Legal Information: Colorado


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June 17, 2021

Can a parent who committed abuse against me or my child get parental responsibilities (parenting time/decision-making responsibilities)?

Possibly.  When a claim of child abuse/neglect, domestic violence or sexual assault that resulted in the conception of the child has been made to the court, or if the judge has reason to believe that one of these acts has occurred, before the judge can decide whether or not to give the offender parental responsibilities and before the judge can evaluate the “best interest factors” (explained in How will a judge make a decision about allocation of parental responsibilities?), the judge must consider the following:1

  • When either parent has committed child abuse or neglect, that parent will not get mutual decision-making powers if the other parent or the child’s legal representative objects to it.2 
  • If either parent has committed domestic violence (including a single act of domestic violence, a pattern of domestic violence, or a history of domestic violence), that parent will not get mutual decision-making powers if the other parent or the child’s legal representative objects unless the judge believes that the parties are able to make decisions cooperatively in the best interest of the child in a way that is safe for the abused parent and the child.3
  • When one of the parties has committed an act of sexual assault that resulted in the conception of the child, the judge is supposed to assume that it is not in the best interests of the child for that parent to get sole, split or mutual decision-making authority (however, the offender may be able to present evidence to overcome the judge’s assumption). The judge is also supposed to decide if it’s in the child’s best interests to prohibit or limit the offender’s parenting time with the child.4  Note: If the offender was convicted in criminal court of this sexual assault, see If my child was conceived due to a sexual assault, can the offender’s rights to the child be terminated?

In any of the above situations, however, the primary concern of the judge is supposed to be the safety and well-being of the child and the abused parent.5  The judge is supposed to consider conditions on parenting time that ensure the safety of the child and of the abused party when creating (or approving) a parenting plan.  This may include:

  • an order limiting contact between the parties and allowing only contact that the judge believes is safe and minimizes unnecessary communication between the parents; 
  • ordering supervised parenting time or exchange of the child in a protected setting;
  • an order restricting overnight parenting time;
  • an order that the abuser cannot possess or drink alcohol or take controlled substances (drugs) during parenting time or for twenty-four hours prior to the beginning of his/her parenting time;
  • an order directing that the address of the child or of any party remain confidential;
  • any other condition that the judge believes is necessary to protect the child, the abused parent, or any other family or household member; and
  • an order that requires child support payments to be made through the child support registry to avoid the need for any related contact between the parties.6

The judge can also order an evaluation to determine if the abuser should participate in a domestic violence treatment program and can require a report from the treatment provider regarding his/her progress. At any time, the judge can then order a new evaluation to determine whether additional treatment is necessary.7

Note: Even if the parent is no longer abusing you but you believe there is domestic violence occurring in that parent’s home with his/her new intimate partner, this can be something that you may want to raise in court.  The Colorado Legislature declared that a child has the right to be emotionally, mentally, and physically safe when in the care of either parent and has the right to live in and visit homes that are free of domestic violence and child abuse or neglect.8

1 C.R.S. § 14-10-124(4)(a)
2 C.R.S. § 14-10-124(4)(a)(I)
3 C.R.S. § 14-10-124(4)(a)(II)
4 C.R.S. § 14-10-124(4)(a)(III),(IV) 
5 C.R.S. § 14-10-124(4)(d)
6 C.R.S. § 14-10-124(4)(e)
7 C.R.S. § 14-10-124(4)(f)
8 C.R.S. § 14-10-123.4(1)(b),(c)

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