September 19, 2023
Child custody rules can be a pain in the neck. Before your divorce, you didn’t have to bring your child home at a certain hour or legally hold off from making certain decisions. If you “broke the rules,” you might have gotten into a tiff, but parenting issues were generally resolved without law enforcement.
Unfortunately, once a custody agreement is drawn up, consequences become more serious. Bending the rules in Colorado won’t just result in a fight. Custody order violations are a felony charge in this state.
One tiny slip-up and a spiteful ex could send you to jail for years… and significantly reduce your rights both as a parent and a citizen.
Your CO Custody Order Violation Equals a Class 5 Felony Charge
Here’s what Colorado says about custody order violations:
“…any parent or other person who violates an order of any district or juvenile court of this state, granting the custody of a child or parental responsibilities…with the intent to deprive the lawful custodian or person with parental responsibilities of the custody or care of a child under the age of eighteen years, commits a class 5 felony.”
That’s right. Violating custody orders is a class 5 felony. This isn’t just a slap on the wrist. Felony charges could result in the loss of important rights, including:
- Right to vote (while incarcerated)
- Right to hold public office (while incarcerated or on parole)
- Right to sit on a jury
- Right to own, buy or use firearms
Penalties, among other restrictions like the ability to get a loan, are equal to the standard for all felony crimes. Upon conviction, a Class 5 felony could land you up to three years behind bars and $100,000 in fines. In cases that involve child custody terms, you may lose the ability to see your children as often, as well.
Taking a Child on Vacation Could Land You More Than One Violation
For the most part, all custody order violations are a Class 5 felony. The most serious exception (that doesn’t involve additional crimes) is taking your child out of the country. Removing a child from the United States while violating a custody order could lead to Class 4 felony charges.
If you take your child on a trip to Mexico for Spring Break on the wrong weekend, you could end up with penalties more serious than you could ever imagine. Penalties for a Class 4 felony include up to six years in prison.
Three Ways to Prevent Colorado Custody Order Violations
Custody order violations are not always dramatic. They don’t always put your children at harm, either. Failing to bring back your child on a certain day could technically break the law. Prevent criminal charges by understanding the law and planning ahead.
Know the Terms of Your Child Custody Agreement
Most custody agreements are straightforward, but not knowing the law isn’t always an excuse for breaking it. Thoroughly review the terms of your custody. If you have questions, consult an experienced CO custody attorney. Know them inside and out so there is no confusion when you are able to spend time with your child.
Seek Modifications When You Need Them
If you anticipate that one or more of the custody terms will be too difficult to follow, seek modifications. Reach out to a lawyer to see whether or not it’s possible to petition the court and ask for terms that better fit your schedule or lifestyle.
Put Your Emotions Aside
Child custody disputes can quickly get messy and emotional. Don’t let anger toward your ex get in the way of the love you have for your child. Find ways to cooperate with your spouse in case you do want to make modifications later on.
An Experienced CO Attorney Can Help with Custody Order Violations
These violations aren’t always committed with criminal intent. You might have booked the wrong date for your vacation. Traffic or weather may have prevented you from bringing your child back on time. There are a number of mistakes or circumstances that could lead to a custody order violation.
Unfortunately, some situations still lead to one ex-spouse pressing charges against another, and potential changes the terms of custody. These accusations and charges are taken very seriously in Colorado courts. Even if you know you made an honest mistake, you may have to prove it to a judge.
That said, an experienced Colorado child custody defense lawyer can help you throughout this process. Not all defense strategies are appropriate in these cases, and some judges are more lenient than others. The right attorney can help you make a convincing case and keep you close to your children despite your ex’s accusations.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.