A DUI conviction can complicate many aspects of a person's life, including the divorce process. Whether you're the one who got the DUI or you're the spouse concerned about how the fallout from the court case will impact the separation, here's information about the types of things you need to account for during a divorce when a criminal case is involved.
Both Parties May Be Financially Liable
The biggest issue you'll encounter when a DUI is a factor in your divorce is that both of you may be responsible for paying court fines, restitution, and other costs associated with the case. In community property states, such as California and Nevada, any liabilities incurred during the marriage are the responsibility of both spouses, even when the debt was obtained by only one.
For instance, if the court ordered the liable spouse to pay $50,000 in restitution to victims who were injured because of an accident the person caused while driving intoxicated, the non-liable spouse could still be required to pay a portion of the cost. This is because the amount would come out of the combined assets in the marital estate.
There are a couple of ways this issue can be handled in a divorce. The non-liable spouse could make an argument that any fees and costs should come out of the liable spouse's portion of the marital assets, since he or she was the one responsible for incurring the DUI. If the marital estate is worth $100,000 and is being split evenly down the middle, the court costs would come out of the $50,000 the liable spouse would receive in the divorce settlement.
Another option would be for the liable spouse to surrender assets to the non-liable spouse to make up for the amount of money he or she had to contribute to the consequences of the DUI case. If the non-liable spouse had to pay $25,000, for instance, the liable spouse could give him or her a bigger portion of the proceeds from the sale of the family home to make up for it.
Be aware, that even though the liable spouse may be saddled with the debt, any creditors and victims can still pursue the non-liable spouse for payment if the liable spouse fails to follow though and pay off the amounts owed because of community property laws. The only way to prevent this situation from completely ruining your finances if you're the non-liable spouse is to pay off the debt and then pursue reimbursement from your ex.
Child Custody May Be Unevenly Awarded
Child custody and visitation is another issue that will be impacted by DUI convictions. The court wants to make sure the kids will be cared for by a responsible adult who will ensure they are properly clothed, fed, and educated. Although there is no law that states a parent can't get custody of his or her kids because of a DUI conviction, having a DUI may make the person look bad in the judge's eyes. This is particularly true if the person has multiple convictions, because it may indicate the individual has a drug or alcohol problem, and no court wants to give custody of children to someone struggling with addiction.
As a result, the spouse with the DUI conviction(s) may end up losing custody of children and/or having his or her visitation rights restricted. It may be possible to avoid this by showing the court that there has been a positive change since the conviction(s) took place (e.g., underwent alcohol rehab) or that the incident took place so long ago that it should be a non-factor. Providing evidence of being a fit parent (e.g., being employed, having a good relationship with the kids) can also help.
For assistance with sorting out the various issues that may develop because of the impact a DUI has on a divorce, contact a divorce attorney.
I'll be up front: I have a criminal record. As someone who's spent lots--and lots--of time looking for a job in my life, I've gotten used to being up front with this fact. It's difficult to get hired with this on my record, and frankly, it never gets less scary to have to tell an interviewer about it. But that doesn't mean I'm unemployable. I'm a hard worker who can bring a lot to any company. And I also know what an employer needs to do for me. I know my rights. There's no federal law protecting me from discrimination due to my record, but there are plenty of state laws that make it a little easier for me. If you're looking for a job and you have a criminal record, read through this information. Protect yourself during a job search. Know your rights.