What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Colorado?
In Colorado, for the purpose of a civil protection order, domestic abuse/violence is defined as when someone with whom you have a specific relationship commits any of the following:
- any act, attempted act, or threatened act of violence, stalking, harassment, or coercion against you; or
- any act, attempted act, or threatened act of violence against:
- your children who are under 18; or
- any animal owned by you or the abuser or by a child of you or the abuser. The purpose of the violent act or threat against the animal must be to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or get revenge upon you or a minor child of you or the abuser.*
Coercion, mentioned above, is defined as using force, the threat of force, or intimidation to:
- make you do something that you have the right not to do; or
- to make you not do something that you have the right to do.*
Note: The Colorado courts website lists various behaviors on their Colorado Protection Order Form Incident Checklist that may be relevant in a court case for a civil protection order. However, even if one or more of these actions took place, you still need to be able to prove to the judge that these actions meet the legal definition of domestic abuse (explained above).
* Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-101(2)
What types of domestic violence protection orders are there? How long do they last?
There are a three types of civil domestic violence protection orders, which are described below. The first two can be issued regardless of whether or not you have called the police about the abuse.*
1. Temporary (ex parte) Protection Orders: A temporary (ex parte) protection order can be issued if the judge believes that you are in immediate danger.*1 (Note: "Ex parte" means that you can get the order without the abuser being notified beforehand or present in court.) The judge is not supposed to deny you the order based solely on the fact that the act of abuse or threat of harm happened a while before you filed for the order.*1 A temporary (ex parte) protection order is designed to protect you during the time that it takes for your full court hearing for a permanent order to take place, which is usually within the next 14 days.*2 The order is not enforceable until the abuser is personally served.*3
2. Permanent Protection Orders: When both you and the abuser return to court for the hearing after you get a temporary protection order, the judge can either:
- continue the temporary protection order for up to 1 year (if both parties are present at the hearing and both agree to the continuance); or
- if the judge determines that the abuser has committed domestic violence, and that without the order, s/he will continue to commit such acts or will intimidate or retaliate against you, the judge can grant you a permanent protection order (with provisions different from the temporary protection order, if necessary).*4
Note: Permanent protection orders can sometimes cover temporary care and custody of minor children. However, even if your permanent protection order lasts for many years, the part of the permanent protection order that deals with custody can only last for one year.*5 To get a long-term custody order, you would likely have to file a separate custody petition – we suggest talking to a lawyer about how to do this. You can find free and paid lawyers on our CO Finding a Lawyer page.
3. Emergency Protection Orders: An emergency protection order can be requested by local law enforcement based on the belief that an adult is in immediate and present danger of domestic abuse, assault, stalking, sexual assault/abuse or that a minor child is in immediate danger of an unlawful sexual offense or domestic abuse (based upon an allegation of a recent actual or threatened unlawful sexual offense or domestic abuse). Note: In the case of a minor child, the order could also be requested by the county department of social services, or another “responsible person.”*6 This type of order last only for a few days and is generally issued when the courts are closed or if you file for a temporary ex parte protection order but the judge cannot hold a hearing on the same day you file.*7
* Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(1)(b)
*1 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(7)(a)
*2 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(10)
*3 See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(9)
*4 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-106(1)(a),(b)
*5 Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-14-105(1)(e)(I)
*6 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-103(1)(c),(e)
*7 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-103(1)(f)
How can a domestic violence protection order help me?
A temporary or permanent protection order may:
- order the abuser to stop hitting, threatening, or harming you or your children;
- order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your children;
- order the abuser to stop contacting you and/or your children;
- order the abuser to move out of the home you share or out of your home (if you can prove that physical or emotional harm would happen if s/he stayed in the home);
- order the abuser to stay away from your home;
- order the abuser to not interfere with your job or school or do anything that would harm your employment or educational relationships/environment;
- give you temporary care and control of your children and order parenting time rights, supervised or unsupervised (this part of the order only lasts up to 1 year); and grant you temporary decision-making responsibility when it is related to preventing domestic abuse or preventing the child from witnessing domestic abuse;
- order the abuser to continue to make payments on the mortgage or rent, insurance, utilities and related household services, transportation, medical care, or child care when the respondent has an existing duty or legal obligation;
- order the abuser to not hide or get rid of your personal effects, land, or homes that are yours alone or shared with the abuser;
- order the abuser to not threaten, harm, kill, hide or take any animal owned by you or by a child of you or the abuser;
- make specific arrangements for the possession and care of an animal owned by you or by a child of you or the abuser;*
- order the abuser to not have or buy any firearm or ammunition for the duration of the order and to give up any that s/he currently has in his/her possession or control to a licensed firearms dealer, private party or to law enforcement;** and
- do anything else that the judge thinks is necessary for your safety.*
An emergency protection order (these are different than temporary ex parte orders) can do any of the following:
- order that the abuser stop contacting, harassing, injuring, intimidating, threatening, molesting, touching, stalking, sexually assaulting or abusing the victim, the victim's child (if the victim is an adult) or the abuser's child;
- order that the abuser be removed from the home you share or from your home if it is shown that physical or emotional harm would otherwise happen;
- give temporary care and control of any minor child involved;
- order the abuser to not contact the child at school, at work, or wherever s/he may be found;
- order the abuser to not threaten, harm, kill, hide or take any animal owned by the victim or by a child of either party; and/or
- make specific arrangements for the possession and care of an animal owned by the victim or by a child of either party.***
Whether a judge orders all or some of the above depends on the facts of your case.
* Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-14-105(1)(a)-(j)(I), 13-14-104.5(8)
** Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5(1)(a) & (2)(c)
*** Colo. Rev. Stat § 13-14-103(1)(b)
In which county can I file for a domestic violence protection order?
You can file for a protection order in the county where the abuse happened, where the abuser lives, where you live, where the abuser works, or where you work.*
* Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(3)