Emotional Abuse In A Custody Battle? Get Started Today

Dealing With Emotional Abuse During a Custody Battle


Updated January 2024

Escaping an emotionally abusive relationship by getting divorced is complicated if you and your ex-spouse have a child together. Although the courts in Colorado generally try to maintain continuing contact between a child and both parents after a divorce, there are exceptions if the child’s well-being or best interests are at risk, including if one parent is emotionally abusive. Proving emotional abuse can be difficult during a custody battle.

How Do the Courts View Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is in the same field as physical abuse when it comes to a child custody case. The courts look at both as threats that put a child at risk of harm. Emotional abuse such as scare tactics, efforts to control or isolate a victim, using fear or intimidation, emotional manipulation, and beratement or humiliation can have a detrimental effect on a child. A child who is exposed to emotional abuse can suffer from anxiety, depression, stress, low self-esteem, attachment problems and other long-term effects.

If it can be proven that one parent is emotionally abusive, that parent will receive fewer custodial rights than the non-abusive parent. This does not mean that the other parent will receive no custody or visitation rights, however. The courts will create a custody arrangement based on what is in the best interests of the child. Typically, this means frequent and continuing contact with both parents to maintain meaningful relationships, but if a joint custody arrangement is not safe for a child due to emotional abuse, the courts may award sole custody to the non-abusive parent.

In cases where emotional abuse is a factor, the court’s primary concern is the welfare and safety of the child. Evidence of emotional abuse can significantly influence a judge’s decision in determining custody arrangements. This evidence can include testimony from psychological experts, documented instances of abusive behavior, and any impact the abuse has had on the child’s mental and emotional health. The court may also consider the willingness of the abusive parent to acknowledge their behavior and seek help. In some instances, the court might allow supervised visitation to ensure the child’s safety while maintaining a relationship with the abusive parent. Ultimately, the court aims to balance the child’s need for a stable, nurturing environment with the benefits of maintaining a relationship with both parents, always prioritizing the child’s best interests.

Proving Emotional Abuse in a Child Custody Case

If you wish to protect your child from emotional abuse at the hands of your ex-spouse in a divorce case, you or your child custody attorney in Fort Collins must prove that your child’s health or well-being could be at risk when in the care of your ex-spouse. While emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse, it is more difficult to prove. There is often no physical proof of emotional abuse, such as bruising or injuries. Instead, proving emotional abuse may require:

  • Texts, messages or emails
  • Character witnesses
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Photographs
  • Video recordings
  • Medical or psychiatric records
  • Information from the child’s school or teachers
  • Police or incident reports
  • Allegations of domestic violence
  • Parent psychological evaluation

To help you prove emotional abuse during a custody battle in Colorado, keep a journal. Write down every incident of emotional, mental or verbal abuse – document the exact time, date, place and circumstances. Include any supporting evidence, such as recordings, when possible. Then, ask for a mental health study or psychological evaluation during your custody case. A mental health expert will talk to your ex-spouse and your child to search for signs of emotional abuse.

How to Protect Your Child From an Abusive Parent

A custody decision is given to a judge in Colorado if the parents cannot agree on their own parenting plan. If your custody battle involves emotional abuse by your ex, contact an experienced Fort Collins family law attorney to help you build a case for primary or sole custody. In the meantime, focus on the well-being of your child. Divorce is hard on any child but is made worse when a situation involves emotional abuse from a parent.

Try to keep your child’s life as stable and consistent as possible. Stick to the same schedule your child had before the split. Consider taking your child to therapy so that he or she can discuss feelings, emotions, fears and the future with a professional. Do your best to avoid confrontation with your ex-spouse; use an attorney to communicate with the other side of your divorce case while you fight for custody. For more information about a custody case involving emotional abuse, speak to an attorney in Fort Collins.

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