Child custody cases can be a difficult process to navigate through. In Colorado, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the court system will take several factors into account before making a final decision. However, if you have recently been charged with domestic violence, that could complicate your custody case even more, and could negatively impact your chances of gaining full custody of your child.
If you have recently been involved in domestic violence, here is what you need to know about your upcoming child custody case in Colorado.
How Child Custody Is Determined in Colorado
If you and your former spouse are having a hard time agreeing on a custody arrangement for your child, a judge will make the decision for you. The judge will make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child. There are several factors that a judge will look at when determining which parent the child will live with.
Some of these factors may include:
- The parent’s wishes and availability to take care of the child
- The child’s desire to live with a certain parent (if the child is old enough to understand the decision)
- The child’s relationship with members of the household, including parents, siblings, etc.
- The mental and physical health of the child
- The mental and physical health of the parent
- The parents’ ability to place the child’s needs ahead of their own
- The physical proximity of both parents’ homes
- The child’s ability to adjust to his or her home, community, and school
- Evidence that suggests the child has been neglected or abused by one parent
- Evidence that suggests that one parent has been abusive towards the other parent
Instead of using the term “sole custody” or joint custody,” Colorado uses the term “parental responsibility.” Once the judge has reviewed all of the factors in the case, he or she will then give sole parental responsibility to one parent or will give both parents joint parental responsibility. If the child has less than 90 overnight visits a year with you, then the other parent is considered to have sole parental responsibility.
When determining parental responsibility, the court will also look at both parents’ ability to cooperate with one another in order to make joint decisions regarding the child’s education, health, and other aspects of life.
Being Charged with Domestic Violence in Colorado
Colorado defines domestic violence as any “act or threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.” A person may also be charged with domestic violence if the violent act was against the other person’s personal property or animal.
Domestic violence does not just include physical violence. It can also include any other crime that is used as intimidation, control, coercion, revenge, and punishment. If it can be proven that a person has committed one of these acts, then they could be charged with domestic violence.
The punishment for domestic violence can vary from case to case. However, a person who has been convicted of domestic violence could face jail time, have to pay a fine, seek counseling, and lose their right to own a firearm.
How Can Domestic Violence Affect Your Child Custody Case?
The state of Colorado takes the health and safety of a child very seriously. If the courts feel that the child’s safety may be in jeopardy while they are with one parent, a judge could order that parent to have supervised visitation or could suspend visitation with that parent altogether. If you are currently facing a domestic violence charge, but have not yet been convicted, it could still complicate your child custody case.
Child Custody Cases are Civil Procedures
The reason why a domestic violence charge can hurt your chances of winning your custody case is that custody cases are considered to be a civil matter. Unlike criminal cases, the court does not require proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” in civil cases. This means that If your former spouse has reason to believe that you may be a danger to your child and can show enough evidence that a judge believes that you could possibly be guilty of domestic violence, then it could hurt your chances of gaining custody.
Colorado has specific laws that prevent an abuser from gaining custody of a child. So, unless you can bring your own evidence that refutes the other parent’s claim, the judge could order supervised visitation and make you attend domestic violence classes.
You Could be Fighting a Very Expensive Battle
If you have been charged with domestic violence and have not gone to court yet, that means that you will now have two different court cases that you have to attend. Because the domestic violence charge is a criminal matter, you may be able to get a public defender to represent you in court. However, if you do not meet the income requirements, you may be forced to hire a private attorney. This means that you will have to pay for two different attorneys and make sure that you are able to attend two different court hearings.
If you are in the middle of a custody battle and have also been charged with domestic violence, you have an uphill battle ahead of you. It can be a stressful process that can take a toll on you both financially and emotionally. However, if you find an experienced and trusted family attorney, they can offer practical advice and help to make this process a little easier.