Domestic violence refers to an actual or threatened act of violence against a partner in an intimate relationship–often married couples. So, it begs the question, when one or both of you happen to be charged with an act of domestic violence, does it spell disaster for your relationship? Must you always turn to divorce next? Read on for more practical info about the interplay between these two types of law… but the short answer is not always, and in fact, mostly not.
The bottom line is that domestic violence is much more than just visible injuries. People do all sorts of dumb things in the heat of an argument that don’t reflect who they are as a person. Most importantly, these cases don’t have to mean the end of the relationship. Here at Nicol Gersch Petterson, we’ve dealt with hundreds of cases where we’ve represented either the accused or the victim (and sometimes they’re one and the same). What we’ve learned is that these kinds of cases are hard, never clear-cut, and every relationship is unique. To learn more about the legal definition of domestic violence and what it may entail, read our previous blog post here. But, you should know ANY kind of crime, be it accidental property damage (criminal mischief), long-distance phone calls (phone harassment), or even –yes– physically pushing someone away (harassment or assault if pain was caused), can lead to DV designated charges. Don’t fret, we’re here to help you with the case and with your relationship if you so choose!
The Decision for Divorce
Every domestic violence case can end differently. Some charges arise from actions that were accidental, so forgiveness might come more naturally. Others were stupid mistakes in the heat of the moment, and shouldn’t necessarily mean the end of a relationship. Long-term relationships take work and require forgiveness from both members at times. Many couples experience troubles during periods of general hardship, addiction, mental illness, and more. Don’t even get me started on hormones. Treatment (medical and mental) for these underlying causes can help the reconciliation process. It is also important to remember in many real-world cases there is not one clear abuser and clear victim. Often times, both members of the relationship exhibit problematic behavior that needs to be worked on. When both people are committed to change, a healthy relationship is possible.
Divorce may be the right answer when forgiveness isn’t possible or the abuser is unlikely to change. However, many of our clients find this is not the case.
If you are considering divorce, you should know how a DV charge will affect the process. In Colorado, the answer could potentially be not much! However, if you’ve been convicted of multiple DV charges or exhibit a pattern over time, a judge may take that into consideration when deciding matters like restraining orders in the divorce case or whether to require supervised visits with children.
However, Colorado is one of the many “no-fault” states when it comes to divorce. This means that courts do not consider either spouse’s misconduct when deciding to grant the divorce or divide assets. You do not have to prove a history of domestic violence to be granted a divorce. In fact, the only ground for divorce in Colorado is “irretrievable breakdown” which means there is no chance for reconciliation. We have seen first-hand that reconciliation is possible for many of our clients.
If a divorce is granted, the domestic abuse background may have limited impact on mediation. It has the most influence on matters of child custody, with the victim having more favorable odds depending on details of the case. However, it will have minimal impact on splitting assets or determining alimony. A good divorce attorney will work closely with your criminal defense attorney. Here at Nicol Gersch Petterson, we have an entire network of trusted, family law advisors ready and willing to help you with the next step of your life if you desire.
Which Attorney Should I Hire?
A lot of attorneys practice both criminal defense and family law. However, an attorney who practices both may not be the best choice, because they may not have the same goals or mentality when serving clients. At NGL, we partner with family law attorneys when needed, but have found that most of our cases don’t naturally flow directly into family law court. Often, the criminal case will move much faster than a Domestic Relations court, especially when the divorce is contested or kids are involved. Commonly, what we do is to provide a list of several attorneys that may be a good fit for your family’s situation, and suggest you contact them to prepare for the next step after the criminal case is resolved.
DV Convictions Do Mean DV Treatment
By law in Colorado, if you are convicted of a crime as an act of domestic violence, you are required to undergo a DV specific evaluation and then do any and all recommended treatment. In most cases, that is upwards of 36 weeks of DV treatment. In fact, some courts do not let couples do joint therapy such as through a private therapist or a church unless and until the court-ordered treatment has begun. That means, a conviction or plea deal has been entered, and — in some cases — months have gone by. That could be months with a restraining order in place and living in separate homes, too, even if the alleged victim has asked repeatedly to drop the no-contact orders. This all can have a huge impact on your relationship. Reconciliation can be easier or harder after such a long “cooling off period.” But, helping clients understand what they want is what we’re here for. We can help you find a good divorce and custody attorney. Or not. That’s your decision. We support your choices either way!
Help is only a phone call away.
Domestic violence cases are complex, which is why we offer a case-specific approach to DV cases. DV cases involving divorce or the possibility of divorce or a whole different animal. If you are in need of legal assistance with a domestic violence case, consider reaching out to Nicol Gersch Petterson for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://NicolGerschLaw.com or call 970.670.0738 any time.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. It’s a blog post and not legal advice. Each case is different, and this post is meant for generalized knowledge, only. If you haven’t signed an engagement letter (or even received an engagement letter) AND issued some form of payment (peanuts do not count), then no attorney-client relationship exists. Nevertheless, we will do our best to ensure your confidentiality should you choose to contact us privately, but do not post about your case in the comments here (because reaching out for help with your case should be confidential, damn it).
If you have done both of the things mentioned earlier–signed a letter and paid us–then, and only then, you might be a client. But merely chatting with us online does not a client make. Suffice it to say, if you aren’t absolutely certain about whether or not an attorney-client relationship exists between yourself and Nicol Gersch Petterson, you should probably ask for some clarity. Until then, we’ll keep your secrets but we don’t formally represent you… YET.