In Colorado, domestic violence goes far beyond physical acts to encompass a wide range of behaviors. The law defines domestic violence as any act, attempted act, or threatened act of violence, harassment, stalking, or coercion between individuals in a relationship. The relationship may be a current or former marriage or romantic partnership, or simply a current or former shared living situation.
That means you could be charged with domestic violence if your current or former spouse, partner, or roommate accuses you of something as seemingly petty as name-calling or repeated phone calls. And because Colorado is a mandatory arrest state, you can be arrested immediately when your accuser reports this alleged domestic violence to the police.
The consequences of a domestic violence arrest can be devastating for anyone, but there are particularly terrible penalties for parents. After being accused of domestic violence, many parents are forbidden from contacting their children – even before going to trial.
How can this happen? If a judge believes your accuser is in immediate danger, the court may issue a Temporary Protection Order against you. The judge may issue this order without notifying you beforehand, or even hearing your side of the story in court. A Temporary Protection Order will prohibit you from contacting the accuser, and could also bar you from entering your home and seeing your children.
When you are able to go to court, a judge may issue a Permanent Protection Order if he or she finds you guilty of domestic violence. Depending on the provisions of the order, this could restrict your right to spend time with or make important decisions regarding your child. It could keep you from seeing your family or entering your home, while ordering that you continue to make payments for rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities, and medical care.
How Domestic Violence Charges Affect Child Custody
In Colorado, the court will look at domestic violence charges when determining your right to child custody. Usually, the court will restrict your decision-making responsibilities as a parent if you are believed to have committed domestic violence. The court may limit your contact with your child to public areas, a supervised location, or a police station in order to protect the child from the threat of abuse. And if the court believes spending time with your child may harm his or her physical or emotional well-being, the judge my limit your visitation arrangements to special circumstances.
Defense against Domestic Violence Charges
Colorado domestic violence laws are designed to protect families and young children from abuse. Unfortunately, a disturbing number of domestic violence allegations are used to gain unfair advantage in custody and divorce cases. You may find yourself barred from your home, prevented from contacting your children, and in serious trouble with the law if someone makes an inflated or completely false claim against you.
Once you have been accused of domestic violence, the burden is on you to challenge the credibility of your accuser’s claim and demonstrate your innocence. However, you can counter false accusations by following certain steps.
Obey your protection order. If a Temporary Protection Order is out against you, it’s very important to abide by all its terms and conditions—even if you feel they are unfair. Don’t contact the accuser in any way, including via text, phone call, or third party. Your accuser may attempt to contact you in an attempt to coerce you into breaking the terms of your protection order, but it’s critical that you refrain from responding. If you respond or contact them, you will be in violation of your protection order and face further legal repercussions.
Keep calm. If you are arrested, stay calm and exercise your right to remain silent. By displaying angry or upset behavior, or simply saying the wrong thing, you could strengthen the case against you. Keeping cool and professional through the arrest and court proceedings is vital to your defense.
Consult with a criminal lawyer. To combat domestic violence allegations, you’ll need a top criminal defense attorney with experience in domestic violence cases. Colorado courts tend to err on the side of the alleged victim, so an attorney may well be your only ally throughout the case. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights as a citizen and parent, and work tirelessly to defend these rights in court. Your lawyer can help you prove your innocence, clear your name, and protect your future, while ensuring a false domestic violence claim will not keep you from raising and nurturing your child.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing atThe Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.