No matter if you received your final divorce decree last month or 10 years ago, it can be a nasty surprise to learn that your ex-spouse has a criminal charge pending. It could be for DUI or DWI, embezzlement or something else altogether.

The point is that this charge has the potential to drastically change your life. Here’s how:

Parenting agreements

If you have children with this ex, a practical consequence of the charge could be a parenting plan modification. A DUI or DWI charge, for example, can lead to a temporary license suspension; a conviction almost certainly will. Thus, your ex may no longer be able to drive the kids, and pickups and returns can become more complicated. Even if there is no license suspension or if the time frame for it has passed, you may prefer that your ex not drive the kids for safety reasons.

Something such as a domestic violence or assault charge (even a DUI) may prompt you to seek primary custody when you have shared custody. It is also worth mentioning that a conviction can mean prison time, which can affect you and your children emotionally, financially and practically.

Financial arrangements

A driver’s license suspension may also lead to job loss and diminished future job prospects for your ex. In turn, that can affect how much child support and/or spousal support you receive. It may also mean that any children you have with your ex may have to adjust to different living circumstances (if your ex has to sell a house and move into an apartment, for example, or even if you have to do so because you will be receiving less money).

It is easy to feel powerless when your ex has a criminal charge. After all, you are not the one who acted illegally, so what can you do? One way to gain as much control over the situation as you can is to be aware of the potential repercussions and hire someone to advocate for your rights. An attorney can help in these situations.