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Will a DUI affect child custody?

Child custody is often one of the most contentious issues during a divorce. If you are experiencing severe disagreement with your spouse over the custody of your children, the situation can quickly turn ugly.

If you go to court over the matter, you will be leaving the final say on this important matter to a judge. If you have been convicted of one or more DUIs, you may be worried about whether this will affect your chances of retaining custody of your children.

What does Indiana consider for child custody

Like all courts in the United States, the state of Indiana will hold the child’s best interest above all else in cases of separation. In Indiana, these considerations will include the:

  • Wishes of the child, starting at 14 years old
  • Child’s relationship with each parent
  • Physical and mental health of the parents

Thus, the courts most likely will not consider a single DUI as a legitimate reason to reduce your custody of your child. However, DUIs may figure into your case if they are indicative of a larger issue that affects your ability to adequately care for your children.

Multiple DUIs

If you have had multiple DUIs, the courts may see this as indicative of an alcohol dependency issue. In this case, your mental health may be questioned, and the courts may reduce your custody due to your prior convictions.

Aggravated DUI

An aggravated DUI may also have a greater effect on your custody battle. An aggravated DUI is a DUI with an additional factor that made the charge more severe. Examples of aggravated DUIs include:

  • Drunk driving with a child in the car
  • Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15

As with a case of multiple DUIs, aggravated DUIs may be an indication of an inability to be a proper guardian. If you had a minor in your car at the time of your DUI, for example, your spouse may argue that you pose a risk to your child’s safety.


Just because you have an aggravated DUI or multiple DUIs on your record does not mean that the courts will automatically deem you unfit for custody. If you can demonstrate to the courts that you have taken efforts to rehabilitate your behavior, you will have a much better chance at proving that you are mentally healthy enough to provide care and make decisions for your child. This becomes increasingly compelling the longer ago your incidents occurred.

A mistake in your past shouldn’t determine whether you get to keep your children. Taking steps towards rehabilitation, no matter how recently the incident occurred, demonstrates responsibility on your part to take care of your own health—and can show your ability to parent responsibly.