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Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody in Colorado

anxious-1-867286-m.jpgRecently, there has been significant public attention to issues of domestic violence around the nation. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior within a family or other intimate relationship. It can include spousal abuse or child abuse, and it can go beyond physical violence, including verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, and psychological abuse. Last year, more than 10,000 domestic violence misdemeanor cases were filed, and this drop of 13% is considered an improvement. It is not uncommon for an abusive spouse to claim that he or she will take the kids, or take away support or insurance so that the kids don’t have money. Under the Colorado Victims Rights Act, a perpetrator cannot take away kids or housing.

Under § 14-10-124(1.5)(a)(IX) and (X), C.R.S.2005, a Colorado court is supposed to consider whether one of the spouses has perpetrated child or spousal abuse when making an allocation of parenting time. However, a finding of child abuse or spousal abuse doesn’t automatically result in the court denying parenting time to the parent who perpetrated the abuse, even though it is a relevant factor to determining the child’s best interests. In many cases, the parent who has been charged with child abuse, for example, has worked on issues with a therapist and ultimately the parenting coordinator, and others agree that he or she can have parenting time or even be the primary residential parent.

How do the courts decide these difficult cases? In general, the courts will look at whether the perpetrator received therapy or counseling, how far in the past the incident was, the healthiness of the attachment between the perpetrator and the child, the impact of the abuse on the child, and the perpetrator’s ability to put the child’s needs first.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, you can file for a protective order to keep the abuser at a distance from you and to prevent any further harm. However, the issue is more complicated if you and the person who abused you have a child together. The best interests of the child can outweigh spousal abuse when it comes to child custody or visitation. In general, Colorado courts find that it is in children’s best interests to have participation and parenting time by both parents except in unusual cases of very severe abuse.

However, usually Colorado courts don’t order parents to share decision-making authority if an abused parent objects, or else there may be special arrangements put into place so that the parents can communicate about the child. For example, the court can order the exchanges of the child to happen in a public place or a police station to guard against future violence. If there are concerns about the child’s physical or emotional wellbeing as a result of spending time with the perpetrator of the abuse, the court can also order that the visitation is supervised by a third party, such as a family member, a trained professional, or a friend.

If you are considering filing for a Colorado divorce and are concerned about domestic violence issues, a knowledgeable and experienced Denver divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities and can prepare the best possible case for you. To schedule an initial consultation with a dedicated Colorado family law attorney, contact us today through our website or at 303-502-9422.