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What is Domestic Violence?

Many more people are victims of domestic violence (DV) than previously thought, but our understanding of DV is also changing. DV is defined as a” pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation” and can occur in a number of ways including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, and sexual abuse.

DV can be perpetrated primarily by one partner on the other or can be a pattern of mutual bad behavior; it can be frequent or infrequent, severe or not severe. DV is problematic because it really is damaging to everyone in the family, and also because we really don’t ‘see’ it in all its forms. The wife who is controlled through control of finances, the husband who is frequently punched, the partner who initiates a fight because they want to get it “over with” – are all different facets of a complex problem.

Courts generally dislike allegations of DV and view them with extreme skepticism, so your attorney may counsel you to work on DV issues in therapy rather than making DV a part of the court case. In extreme cases, DV can be a reason to severely curtail parenting time, but victims are counseled that often perpetrators do very well in court because they present a commanding, self-confident presence, often in stark contrast to their victims. Because DV can be so damaging to the victim, there is at least one well known appellate case in Colorado where the courts affirmed that the abuser was awarded majority parenting time.

Having said that, divorce can be a game changing event for someone who has been controlled and berated for a long time. With representation from an attorney who understands DV and with competent counseling, most DV victims go on to rebuild their lives and to successfully co-parent with their ex-spouses. In such cases, it is critical to come up with parenting plans that do not allow a perpetrator to exercise control over or put financial pressure on the other parent.


National Association of Counsel for Children

Legal professionals dedicated to advocacy for children. NACC often publishes helpful resources relating to family law and children.