Drunk Driving and Other Crimes Can Impact Child Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

For any person who has pleaded guilty, pleaded no contest, or was convicted of drunk driving (regardless of the state, whether the incident involved a child, or the date), and is seeking custody of a child, his or her crime will be considered by the court.

Importantly, the court will not only consider drunk driving crimes of the person seeking custody, but also those of members of his or her household.

Before a court can make any order of custody, it must determine if there is a threat of harm to the child.

What about Criminal Charges?

If a party learns that the other – or a member of his or her household – has been merely charged with drunk driving, he or she may move the court for a temporary child custody order or modification of an existing child custody order.

After this motion is made, the court must then hold an expedited hearing to consider whether there is a risk of physical, emotional, or psychological harm to the child.

Full List of Crimes

While drunk driving is a more common crime, it is not the only one (of either a person seeking custody or a member of his or her household) that will require a court to first reach a determination about the child’s safety. This is the full list of criminal offenses:

  • criminal homicide
  • aggravated assault
  • terroristic threats
  • stalking
  • kidnapping
  • unlawful restraint
  • false imprisonment
  • luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure
  • rape
  • statutory sexual assault
  • involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • sexual assault
  • aggravated indecent assault
  • indecent assault
  • indecent exposure
  • sexual intercourse with an animal
  • conduct relating to sex offenders
  • arson and related offenses
  • incest
  • concealing the death of a child
  • endangering the welfare of children
  • dealing in infant children
  • prostitution and related offenses
  • obscene and other sexual materials and performances
  • corruption of minors
  • sexual abuse of children
  • unlawful contact with a minor
  • sexual exploitation of children
  • contempt for violation of an order or agreement
  • driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
  • driving after imbibing alcohol or utilizing drugs
  • manufacture, sale or delivery, holding, offering for sale or possession of any controlled substance or other drug or device

A person’s being charged, pleading guilty, pleading no contest, or conviction of drunk driving or any of the listed criminal offenses does not guarantee that child custody rights will be restricted or modified. However, anyone wishing to file a child custody complaint should be aware of this possibility and familiar with the criminal records of all who live in his or her household before starting a custody action.

Any parent genuinely concerned for the safety of his or her child should know that a procedure is in place.

This is only a summary, and the full text of the law should be consulted. 23 Pa.C.S. § 5329. 23 Pa.C.S. § 5330.


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