Child Custody Modification: What Happens When a Parent is Convicted of DUI?

In the state of Illinois, if you are arrested and convicted for drunk driving, the consequences can be severe. Even a first offense drunk driving conviction not only results in a minimum of a year’s loss of license and heavy fine, but the guilty party can also face up to one year in jail. When people consider the consequences of drunk driving, one thing they often fail to think about is how a drunk driving conviction can affect child custody and visitation.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20 percent of children under the age of 14 who are killed in traffic accidents every year were in a vehicle with a drunk driver. Given those tragic statistics, it is no surprise that one parent’s DUI conviction would cause the other parent to question how safe their child would be in the custody of the convicted parent.

In an attempt to address these concerns, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), in conjunction with a group of legal and family professionals, developed a guideline of legal recommendations to ensure the safety of children when in the company of parents who have been convicted of drunk driving.

The panel recommends that the couple’s child custody agreement specifically spell out the following mandatory requirements:

  • Clearly state that neither parent is to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both, when transporting the child;
  • Clearly state that no other family or friends of the parents are allowed to transport the child if they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both;
  • Clearly state that if the non-custodial parent arrives to pick up the child or to return the child for visitation in an impaired state, the parent will not be allowed to exercise their visitation privileges;
  • If the parent has been required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, then the final custody decree should state that the child is not allowed to blow into the device; and
  • If one parent suspects that the other parent will frequently show up under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, then the pickup and drop off for custody exchange should be at the local police department.

In cases where a child custody modification is being requested due to the other parent’s drinking or substance abuse issues, the requesting parent can ask the court to order an alcohol/drug evaluation and order treatment per that evaluation’s recommendation. In cases where the drinking parent is clearly not following the court’s orders and is putting the child in danger, supervised visitation can also be requested as part of the custody modification request.

If you are frightened for the safety of your child because of their other parent’s substance abuse issues, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney at Kezy & Associates to find out what you need to do in order to obtain a modification to your original child custody agreement.