Will a Domestic Violence Charge Impact My Child Custody Case?
A domestic violence arrest can have a huge negative impact on your child custody case. If you have been arrested, you now
Domestic violence, even accusations, is taken seriously by the Colorado courts. Over 15 million children in the United States live in households with domestic violence. Domestic violence allegations lead to an uphill battle in child custody cases.
Colorado's mandatory arrest policy adds fuel to the fire.
If the police are called and you're accused of domestic violence, you will be arrested if the police find probable cause.
Five key indicators will be used to determine if there's probable cause to arrest you:
When police respond to the call, they will look for one of these signs and make an immediate arrest. By law, police are required to make an arrest even if there's only a suspicion of one of the five indicators listed above.
What Colorado's Mandatory Arrest Policy Offers to Victims
Heated arguments can quickly turn into domestic violence. When police are called to the scene, it's not uncommon for the victim to regret making the call and downplaying the domestic violence. It's also possible that the victim is afraid of being punished or revenge against the victim.
A mandatory arrest is meant to keep domestic violence victims from being subjected to further abuse.
The abuser is arrested, allowing the victim to seek help and de-escalating the violence. One of the main drawbacks of a mandatory arrest policy is a victim can easily convince law enforcement that the allegation is valid.
As required by law, the authorities must make the arrest if they suspect some form of violence took place. It's in the best interest of law enforcement to make an arrest to eliminate the risk of the situation escalating once they leave the residence.
Sometimes law enforcement will get it right when they arrest a potential abuser, but there are situations in which arrests are made when no abuse occurred.
If you're in the middle of a divorce or a divorce follows the arrest, you will be looked at differently in a child custody case. The judge may see the allegations of domestic violence and determine that you're unfit to see your children.
How Child Custody Is Determined in Colorado
If you're a parent and you go through a divorce, the key factor changes from money to child custody. Who will take care of your children after you're separated? Will you share custody of the child?
A shared custody agreement is the ideal situation. A split custody arrangement allows both parents to see, raise and nurture the child. Shared custody protects your rights as a parent.
When both parents cannot come to an agreement on their own, the court will step in to determine custody.
Multiple factors will be considered by the judge when determining custody:
What do the parents want?
What are the wishes of the child when of appropriate age?
What is your relationship with your child?
How will custody impact the child's schooling?
What is the mental and physical health of the parents?
How far apart will parental homes be?
The judge will also sit down and look at both parents' past records. If you have been arrested of charged with child abuse or neglect or abuse of the other parent (or another spouse), this will be used against you.
Courts will consider any other relevant information available. If domestic violence has occurred or there are pending allegations of abuse, the court may decide that the child is at-risk if you have custody.
The court will ultimately determine which parent will be the primary parent and how parents will share time with their child.
Challenges Domestic Violence Poses in Your Case
Mandatory arrest policies and allegations of domestic violence will act against you in a child custody case. The judge determines custody based on the child's best interests, and a domestic violence allegation is a red flag for any judge.
The challenges you face include:
Arrests are always considered. The judge must consider the arrest. Your spouse only needs to prove that the events likely happened. If you can't disprove these claims, you may be required to attend domestic violence classes, or the judge may limit your visitation rights. If the case against you is strong, the judge may only allow supervised visits or may remove your right to see your child.
Court battles. If you're still in the middle of allegations, you'll need to go through a divorce and the domestic violence allegations at the same time. Taking on two legal issues at the same time can be expensive and draining.
Domestic violence charges are serious, and even if the judge only suspects that violence occurred, it will have an impact on your case. This is not a battle that you want to take on alone – there's too much at stake.
A Colorado child custody lawyer can fight on your behalf to help you retain your child custody rights. If you've been accused of domestic violence, be sure to never sign an agreement without legal counsel.