Ask A Lawyer: Will Her DUI’s Help My Custody Case?


My wife and I are about to file for a divorce, but I would also like to file for joint legal and physical custody. My wife has stated that I am abusive, but I’m not. There has never been a police report filed, but she says she will state this anyway. I’m a great father, having always supported my kids emotionally and financially.

My question is: Can her accusations prevent me from getting joint custody?  Also, since she has two DUI’s within the last 12 years, and as a result a suspended license on her record, will this help my case? How should I go about preparing to bring up her history if I need to?





As with any legal proceeding, the evidence, not the accusations, determines the outcome of a custody matter.  Her accusations may complicate the proceedings, but her making unfounded allegations will diminish her credibility with the court. 

When evaluating child custody issues, clients may need to separate the considerations as to the issue of decision making authority (legal custody) of each parent from the issue of the time each parent spends with the children (physical custody).  The factual issues which impact whether both parents can cooperate on decision making may be different then the circumstances affecting the schedule of the time each parent spends with the children.  For example, the facts surrounding her DUI convictions may not have much bearing on her current ability to cooperate in joint decision making, but may demonstrate problems for physical custody such as her priorities of social life/drinking versus children, her poor judgment as evidenced by driving while intoxicated, and perhaps concerns as to her driving with the children. 

The obstacle to joint legal custody will be whether, in light of her current antagonism towards you, the court believes you and she can work together after the divorce regarding your children.  Most judges recognize that the emotions are heightened during the divorce proceedings and that once the case is resolved the parties may be able to cooperate regarding the children.  You should consult an experienced domestic litigation firm, such as Cordell & Cordell, to review how your wife’s history may influence your case and to assess whether you should pursue joint legal custody or if seeking sole custody is warranted.

The issues as to physical custody schedules include the home environments each parent will provide, the schedules of the parents and the children with regard to assuring the children are properly supervised and prepared for school, and the abilities of each parent to provide the appropriate parenting during their period of physical custody.  As noted, her DUI history may have some bearing on these issues.

Divorce often involves changes in the homes, schedules, and level of involvement with the children of both parents and those anticipated changes need to be identified.  Your historical involvement with your children is a significant predictor as to your future commitment to your children and should be an important factor in your case.


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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