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How Domestic Violence Charges Can Make Divorce Much More Complicated

In my previous blog post, I wrote about whether or not domestic violence charges can be dropped by the victim (they can’t), and how incredibly complicated a domestic violence situation can become.

The situation gets even more difficult if domestic violence charges are leveled in the midst of a divorce case.

Domestic Violence, Kids, and Divorce

In a divorce, Colorado law creates a substantial uphill battle to getting joint decision-making as to the kids if there are allegations or conviction of domestic violence.

Joint decision-making doesn’t necessarily mean sharing joint custody. It means that both parents have equal say in making decisions pertaining to the kids’ lives, like:

  • “Should the kids get a COVID shot?”
  • “Should the kids go to this school, or that school?”
  • “Should the kids see this doctor, or that doctor?”

Most divorcing parents want to have input in these kinds of decisions, but a domestic violence charge makes this very difficult… which means that one parent has a distinct advantage over the other in the divorce. For this reason, I have seen people falsely make domestic violence claims where a divorce case is imminent.

Here’s how this might look.

Say a couple with a kid is arguing a lot. It looks like their relationship may be about to end, and in one heated fight, one partner picks up her car keys to leave. The other partner physically blocks her from leaving, and grabs her shoulders for a moment before letting her leave. [If she has been drinking, he may actually be trying to protect her.]

Under Colorado law, this could be considered domestic violence. If the woman wants to, she can call the police and claim domestic violence occurred. Most likely, a protection order will be filed, excluding her partner from the residence, and parenting time will now have to be arranged through a third party. If she then files for divorce, she’ll now have a clear upper hand. The Court will scrutinize parenting time with a domestic abuser. She’ll have possession of the residence, and that usually means the children are primarily residing with her. As the case proceeds, the Court considers the “stigma” attached to domestic violence, and the Court cannot order joint parenting time unless the parties agree or there is a history of making joint decisions. Knowing this, some divorce attorneys encourage their clients to contact the authorities for relatively minor incidents to gain an advantage.

Domestic Violence Doesn’t Require Violence

I recently worked on a case where a couple was living together, and the man found out that his partner was running an Internet scam out of their basement, and using his PayPal account to receive stolen funds.

He told her to leave, but she refused, which resulted in an argument wherein they both went to bed — in separate rooms — angry. At about 3 am the police bang on the door, and when he answers, he’s surprised to learn that he’s been accused of beating up his female partner. He’s arrested and a protection order is put in place. Despite the fact that the house is only in his name, he’s excluded from the house.

Three weeks later, he decides to stop paying her credit card bill (which he’d been doing as long as they had been together). She claimed that this was domestic violence, and the case got much more complicated as the D.A. chose to pursue the charges.

Now, not only is he dealing with a messy break-up from a woman who is a criminal, but he’s also having to face domestic violence charges, which could have a lasting negative impact on his ability to get and keep a good job. Not to mention that in the custody case, since she has leveled domestic violence charges against him, she has a clear upper hand in decision-making authority in the custody case.

Domestic Violence is Complex

Especially when a couple is divorcing, domestic violence is very complicated. Every situation is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for these types of cases. If you’re dealing with domestic violence charges, call our office today at 303-449-1873 for a complimentary consultation.

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