reynolds defense firm child custody after DUI arrest

What happens to custody of my kids if I’m arrested for a DUI?

Child custody cases can be quite complex. There are multiple things to consider, and the court’s main concern is always the child’s health and well-being. The court wants an arrangement where the child feels safe, secure and happy. However, custody rights could become more complex if you are arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII) and could play out differently if you are in the midst of a custody battle, or if you already have custody of your child.

DUII While Fighting for Custody

During a custody battle, you are under a microscope because a judge has to determine who is better suited to make decisions for the child. In Oregon, custody is defined as making decisions for the child in regards to medical care, schooling, and religion. A judge will look to any bad decision and ask if this is a safety concern for the child. If you have been arrested for a DUI, that will be a factor for the judge to consider awarding custody to the other parent.

With a DUI, the judge will review the surrounding circumstances. Was the child in the vehicle at the time of the DUI? Was this arrest a one-time instance, or a repeat offense?

If both parents are equal in a custody battle, a DUI could be the tipping point. Your DUI arrest could be a deal-breaker from the judge’s perspective, and result in you losing custody. That is why, during a custody case, it’s imperative not to risk getting a DUI.

Currently Have Custody

If you have already been awarded custody, the standard to flip custody from one parent to another is higher. The other parent has to show — to the legal standard — that you are no longer a fit parent.

While a DUI arrest may not be enough to change custody to the other parent, it could be the ammunition they need to start a case to do so. If the child was in the vehicle when the DUI took place, you are opening yourself up to a better chance that a change of custody could occur.

A DUI could change your life in an instant, and not just in regards to custody. It may affect your job, relationships with friends and family, or be the sign of a larger problem. If you are arrested for a DUII, it is important to surround yourself with the right team of professionals, including counselors, an experienced law firm and a strong support system. When you work with the right people to address the underlying issue, this could positively affect several sectors of your life, including custody.


Lewis Landerholm is the owner and principal attorney at Landerholm Family Law, located in Portland, Oregon.  His family law firm has been on the Portland Business Journal’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies List for two years in a row.  Landerholm Family Law has also nationally been recognized at the Law Firm 500 awards for being one of the fastest growing law firms in the country.  Landerholm Family Law pride’s itself on advocating for a better life for all of its clients with a strong voice, a clear path, and straightforward advice.