Domestic Violence Increases During Stay-at-Home
As many people around the world are ordered to stay in their homes during the pandemic it seems that domestic violence rates are on the rise. Unfortunately, this is not surprising – when people are forced to spend most of their time together in close proximity, in a stressful situation, they can set each other off, and bring out the worst in someone who was already close to breaking.
In the United Kingdom, calls to abuse hotlines have increased 25%, and police departments in the U.S. have publicly reported increased calls. Some commentators are especially concerned that with children forced to stay home, they could be especially vulnerable as bad home situations become worse.
Sources of Help
First, if you are in an abusive situation, seek help. For cases which are an immediate threat to life and limb, don’t hesitate to call 911.
For other bad circumstances, which are not immediate emergencies, there are resources here in El Paso County. The best place to start is TESSA, a county resource for people affected by domestic violence. Unfortunately, some of their services are unavailable because of the pandemic, but counselors are still available by phone, and they would have the best information available on which resources in the county are still available.
Violence Free Colorado’s web site is another great resource, more of an index to domestic violence resources depending upon what would help you in your specific situation (preventing abuse, day care, etc)
What to do Once You’re Safe
First, get yourself safe. Flee if you must. Call the police. Go to a safe place – something to remove yourself from a dangerous situation.
Once you are in a position to take a breath and assess your options, there are several open to an abuse victim. First, you could apply for a temporary restraining order. With proper evidence, protective orders are relatively straightforward to obtain without knowing much about navigating the legal system. And they may be made permanent if a judge or magistrate finds, after a hearing, that the abusive conduct would continue without an order.
During the pandemic, most court proceedings have been delayed or moved to teleconferences. Hearings for restraining orders, however, are still being conducted in El Paso County at the courthouse, with appropriate social distancing policies in place. See our blog post Colorado Family Law Services During Covid-19 for more details.
Domestic Violence & Divorce
If you are dealing with domestic violence and decide to get a divorce, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, Colorado is a no fault state, meaning that even if you are the victim of serious domestic violence, it will not affect the outcome of the divorce and property division.
On the other hand, a history of domestic violence can affect the outcome in a child custody hearing. Judges will typically not allow violent parents access to their children unless there is supervision or treatment. Because courts know that people can do bad things, but still improve, they will eventually allow reformed abusers to share in custody because the children have a right to get to know both of their (stable) parents. However, C.R.S. 14-10-124(4), provides that once a court finds that a parent has committed domestic abuse, there cannot be joint decision making for the children over the objections of the victim/parent.