Can my DUI arrest prevent me from having child custody?

Arizona has long recognized the importance of having both parents actively involved in their children's lives. However, family courts often balance the desire of a parent to care for his or her children with whatever may be in the best interests of the children. This includes court determinations regarding legal decision-making authority and parenting time.

Arizona courts now have the authority to consider whether a parent's abuse of alcohol or conviction for drug offenses may adversely affect his or her children in these types of decisions. Today, there is a presumption that it is not in the child's best interests to award decision-making authority to parents who have a history within the prior 12 months of alcohol or drug abuse.

You need to know that this so-called "presumption" does not automatically rule out your ability to have sole or joint legal decision-making authority of your children. In fact, you have the ability to retain a family law attorney to represent you in a challenge of that presumption. For example, an attorney might argue that your relatively recent history of alcohol or drug abuse is not typical of your normal behavior.

An attorney might do this in a variety of ways, including presenting evidence to the court showing that you have successfully participated in random drug testing over a period of six months. Another approach an attorney might use to overcome that presumption is to present evidence that demonstrates that you have not committed a similar offense within the previous five-year period. An attorney may be able to convince a judge that your recent drunk-driving conviction was just a "one-off" event and not a symptom of an ongoing problem that might hinder your judgment with regards to your children.

Alternatively, an attorney can also assist you if you are a parent who has reason to believe that your child's other parent has a problem with substance abuse. Your attorney can present evidence that support a presumption that he or she should not gain sole or joint legal decision-making authority of your kids.

Source: Arizona Legislature-Arizona Revised Statutes, "25-403.04. Substance abuse," accessed Aug. 19, 2015

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