Denver Divorce Attorney Blog
Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
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By Curtis Wiberg

batch-of-dollars-1239377If you’ve been ordered to pay child support for your children, it’s not an obligation you should get behind on.   When it comes to ensuring that child support is paid, Colorado law is not messing around, and the consequences can be quite severe.  Those consequences can range from complete financial ruin to the loss of your freedom, up to 180 days at a time.    In Part 1 of this posting, I will touch on some of those consequences you might face.   Part 2 will be reserved for the broader and more severe reach attorneys may have to enforce a child support order.  I will also educate my readers regarding the long arm of the government as relates to child support debt.  Sometimes you may have both the government and a private attorney coming after you.   Again, the system as a whole takes child support seriously.  You should, too.

The financial consequences alone for not paying child support can persist long past your children becoming adults.  Under Colorado statute, your monthly child support obligation is treated as an individual judgment for every month in which it’s not paid.  That judgment then allows the parent receiving support (the “obligee”) to execute the full range of collection options normally available to a creditor, as well as other options only available for support judgments.

Unlike other judgments that collect 8% annual simple interest, child support judgments collect 12% interest per year, compounded monthly. See C.R.S. § 14-14-106. Furthermore, the statute of limitations to collect on child support judgments is 20 years.  It is possible, because of the compounding interest, for a person who only owes $200 per month and who skips out of paying child support for ten or more years, to end up owing over $100,000, even though the principal balance is a small fraction of that.  In fact, we have litigated cases in which $100,000 or less in principal turns into $400,000 or more.  Once that judgment is in tact, wages can be garnished up to 65% of the obligor’s after-tax income.   This can be financially crippling to anyone, and the law generally doesn’t care. Continue reading

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By:  Sarah T. McCain

goal-1549525I recently ran across news article on the internet which briefly told the story of a family juggling the often difficult balancing act of activities and custody.  In that family’s story, though not told in detail, the judge had issued a one year ban on the minor child’s participation in golf, a sport in which she excelled.   In fact, her level of excellence was such that she was already gaining the attention of the professional golf world and various coaches.  Her father had been her coach and presumably the parent who took her to tournaments and oversaw her training.   The one year ban resulted from a disagreement between the parents as to her ongoing participation in the sport and its impact on parenting time.

My initial human, non-legal reaction was shock and anger for the little girl.  I get a judge potentially punishing parents for bad behavior, but not a 10 year old girl with so much promise. It’s clear that the only one who is suffering from the court’s ruling and the on-going disagreement is the minor child.   As an attorney, I disagree with the judge’s ruling and believe it is not in a child’s best interest to ban her from engaging in a sport which is clearly important to her and something she loves.   The article raised questions for me about each of the parents and which one was to blame, if not both, for the legal conflict.  I also know the article may have raised many questions for those who read it related to how judges in Colorado deal with activities, including their impact on parenting time and finances. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of this issue so that your child is not caught in the middle of a difficult situation. Continue reading

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By:  Stephen J. Plog

check-list-1150080With nearly two decades of Colorado family law practice under my belt, I have seen and heard almost anything and everything imaginable related to divorce and custody cases.   This includes stories from cases or clients concerning various bad behaviors on the part of the other party, and sometimes my own clients.   Those bad behaviors might be financial in nature, such as canceling an insurance policy or draining an account.   They might be child related, such as one spouse neglecting the kids or failing to assist with school work.  Of course, I have also heard things much worse.   Often times, the stories I hear stem from the time period prior to a divorce case being filed.  In some instances, the damage can be undone.  In some, it cannot.

Not all divorce cases contain sinister allegations or behaviors and some can be fairly routine.   A fair amount of cases settle relatively easily.  A fair amount do not.  In either scenario, it’s important to keep in mind that approaching the divorce process strategically and with self interest in mind matters.    This includes not only while the case is pending, but in the months or weeks prior to filing.

In most cases, the proverbial trail of bread crumbs indicating to one or both spouses that a divorce is looming is there.   Signs that there is trouble ahead can materialize months before hand, yet few people really start taking steps to protect themselves or ready themselves for the process until they are in it.   From a legal strategy standpoint, wouldn’t it make sense to be ahead of the game?  Below are some pre-divorce and early-process tips to help you throughout your case in terms of day to day functionality, for your protection, and when it comes time to either settle or go to court. Continue reading

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stock-photo-86429759-recovery-word-cloud-conceptBy Jessica A. Bryant

One significant area of concern in some Colorado custody cases is that of addiction.   More often than you might realize, allegations arise regarding drug and/or alcohol abuse by one or both parents.  When these issues arises, there are a variety of considerations, including, how to prove them, how to defend against them, and other considerations when fashioning a parenting plan.

  1. Proof: When concerns arise that the other parent in your Colorado custody case may abuse alcohol and/or drugs, it is not enough to simply appear at court and tell the judge or magistrate you have concerns regarding substance abuse.   You must be able to prove to the judicial officer that there is a problem. If the other parent has a criminal record related to drug or alcohol use (possession, driving under the influence, etc.), there are ways to obtain proof of their criminal history to provide to the court.  This can include getting records directly from the criminal case or logging onto various websites which list not only criminal charges, but also the disposition of those charges in the criminal court.

If there is no documented history of drug or alcohol abuse, you may need to request the appointment of an expert. Common types of appointed experts in custody cases are Child and Family Investigators (CFI’s) and Parental Responsibilities Evaluators (PRE’s). While CFI’s cannot complete substance abuse evaluations, they can request that either or both parents undergo drug and/or alcohol testing. For example, a hair follicle test can detect certain drugs back, approximately 90 days. You could also request, or the CFI or PRE could recommend, that one or both parents undergo an independent substance abuse evaluation. This is an evaluation completed by a trained professional, generally a Certified Addictions Counselor (CACIII), to determine whether key features of abuse are present in an individual. While a CFI/PRE conducts a comprehensive evaluation related to overall custody recommendations, a substance abuse evaluator evaluates only on the issue of substance abuse. Continue reading

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law-education-series-2-1467427By:  Sarah McCain

In this day and age of on-line, check-the-box divorce forms, the general public is often left with the impression that handling a Colorado divorce case on their own is an easy process.   Sometimes it can be, such as when the parties agree on each and every issue (though I recommend always consulting with an attorney to make sure the i’s are dotted and the tee’s are crossed).   However, there are also instances in which people choose to represent themselves in contested Colorado divorce cases.   In these instances, people often go into the courtroom believing that somehow the court is going to guide them through the process or that they will be given certain breaks or concessions because they don’t have an attorney.   This is just not true.   I have had many cases in which the other party chooses to go to trial without a lawyer.    They are generally shocked to learn that the judge will hold them to the same standard as an attorney regarding procedure and rules of evidence.

When you file a divorce or custody case, or a modification, with the court, the paperwork that you receive from the Court (generally a Case Management Order) will often set forth deadlines and standards of practice.  A party without an attorney may wonder what this means for him or her and may fail to grasp all of the deadlines that exist. Unfortunately, there is not an easy-to-read manual which lays out everything that needs to be done, and when.  The Court does its best at advising parties to the extent allowed.  However, in complicated financial or parenting time matters, the basic information given by the court may not be enough to formulate an understanding of what really is required or needed to effectively litigate. Continue reading

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stock-photo-34813364-mother-and-daughter-talking-with-counselor-during-family-counseling-sessionBy:  Curtis Wiberg

One of the most emotional issues in a contested Colorado divorce occurs when the parties do not agree on what parenting arrangements are in the best interests of the child/children.  The concerns one parent may have about the other parent and how that concern affects the well-being of the children can be hard to prove to the Court. For these reasons, Colorado enacted two separate statutes authorizing a Court to appoint an expert to look into the family situation and make recommendations to the Court as to what is in a child’s best interest, both as to decision making (legal custody) and parenting time (visitation).

One statute (C.R.S. § 14-10-116.5) authorizes the appointment of a Child Family Investigator (CFI). In essence, a CFI is a neutral, third person charged with the duty of investigation the best interest of the children and submitting a written report, with recommendations, to the court.   A CFI is often-times a lawyer, but sometimes a mental health professional.  An advantage of using a CFI is the cost, as the fees are statutorily capped at $2,750, except in extraordinary circumstances, and are usually split between the parties.  CFI’s can be used both before final orders and after, such as in a modification situation.  In post-decree divorce cases or in custody cases, if one party is indigent, the Court can authorize the state to pay that person’s portion of the CFI’s fees.   A CFI’s investigation usually involves interviewing each parent alone, a home visit with the parent and child/children, a review of the pleadings, an interview with the child if they are old enough, a review of any questionnaire the CFI provides the parent, and interviews with any collateral witnesses like extended family, teachers, or therapists. Directives prepared by the Colorado Supreme Court govern the conduct of the CFI to ensure an unbiased and thorough investigation that is well documented, among other things.  The CFI then prepares a report of his or her findings and submits recommendations to the court on decision-making, parenting time, holiday parenting time, and if appropriate, recommendations for counseling or lifestyle changes for either or both parties. Continue reading

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stock-photo-17291496-divorce-agreementBy:  Jessica A. Bryant

Parties to Colorado divorce actions often seek to resolve their case by entering into a Separation Agreement as opposed to going to a hearing and letting the court decide various issues such as maintenance (alimony), division of property/debts, child support, custody and/or parenting time. Many times, parties do not consult attorneys and simply use the judicial branch website Separation Agreement form and check the boxes dividing property and debt. Unfortunately, this can often lead to future unanswered questions and unenforceable orders and parties can end up spending more time and money trying to resolve these questions and issues, than if they had just consulted with an attorney in the first place to ensure that the Agreement contained various precautionary measures. Some tips to keep in mind when entering in an agreement regarding your Colorado divorce case are the following:

 

  1. Deadlines are Important: It is one thing to state that one party will be responsible for taking a particular course of action, such as paying off a debt, changing title to a particular property item, returning a particular property item, etc.   However, if there is no date by which such action must be done, it becomes very difficult to enforce the agreement. The way a Separation Agreement is enforced is by filing a contempt action, asking the court to order certain remedies if a party is found to be violating a court order. If there is no deadline for compliance, though, it cannot be argued that the party violated a court order by failure to act within the ordered time frame. If a significant amount of time passes, it is possible the court may view it as a failure to comply but, to avoid any question or uncertainty about how long to wait to seek enforcement, it is best if every provision requiring action by a party have a specific deadline.

Continue reading

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stock-photo-26487950-house-in-coloradoFREE Divorce and Real Estate seminar! June 15, 2016 at 6 p.m. 18801 E. Main Street, Suite 250, Parker. Call Plog & Stein at (303) 781-0322 to reserve your seat or email us through the firm website.  Seating is limited.

In conjunction with a local, Parker Colorado real estate agent who is certified as a specialist in divorce and real estate, and a local mortgage broker, Stephen Plog will be speaking at a bi-monthly real estate seminar focusing on real estate and divorce.

Mr. Plog’s portion of the seminar will discuss the implications of Colorado divorce and real property, whether related to a primary residence, investment property, or other real estate.   When dealing with divorce and your home, there are various outcomes which can happen.  There are also many things to consider, such as whether to keep the property or sell it, how to deal with a jointly financed property, and more.

Learn your options and rights when it comes time to resolve how your home will be handled as part of the dissolution of your marriage.  Colorado’s real estate market is booming, including in Douglas County. Making sense of how to handle your real property in this market matters.   Understanding how to keep the equity you are likely entitled to is a key part of any divorce negotiations or litigation. Continue reading

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By:  Sarah T. McCain

stock-illustration-19023659-big-argumentIn Part 1 of this article, I discussed the positives of good communication between spouses during a dissolution of marriage or a custody case.  While a lot can be accomplished through maintaining amicable communications with the other party, it is important to know when communications have turned for the worse and when to speak up against those inappropriate communications. Unfortunately, often during any Colorado family law case, communication can take a negative turn, causing more anxiety and conflict for the parties.  I often tell clients that they may see the worst version of the other party while the case is pending. It’s important to be prepared in terms of how to handle negative communications for purposes of protecting both your interests in your case and your sanity.

First, name calling and obscenities are never appropriate, especially in those cases involving custody or visitation.  Upon receipt of such negative messages, it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to respond in kind.  It’s important to remain level headed and to not respond in a like manner.  Often, these nasty messages do not contain vital information or requests and, therefore, do not require a response.  If a response is necessary, it is important to remember that all communications are potential exhibits which the court/judge might see at trial.  As such, it may be necessary to respond to those items that are necessary to respond to and to then simply ignore the insults and intimidation.  This can turn into a complicated situation wherein it is best to have a your attorney determine when, and how, best to respond to what may be deemed inappropriate communication.   If communications get to hostile, your attorney can always get involved, thereby ceasing the direct insults or hostile communications.  I’m always willing and ready to step in when needed, though hope to keep costs down by staying out of the fray. Continue reading

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courthouse-1204573By:  Curtis Wiberg

In my previous blog post on the subject of Colorado family law appeals, I blogged about appellate strategies and standards of review for appealing domestic relations case rulings.  In Part 2 of this article, I discuss appellate procedures.   As a Denver area family law attorney who also practices appeals, I cannot stress enough how important it is at the appellate level to make sure procedures and deadlines are adhered to.

In any appeal, it is imperative to pay attention to deadlines, because any missed deadline along the way can be fatal to your appeal. The first deadline is the appellant must make is to file a Notice of Appeal with the Court of Appeals (with a courtesy copy to the District Court), within 49 days of the filing of the issuance and submission of the final orders of the District Court. This deadline is a jurisdictional prerequisite, so if this deadline is missed, the ability to appeal is lost (absent a very hard to prove standard requiring a showing of “excusable neglect”).  If you file a Motion for Post-Trial Relief under C.R.C.P. 59, that 49 day deadline begins to run from the Court’s order addressing this motion. Note that if a Court does not issue an order and remains silent on a Rule 59 motion, the motion is considered denied after the passing of 63 days from the filing of a Rule 59 motion.  This is a subtle deadline even some misinformed Colorado attorneys might miss. Continue reading