Divorce is a distressing process even under the best of circumstances, but for a victim of domestic abuse, facing the possibility of violent repercussions from an abusive spouse can make divorce terrifying. While we’d prefer to think of domestic violence as rare in the state sometimes called the “Switzerland of the United States,” in 2021 alone, 91 victims of domestic violence died in Colorado.
Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, but that doesn’t mean that domestic abuse within a marriage doesn’t impact divorce. Types of domestic abuse include physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse (controlling a spouse’s finances to prevent them from gaining independence).
If you’re a victim of domestic violence, it helps to know exactly how your situation could impact your divorce.
What is Domestic Violence in Colorado?
Colorado criminal courts define domestic violence as any act or threat of an act of violence from one person to another when both parties are domestically involved or in an intimate relationship. Domestic involvement in crimes of abuse mean any of the following intimate relationships:
Current or formerly married couples
Current or formerly dating couples
Co-parents to children, whether biological or adopted
The police are required to arrest any person suspected of domestic violence. “Domestic violence” isn’t a separate crime from assault, but instead, law enforcement in Colorado treats it as a sentencing enhancement and aggravating factor for the crime of assault. The most common crime enhancements associated with domestic violence between those in an intimate relationship include:
Violation of a restraining order
Though unrelated to divorce or domestic violence between those in an intimate relationship, domestic violence enhancements are also sometimes applied to assaults between siblings or in cases of elder abuse.
Domestic Abuse and Divorce in Colorado
When domestic abuse is part of a divorce case, it has a significant impact on the way the case proceeds, despite Colorado’s no-fault divorce law. Because it’s mandatory for police to make an arrest in any suspected domestic violence case, when a spouse alleges abuse in a divorce case, it triggers an arrest and a restraining order against the abuser. The restraining order is a mandatory protection order prohibiting the alleged abuser from making contact with the victim. In Colorado, this order also prohibits alcohol use. Violation of the order is a crime punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
A conviction for assault with a domestic violence enhancement impacts the following in a divorce in Colorado:
Child custody (while the state believes a sustained relationship with both parents is in a child’s best interests, if a parent can’t provide an environment free from abuse they may lose custody and gain only supervised visitation
Contact with the victim remains prohibited as long as the protective order is in place which may be temporary or permanent
Courts may favor a victim of domestic violence when deciding on matters of asset division in a divorce
The courts may award a victim of abuse with a greater amount of spousal support based on the fact that abusers typically deny their victim financial independence
While all divorcing spouses should choose an experienced attorney to represent their best interests, it’s more critical than ever when domestic abuse is a factor. Please contact us today if you are in need of an experienced lawyer to represent you through these hard times.