There are a number of reasons why couples may seek a divorce. One is abuse. Physical abuse by one spouse to the other, or to the couple’s children, is a very valid reason to seek a divorce. However, if you plan to leave an abusive spouse, you are probably quite concerned about the potential outcome of your divorce and any custody proceedings.

The non-abusive parent may worry about the potential for the children ending up unsupervised in the care of the abusive parent. After all, even if all that rage has so far been directed at you, you will have no way of knowing when your ex might decide to take his or her frustrations out on your children.

The courts want to do what’s best for the children

In every divorce case in Colorado, the guiding consideration while determining custody is always the best interest of the children involved. In healthy families, that usually means having an ongoing relationship with both parents, potentially in a 50/50 shared custody situation outlined in a parenting plan. In cases of abuse, however, the children’s best interest could include living with the non-abusive parent full time.

If the courts determine that your spouse has engaged in abuse toward the children, a claim that requires credible evidence, the courts might not allow the abusive parent to share in physical custody or decision making. Similarly, if there is evidence that one parent has routinely abused the other, that can also impact custody determinations. While there is potential for shared decision-making or visitation, the courts generally do not allocate physical custody to the abusive parent, especially if the children witnessed the abuse.

Documenting abuse can be key to a positive outcome

If you simply advise the courts of the abuse you experienced without any kind of documentation, it could become a “he said, she said” situation, which may not produce the results you hope for. In cases where the abuser is charismatic, it may not be initially evident to those who interact with him or her that there is a very dark side to their nature. Court officials and even psychologists can end up tricked by an abuser in some cases.

Ideally, you have records from law enforcement that reflect domestic disturbances and even assault and battery by your spouse. Failing that, as many victims of abuse feel too frightened to report anything, medical records and images of the injuries that result from the abuse could help substantiate your claims of abuse.

Similarly, a personal record of the abuse and testimony from people ranging from your neighbors to your closest confidants could help you convince the courts of what has happened behind the closed doors of your marital home.