Drunk Driving and Its Consequences
The Rights of Non-custodial Parents
Drunk driving has been called a nationwide epidemic and the public has supported increasingly harsh penalties. The growing recognition and reaction to the dangers posed by intoxicated drivers means drunk driving consequences
can be in a state of flux depending on where the driver is arrested.
In general, jail time for DWI or DUI offenses are becoming more common, sometimes even in the case of first-time offenders. This trend towards stricter laws is happening across the U.S. as a result of lobbying by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers
Starting in the 1980s, drunk driving consequences started becoming more severe, and the last states to raise their drinking age, South Dakota and Wyoming, did so in 1988. The blood alcohol concentration limit was lowered to the .08 standard and under-21 laws prohibited any alcohol consumption by minor drivers.
Now that these laws have been standardized across the U.S., much of the new drunk driving legislation has focused on the problem of habitual offenders. Penalties like increased fines, stricter license revocation and mandatory jail time have made repeat drunk driving consequences more severe.
Even those who are not habitual drunk drivers can find themselves affected by stricter drunk driving consequences. Attorney's fees and court costs have increased and, even if the driver's license is returned (even first-time offenders can have lengthy license suspensions), the car insurance policy can be cancelled or the insurer may move the driver into a higher-risk classification. The driver may also be required to attend classes.
Even if a driver is not the cause of an accident, they can be liable for any damages if alcohol is detected in their system. This liability could run into the millions of dollars. Even if the BAC of the driver is below .08, it is still possible to be arrested or held liable for driving while impaired.
All of these costs and inconveniences pale in comparison to the ultimate drunk driving consequences: causing the injury or death of a driver, passenger or pedestrian. In one sobering study, commissioned by MADD, researchers found that, on average, a drunk driver kills someone in the U.S. every 40 minutes.
Child Custody Rights for Fathers
While any divorce can be a painful process, the loss of a parent's everyday access to his or her children can make it that much harder. But it is important to remember that non-custodial parent rights are also protected by the law.
The court-ordered visitation schedule is a key part of non-custodial parent rights, as it details the specific days and hours the parent spends with his or her children. Wise parents will identify and work out as many potential conflicts as possible before the schedule is finalized, as it can easily be the biggest point of contention between ex-couples.
Things like holidays, school functions, afterschool sports and other activities can also be obvious sticking points, but phone and electronic communications are an important and often overlooked part of non-custodial parent rights. The non-custodial parent will want to make note of what kind of contact is permitted both in-person and over the phone or Internet, when the children are with their custodial parent. Addressing all of these points while still drafting the schedule can go a long way to head off future conflicts.
Once the schedule is finalized, it will hopefully provide the structure for a low-drama relationship with the ex-spouse and the smooth exercise of non-custodial parent rights. If problems do occur with a non-cooperative parent, documentation is key.
A calendar that tracks the successful and unsuccessful visitation appointments will be a key record if the parties go to court over visitation. If an appointment is canceled by the other parent, the non-custodial parent rights should be exercised as soon as possible afterward to make up for the lost time with the child or children. Attempts to be flexible and work with the other parent (even if they are uncooperative and the attempts are unsuccessful) should also be noted.
If the non-custodial parent can point to a recorded history of uncooperative behavior and the denial of non-custodial parent rights, it will help their case considerably. Any negative behavior by the ex-spouse should be recorded in this way before the non-custodial parent meets with an attorney.
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Fathers seeking primary custody of their children in divorce cases are awarded it about 50 percent of the time, according to a report by Working Mother Magazine. The data is a sign of the changing atmosphere around child custody for fathers, where mothers have historically held an advantage due to the opposing stereotypes of the nurturer and the breadwinner.
Some of this change can be traced to the slowly accelerating aftereffects of the shift away from the "Tender Years Doctrine" that often explicitly favored the mother in child custody cases. By the mid-1990s, most states had moved from maternal-preference to statutes that were more gender-neutral. This new legal philosophy was based around the best interests of the child. While the interpretation initially continued to favor mothers, "best interests" has seemed to reflect the shift in gender roles in many families over the past decade.
Today, some women and family law attorneys are now voicing concerns over the devaluation of the contributions of working moms to parenting in child custody for fathers who stay at home. This is a mirroring of the arguments heard from the father's rights movement in previous decades. Both groups decry what they say is an uneven playing field for the working parent and see the supposed bias in child custody as a punishment for supporting a family.
The recent downturn in the economy has also had an effect on child custody for fathers, as more than 75 percent of laid-off workers have been men. In early 2010, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history, and the percentage of mothers who are working and also raising young children has grown to more than 50 percent--up from 30 percent in the 1970s. This has led to more fathers spending more time in the home taking care of their children. Some experts have even suggested that this is part of a larger, systematic shift in power between the genders that could be due to modern society favoring female workers and women in general.
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