Restraining orders are an important tool in an individual's domestic violence safety plan, but sometimes restraining orders are used as strategic weapons in divorce. Restraining orders, if abused, have the potential to endanger a parent’s child custody and visitation rights.
Domestic violence is generally defined as a pattern of abusive behavior that is enacted by the abuser to control the victim. Examples of domestic violence include:
- Physical abuse like grabbing
- Emotional abuse like constant criticism
- Sexual abuse like forced sexual acts
- Economic abuse like not allowing the victim to work.
As many as one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. A restraining order, while not a guarantee of safety, can provide some protection and a record of domestic violence.
There are varying types of restraining orders in Colorado and each one is issued differently. A restraining order is part of a criminal proceeding when domestic violence occurs. A restraining order also can be involved in family law proceedings.
When a divorce is filed in Colorado, a temporary injunction immediately takes effect and prevents both parties from removing children out of state, transferring or disposing of shared property, interfering with the rights of the other party or changing insurance without notice or consent.
Individuals who allegedly have suffered abuse may petition the court for a separate civil protective order. The individual requesting the order must attend two court hearings. At the first court hearing, the requesting individual provides information about the alleged harm the other person has caused and explains why the other person may harm the individual again. Since the court may issue a temporary restraining order without hearing the opposing side's story, a restraining order may unnecessarily complicate the non-requesting party's position in the divorce.
At the second hearing the person accused of domestic violence has a chance to explain why the restraining order should not be made permanent. If the restraining order is made permanent it is in effect unless the court cancels the order. A permanent restraining order may impact the non-requesting party's child custody and visitation rights. If an order is violated, it may result in criminal penalties.
While restraining orders should not be overlooked in situations where warranted, restraining orders can cause difficulties in the divorce process. If you are going through divorce in Colorado, contact an experienced family law attorney to ensure a restraining order does not unjustifiably harm your divorce case.