Will a DWI Affect My Divorce?

DWI is one of the most common crimes in the state. According to the North Carolina Courts, 26,333 people were sentenced for DWI in 2022. And that number doesn’t include arrests which did not result in a sentence. Typically, more than 30,000 people are arrested for drunk driving in any given year. Every day, hundreds of people are stopped by police for dangerous driving when they are intoxicated or high.

If you are going through a divorce, you might wonder what impact a criminal case will have. At Plyler, Long & Corigliano, LLP, our family law attorneys can provide more detailed analysis in a consultation. Below, we provide an overview of some key considerations. The reality is that a DWI can have an impact regarding child custody. You should hire a Monroe family law attorney to represent you in the custody fight.

A DUI & Child Custody

The most prominent effect will probably be on child custody. If you are in a custody battle, then you can expect a DWI arrest to get brought to a judge’s attention. Courts decide custody using many factors which analyze what is in the best interests of the child, including who can properly and safely raise the children. A judge is looking for a stable, loving, and safe home for a child.

A drunk driving charge shows that you could be considered a threat to your children’s safety—the exact opposite impression you want to make. You would also lose your driver’s license for a time and be unable to transport your child due to a DWI conviction. If you were caught with a child in the car with you while impaired, then a judge will assume you are dangerous. You could even be charged with Misdemeanor Child Abuse for having a child in the vehicle while driving impaired.

Multiple arrests for DWI are even more problematic, because now it looks as if you have an alcohol addiction. One DWI might be a mistake—two is a pattern. A judge might even require that you undergo periodic urine testing during the case or prior to visitation to check whether you are intoxicated.
Please share with your divorce lawyer any criminal history, including DWI arrests. We need to know about them. We can then strategize on how to improve your odds of receiving custody.

DUI & Your Marital Property

Although less likely, a DWI might also impact the division of marital property. Generally, any property you obtained while married is considered marital and gets divided fairly. In most cases, the division is 50/50.
However, there are exceptions. If you waste marital assets, then a judge might give you less in a divorce. This is where a DWI could prove costly. You will likely need to use funds to pay for a lawyer. You could also need to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle and pay legal fines if convicted. Your spouse might argue that these expenses are a waste of your marital property so they should receive more than 50% or argue that these expenses should be your separate property your spouse should not be responsible for those expenses,

How to Respond to a DWI

Anyone going through divorce with a drunk driving charge hanging over their heads should not lose hope. It’s possible to mitigate the negative effects:

  • Show you are committed to getting on top of any addiction. This will likely mean taking an alcohol treatment course. If a judge orders testing, you should turn over a urine sample without complaint.
  • Maintain stability. You should continue to hold your job and stay in your apartment or house. You need to show a judge this one mistake was a lapse in judgment, and you can provide a stable home.
  • Avoid any future arrests. So long as your divorce is pending, you can’t get arrested again, even for a crime that isn’t DWI.
  • Be honest. Don’t hide the DWI from anyone, especially your lawyer. You also shouldn’t make excuses for your behavior. Don’t excuse the arrest by claiming, “Well, at least I didn’t crash my vehicle.” Simply getting behind the wheel after drinking is serious enough.

We can also try to negotiate child custody with your ex, which will take the decision out of the judge’s hands. The more time we have to strategize for how to deal with a DWI, the better.

Call Plyler, Long & Corigliano, LLP

Our family law attorneys have handled all types of divorces. We are prepared to help anyone involved in a custody dispute make the strongest case possible. Drug and alcohol addictions ruin lives. They can also undermine any attempt to obtain custody of your children. Let us help guide you through the divorce process. We will look out for your rights. Contact us today to schedule a confidential meeting with our firm.