Unfortunately, domestic violence is an issue that is involved in many divorce, legal separation and child custody cases throughout Colorado. Reports of domestic violence have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are facing a child custody battle that involves violence, abuse or assault by your spouse, there are steps that you can take to secure your safety and legal rights. Contact a child custody attorney in Fort Collins right away for more information.
Does Domestic Violence Automatically Exclude a Parent From Child Custody?
No. The courts will analyze many different factors when making a child custody decision (known as parental responsibility in Colorado). According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-124, however, domestic violence is a specific factor that is assessed in a custody case. Part (1.5)(b)(V) states that if one party has been a perpetrator of domestic violence, it will not be in the best interests of the child to allocate joint decision-making responsibility if the other parent objects to this arrangement.
There is an exception noted, however, if the courts find that both parents can make shared legal decisions without physical confrontation and in a manner that does not endanger the victim or child. In other words, domestic violence will not automatically take physical or legal custody rights away from a parent in Colorado. However, it can increase the odds of a judge assigning custody to the other parent.
Proving Domestic Violence in a Custody Case
Importantly, the law also states that a domestic violence allegation will be factored into a child custody decision only if it is supported by a preponderance of the evidence. This does not necessarily mean that the alleged abuser must be convicted of domestic violence by the criminal courts. Instead, there must be enough proof to establish that the parent more likely than not committed an act that qualifies as domestic violence.
Proving domestic violence in your divorce or custody case requires clear and convincing evidence. This evidence may include, but is not limited to, a police report, testimony from a police officer, eyewitness statements, text messages or emails, photographs of physical injuries from domestic abuse, statements from the alleged victim, a psychological evaluation of the alleged abuser, and statements from the child. If there is enough proof to support a domestic violence allegation, this will play a role in a custody determination.
How to Protect Yourself in a Domestic Violence Custody Case
If you are involved in a divorce or legal separation case where your spouse has committed domestic violence or abuse, it is critical to protect yourself and your child. This includes protecting yourself physically as well as legally in a custody case. Take the following steps if you are in this situation:
Call 911 in an emergency. If you or your child are in fear of imminent bodily harm due to domestic violence, call 911 for immediate assistance. Reporting domestic violence can help you create a record of this crime for your custody case later.
Confide in a trusted friend or family member. If you are trapped in an abusive relationship, make a plan to keep yourself and your child safe with assistance from someone that you can trust. If you don’t have anyone in your life to fill this role, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 for support.
Contact a divorce attorney. Once you have ensured your safety, contact a divorce attorney for legal assistance. An attorney can help you file for an emergency protective order (restraining order) as well as for divorce and child custody.
Sadly, domestic violence is not uncommon in family law cases. If your child custody battle involves allegations of domestic violence, it is critical to hire an attorney to represent you. This is true if you are a victim as well as if you are the parent being accused of domestic violence. With so much at stake, hiring an attorney is critical for the protection of your legal rights. For more information about your case, contact The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci, LLC to schedule a consultation with an attorney.