multiple DUIs.

In a dependency case, there is often more going on than just one DUI. There are usually issues concerning child abuse and/or substance abuse by a parent that triggered the dependency matter in the first place. When a parent gets a DUI during a dependency case or has a DUI on his or her record, it may be considered as evidence in the dependency court that the child is at risk of suffering harm because the parent is not capable of providing regular care for the child. This would be particularly true if there are multiple DUIs on the parent’s record.  In California, the policy is to make every effort to preserve the child/parent relationship. Therefore, a DUI will likely be addressed in terms of rehabilitatingthe parent. If the parent demonstrates a tangible effort to address his or her alcohol or drug abuse, the courts will usually allow continuing reunification services to the parent in furtherance of keeping the family together.

If you are sharing custody of a child or in the midst of a child custody determination or a parent in a dependency matter, you could jeopardize your case if you are arrested for a DUI. It is particularly important under these circumstances to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney. Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg has been defending drivers arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for 25 years.  He can review your matter and explain your options. Depending on the circumstances of the DUI, he may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

Mr. Weinberg is available for a complimentary consultation. You may reach him at 949-474-8008 or by email at


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