Divorces that involve child custody disputes are often the most acrimonious. When children are involved, parental emotions run high, and some parents engage in truly ugly behavior. The divorce proceeding becomes mired in accusations and counter-accusations, and every move made by one parent is met with retaliation by the other. But Longmont police and Boulder prosecutors say one man crossed a line in his divorce case, and that his alleged pattern of retaliatory behavior constituted felony domestic violence.
The man allegedly committed physical abuse against the woman while they were married, but the statute of limitations had run out on those allegations. Police and prosecutors based their criminal charges on a pattern of non-violent behavior that they say was retaliatory and designed to punish the woman for moves she made in the divorce case. The man allegedly filed documents seeking a restraining order; it was dismissed. He made reports to social services that were allegedly unfounded and designed to make his wife look like an unfit mother who should not be given custody of the couple’s daughters. He even allegedly took his wife’s medical records from a time she was treated for depression, showing them to school officials, hospital officials and others in an attempt to show his wife was mentally unbalanced.
The man ultimately entered a plea of guilty to a charge of felony stalking related to domestic violence. He received a deferred sentence of two years.
Most people think of domestic violence as involving physical violence, and in fact that is present in most of the cases that are charged. But the Colorado domestic violence statute does not require physical violence; any conduct against a domestic partner that involves coercion, retaliation or punishment meets the definition of the crime.
It is unusual for criminal charges to be filed in a case like this, but it may be something Colorado family lawyers will see more of in the future. The sad thing about cases like this is that the people who often suffer the most are the ones whose best interests the court is trying to protect: the children who are caught in the middle.
Source: Longmont Times-Call, “Longmont police: That ‘ugly divorce’ might be a domestic violence crime,” Pierrette J. Shields, Oct. 11, 2013