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Domestic Violence and Child Custody Cases

How Domestic Violence Can Impact a Dispute over Children in Colorado

Domestic violence is an important factor in family proceedings in Colorado but it’s not always as easy to define as we might think.

The family law courts in Colorado recognize that domestic violence is a factor that’s pertinent to both parties who are breaking up and their children. In cases in which violence is a factor, the law has an obligation to protect the children and adults from further abuse. Colorado law states that children have a right to live and visit homes that are free of domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect. When domestic violence is a factor, different considerations come into play.

How is Domestic Violence Defined in Colorado?

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in a family, home or another intimate relationship which is used by one individual to control exert power over another person. Intimate relationships can take a number of forms. They include people who have a child together, husbands and wives, former spouses and people who are or were dating. Domestic violence can also include abuse between a parent and child, or between siblings. It can even include unrelated people who live in a set up akin to being roommates.

Domestic violence involves more than just physical abuse. It also includes the following:

  • verbal abuse such as calling names or shouting
  • psychological abuse such as threats of violence and intimidation;
  • emotional abuse, including belittling behaviors that make another person feel afraid or not important:
  • economic abuse, such as stealing or controlling money.

The Effect of Domestic Violence on Family Proceedings

When parents can’t agree on parenting time for their children the court will make the decision for them. Domestic violence will be an important consideration. The court will consider evidence whether a parent has abused or neglected a child or children or if the parent has abused the other parent.

However, domestic violence is just one of many factors that the court considers. Even if a parent has abused the child or the other parent, the court may still grant the abuser parenting time and parenting responsibilities in Colorado.

The courts look very carefully at neglect, violence and child abuse claims. A finding of child abuse or neglect must be supported by credible evidence because parties will sometimes make false claims to bolster their case. A finding of domestic violence needs to be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. Evidence such as medical reports, police reports, or reports from social services agencies or other official bodies, will carry the most weight with the court.

Domestic violence may not only affect which party the child spends the most time with. It may also affect the respective abilities of the parents to make decisions on behalf of their children because these decisions should be the free will of the parents and not a result of bullying or coercion.

Under Colorado law, it is not in the best interests of a child to allocate mutual decision-making between the parents if domestic violence has been substantiated and the other party objects, unless the court is able to establish that both of the parties will make shared decisions free of physical confrontation in a place or way that’s not a danger to the child or the abused party.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, there are a number of organizations that can help secure your safety and legal rights. The Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence website has a list of local providers.

If domestic violence has been a factor in your family, call the Denver Family Lawyers for advice. (303) 225-3343.