Domestic Violence Between Parents and Your Family Law Case
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence (DV) plays a role in many family law cases, including divorces, allocations of parental responsibilities, and even in post-decree modifications to parenting schedules. It is important to be aware how DV may impact your family law case
What is Domestic Violence?Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-124 defines domestic violence as:
"An act of violence or a threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship, and may include any act or threatened act against a person or against property, including an animal, when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship."
Intimate Relationship is defined as:
"A relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples, or persons who are both parents of the same child regardless of whether the persons have been married or have lived together at any time."
Domestic violence is not defined by the physical nature of violence, but can be an explicit or even an implicit threat.
Domestic Violence and Decision MakingIn Colorado, if there is a finding that domestic violence occurred between parents, the court cannot order joint decision making, unless the parents agree to joint decision making. This means that, if one parent objects to joint decision making, the court must choose one parent to have sole decision making. The court is likely to choose the parent who has the majority of the parenting time.
Domestic Violence and Parenting TimeIf there is a finding that domestic violence occurred around the children, the court may find that the perpetrator of the domestic violence should have restrictions or conditions on their parenting time. This often means that the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence must take steps, before they can exercise parenting time or before they increase their parenting time. This is a very fact-specific analysis that you and your attorney will have to walk through together.
If there is a finding that domestic violence occurred between the parents, but it did not occur around or near the children, then an incident of domestic violence may not impact the parenting schedule at all. This, too, is a very fact-specific analysis.
Domestic Violence and Division of Marital PropertyColorado is a no fault state. This means that, when it comes to the division of a marital estate, domestic violence is largely irrelevant.
That said, domestic violence can impact the financial aspect of your case in some other ways:
a. If domestic violence occurred, one of the parties may have the need for ongoing therapy, or may have physical, mental or emotional limitations that have resulted from abuse. If that is the case, the court may look at the needs of the spouses to determine how to divide the marital estate and/or what amount of maintenance is appropriate.
b. Domestic violence can often add a level of complexity to a domestic relations case, which means that the cost for attorney fees and experts may be greater. If that is the case, it is possible that the court may consider who created the need for these additional costs, when determining whether an award of attorney fees is appropriate.
Domestic Violence and Child SupportIf domestic violence plays a role in a case with children, any child support obligation will be impacted by the number of overnights allocated to each parent.
If one parent is exercising sole decision making, and if contact between one parent and the other is restricted or prohibited, one parent may find themselves shouldering many of the child-related expenses, including health insurance, childcare costs, medical expenses and extracurricular expenses. If that is the case, these expenses may be accounted for in the calculation of child support.