How Domestic Violence Can Impact Child Custody Cases in Colorado

11979804_sIn the state of Colorado, family courts step in when two spouses are unable to agree on parenting time and the allocation of parenting responsibilities. When making such determinations, the court will closely examine all evidence to determine the child’s best interests. One factor taken into consideration when making decisions on parenting responsibilities and parenting time is whether or not a parent has committed acts of domestic violence against the other parent or against the child.

Domestic violence is an act or pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate relationship such as a family or household, that one individual uses to gain control and power over another. These intimate relationships typically involve spouses, two individuals who have children together, or individuals who were formerly in a dating relationship. Domestic violence can also occur between siblings, between a parent and a child, or even between two unrelated individuals.

Domestic violence can include behaviors such as:

  • Physical violence such as slapping, hitting, or choking
  • Verbal abuse such as yelling, shouting, or name calling
  • Emotional abuse or behaviors that make you feel unimportant or afraid
  • Psychological abuse such as threats or intimidation
  • Economic abuse such as stealing or controlling all finances in the household

While domestic violence is one of the factors that the court seriously takes into consideration, it is still possible in Colorado for an individual to be granted parenting time and parenting responsibilities if he or she abused the other parent or the child in the past. This is because domestic violence is only one of the numerous best interest factors considered by the court, and it is possible for all the other factors to overshadow any incidents of domestic violence by a parent.

When deciding on such difficult cases, the court will look at how far in the past the incident occurred, whether or not the abusive parent received counseling or therapy, the impact of the abuse on the child, the abusive parent’s ability to prioritize the child’s needs, as well as the healthiness of the attachment between the parent and the child.

If an abused parent objects, however, then the court will typically not order parents to share decision-making responsibilities. If parenting time with the abusive parent presents valid concerns on the child’s emotional or physical wellbeing, then the court may also order special arrangements or conditions, such as limiting contact between parties during child exchanges, restricting the abuser from drugs or alcohol, or ensuring that parenting time is supervised by a third party. The abuser may also be required to submit to a domestic violence evaluation.

Generally, Colorado courts believe that it is in a child’s best interests to enjoy parenting time with both parents. This means that unless there are extreme or extraordinarily unusual cases of abuse, an abusive parent will be granted at least some parenting time with his or her child.

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