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Few things have the potential to get uglier than a pitched battle for custody between warring parents. You can pretty much expect that your ex will drag up every past sin you’ve ever committed — while looking for new ones — as they try to find ammunition against you. 

So, what happens if you have a DUI on your record? Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is treated very seriously in Florida, and a conviction can become a big issue in custody cases. Here’s what you should know:

Was your DUI in the past?

A DUI in the past may not destroy your custody case. While the court is free to consider any factor that it considers relevant to a parent’s moral fitness or mental health when making custody decisions, judges tend to take a measured approach to the issue. They may consider:

  • How long ago did the DUI happen?
  • What were the circumstances surrounding the incident?
  • Was it a one-time incident or a repeated problem?
  • Was your child in the car at the time?
  • If you had a problem with drugs or alcohol, did you seek treatment?
  • Do you currently have a problem with drugs or alcohol?

Obviously, the older the charge, the less likely the judge is going to consider the DUI relevant — especially if there’s no evidence that you’re currently having substance abuse problems.

Is your DUI charge current?

If so, you may have a much bigger problem. If your child was in the car at the time of your arrest, you could easily be accused of child endangerment or neglect. Plus, you may be facing up to nine months in jail, which could easily hand your ex the custody they want.

Even if your child wasn’t in the car, you could be facing a six-month sentence for a first offense. Should you escape that consequence, you still have to convince the court that you don’t have a drug or alcohol problem and that you’re a responsible parent.

A DUI conviction can be fatal to your bid for custody. If you are currently facing DUI charges, protect your relationship with your child and your freedom. Even if it’s a first offense, make sure that you have an experienced defense attorney on board.