New Mexico, like many other states, takes the act of drunk or drugged driving seriously. Even a first offense can net you fines, jail time and the loss of your license for up to a year, according to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety . What you may not know, however, is that being convicted of DUI or DWI can actually take a toll on a family law case involving the custody of children.
If you are caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and the child is in the car at the time, you will be looked at by the court as a parent who poses a significant risk to your child’s well-being and safety, and this is true even if this is your first offense. At this point, it’s likely that the court will appoint a social worker or court clinician to become involved in your life and look at your case and the child custody situation or the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) may get involved.
It’s also important to note that a social worker or court clinician may become involved even if your child wasn’t in the car when you were arrested, particularly if they have reason to believe you’ve engaged in similar behavior in the past but were not caught.
What will the social worker do?
While the exact procedures followed by the social worker or court clinician may vary depending on his or her methods and the circumstances of your case, he or she will usually interview you and your ex-spouse. The social worker is also likely to interview other family members who are really involved in your life and possibly your children, depending on their ages. He or she will investigate your daily routine, your lifestyle and regular habits, the routine of the household and your children’s schedules. In addition, the social worker/court clinician might search your cars or home for evidence of any sort of substance abuse, such as empty liquor bottles or credit card statements that show you habitually buy alcohol.
Keep in mind that the social worker is there to get the facts, so to speak, so he or she may visit your children without your knowledge at school or show up for visits at your home unannounced. Refusing to cooperate with the social worker usually damages your case further. Your social worker, especially one from CYFD, has the right to talk to your children without you being present and to search your home or car when it comes to your case.
The bottom line
Naturally, a DUI or DWI charge while you’re in the midst of settling custody will have a negative impact on your situation. Many treatment options will have you admit to others that you are an alcoholic or drug addict, and this could unfortunately lead to stigmatization by the social worker investigating you later.
In addition, a DWI or DUI offense can cause trouble for you even if you’ve already settled child custody with your ex-spouse. It can be used against you if you need to go back to court to change the custody arrangement or get more access to your child. If you were once accused of being a drug addict or alcoholic by your former spouse in family court, the court may view your charge as proof that these previous allegations were founded, which will make you a risk factor to your children. Moreover, being convicted of a DWI with children in the car is considered felony child abuse in New Mexico, and you will face jail time and the possible loss of your rights regarding your children should you be convicted.
Facing a DUI or DWI charge is a serious matter, and the stakes are even higher if you have children and are going through or have been through a divorce. Speak to a New Mexico family law attorney immediately about your case.