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Determining Child Custody in Divorce Cases Involving Domestic Violence


Family courts in Colorado prioritize the best interests of the child when deciding on matters of child custody and child support. The state’s legislature holds that every child has the right to live in a home that’s free of domestic violence, neglect, and child exploitation. This means judges in divorce cases involving child custody must carefully consider any allegations of domestic violence when deciding on child custody.

How Do Colorado Courts Determine Custody?

Colorado courts determine child custody or parenting time as well as legal decision-making rights for children in divorce cases in which spouses cannot come to a fair agreement on their own. When making a custody decree, the courts consider evidence and testimony presented by both parents as well as the following:

  • Facts the court considers relevant, including allegations of domestic violence or domestic violence convictions
  • Any known child abuse or neglect
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child if they’re mature enough to express their opinion
  • The child’s relationship with both parents and any siblings
  • The physical and mental health of each parent and the child
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to encourage the child’s continuing relationship with the other parent
  • The distance between each parent’s home
  • The ability of each parent to prioritize the needs of their child over their own

Because the Colorado court’s decisions always serve to protect the best interests of the child, the courts are required to carefully consider whether or not a parent has a history of domestic violence or child abuse.

What is Domestic Violence in Colorado?

When one partner in a domestic relationship or interpersonal relationship uses force or intimidation to assert control over the other partner it’s considered domestic violence. Domestic violence can include:

  • Physical abuse within the household
  • Using threats of violence or physical abuse to gain control or undermine the other’s confidence and wellbeing
  • Verbal abuse, put-downs, belittling, and harassment from one person in a household toward another
  • Abusive economic control

Victims of domestic violence in Colorado may file a petition requesting a protective order in their jurisdiction.


Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Colorado

Courts in Colorado carefully consider allegations of domestic violence when making child custody and parenting time decisions and require credible proof of abuse, neglect, or exploitation in order to prevent one parent from falsely accusing the other. A preponderance of the evidence in domestic violence allegations could include the following:

  • Forensics reports
  • Medical reports
  • Evidence from public agencies

Even if the abuse or domestic violence didn’t take place against the child involved in the custody case but toward another child—such as a stepchild or biological child from a previous relationship—the court carefully considers the evidence of any domestic abuse under the premise that the court must consider all relevant factors when deciding on a child’s best interests.

Because the state considers close and continued contact between children and parents as in the best interests of the child, the court may order supervised visitation between a parent and child even if the parent has committed acts of domestic abuse. Restrictions could also include:

  • Restricted overnight visitation
  • Exchanging the child in a public or supervised setting
  • Orders to refrain from alcohol for 24 hours prior to visitation
  • Orders to limit contact between both parties
  • Restrictions on sharing legal decision-making custody of the child

When making child custody decisions, the court may not penalize a parent for fleeing the home if the parent was a victim of domestic abuse. Contact the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci. 

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