Recently in Child Custody Category

February 8, 2015

Planning a Summer Vacation Under a Colorado Child Custody Order

sand-84589_640.jpgRepresenting clients during a divorce case is only part of our Denver family law practice. If a couple has children who are under the age of 18, our clients' responsibilities continue long after the judge grants the divorce, and we are there to help. (Please note that Colorado courts no longer use the word "custody," but since it remains a familiar term, we will use it here.) Vacations, especially during summer breaks from school, are an important part of childhood, but as great as summer vacations can be, they can also be a major source of conflict between parents who share custody. How does Colorado family law handle this sort of situation?

As a general rule, it is always a good idea to notify the other parent of a planned summer vacation. A parent may be legally obligated to get the other parent's permission for a trip, however, based on two factors: the timing of the trip and the destination.

Timing of a Summer Vacation

A parent can schedule a vacation during one of their designated periods of summer visitation without necessarily needing the other parent's permission. Most parenting plans allow alterations to the established schedule with both parents' agreement, such as if a planned vacation is only possible at a time not covered by the existing parenting plan. It should go without saying that it is absolutely critical to get any sort of agreement like this in writing.

Continue reading "Planning a Summer Vacation Under a Colorado Child Custody Order " »

February 1, 2015

GAPS IN COLORADO FAMILY LAW STATUTES (Part 2: Custody and Visitation)

man-on-a-bridge-4-1427250-m.jpg

Part 1 of this article focused on gaps in Colorado statute related to child support. Though the law is comprehensive, it's not perfect. Colorado family law and custody practitioners repeatedly experience situations in cases, whether divorce, custody, or otherwise, in which they say to themselves, "statute should clearly state....," or "this gray area would be easily resolved if the legislature had only gone one step further." I could sit in my office for hours finding various holes in our family law statutory sections, where just a little more clarity might take away some of the ambiguity that parties, lawyers, and judges face. The second part of this multi-part posting will focus on various gaps in custody and visitation laws and will also suggest potential, easy solutions to such.

1. A very common questions I'm asked is "at what age do my children get to choose who they live with or when they see the other parent?" The proper answer, under Colorado custody laws, is "there is no magical or statutory age at which kids get to decide as to custody or visitation." In practice, most courts will generally start to give kids more autonomy around age 14. By 16 or 17, most courts will give significant weight to the child's wishes. Regardless of age, families and children are bound by the ambiguity in Colorado law, which often leads to legal wrangling and court battles over what to do with teenagers. Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129, one must technically show either physical endangerment or significant emotional impairment to a child's development in order to change primary residential custody. What about situations in which that 16 year old come out and says, "I want to go live with mom?" Technically, if there is no physical or emotional danger at dad's home, the change in custody should not occur. It's time for Colorado statute to catch up to the laws of some other states. I represent clients in various states throughout the county. Many of them indicate, "well, if the child was in my state he would get to decide at age "X." Often times I hear 14. The youngest I commonly hear is age 12, in Florida. Though a 12 year old should not be vested with deciding where to live, or what parenting time to exercise, a bright line age set forth in Colorado statute, such as 15, could cut down on significant amounts of litigation related to older teenagers. Beyond legal battles over modifying residential custody, a concrete age would also assist in initial divorce case in which there is a teenager. It would also alleviate litigation under C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 related to enforcement of parenting time orders. I've seen too many cases over the years in which a teenager says he or she doesn't want to go to the other parent's home, contrary to the court orders. These situations, sad and difficult in the first place, are often mad worse when the other parent decides to bring first parent to court for violation of the orders. Though some judges and experts recognize that the first parent cannot physically pick up that 5 foot 10 inch child and throw him into the car, some judges do not. Courts can take violations of orders seriously and such can potentially even lead to jail time. Again, a bright line rule as to age would end these battles over enforcement of visitation orders, and lighten court dockets. As one wise family law judge puts it, "a teenager is like an 800 pound gorilla and you can't make that gorilla go where it doesn't want to. The teenage years are crazy enough. A little clarity in statute might help take out some of the drama for all. Of course, with underdeveloped brains and raging hormones, statute would need to have caveats to full autonomy, such as might relate to substance abuse, violence, lack of academic guidance or significant mental illness in one party's home. Absent those things, and with two good parents, a 15 year old should have a choice and parents should have clear guidance as to the law.

Continue reading "GAPS IN COLORADO FAMILY LAW STATUTES (Part 2: Custody and Visitation) " »

November 24, 2014

Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody in Colorado

anxious-1-867286-m.jpgRecently, there has been significant public attention to issues of domestic violence around the nation. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior within a family or other intimate relationship. It can include spousal abuse or child abuse, and it can go beyond physical violence, including verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, and psychological abuse. Last year, more than 10,000 domestic violence misdemeanor cases were filed, and this drop of 13% is considered an improvement. It is not uncommon for an abusive spouse to claim that he or she will take the kids, or take away support or insurance so that the kids don't have money. Under the Colorado Victims Rights Act, a perpetrator cannot take away kids or housing.

Under ยง 14-10-124(1.5)(a)(IX) and (X), C.R.S.2005, a Colorado court is supposed to consider whether one of the spouses has perpetrated child or spousal abuse when making an allocation of parenting time. However, a finding of child abuse or spousal abuse doesn't automatically result in the court denying parenting time to the parent who perpetrated the abuse, even though it is a relevant factor to determining the child's best interests. In many cases, the parent who has been charged with child abuse, for example, has worked on issues with a therapist and ultimately the parenting coordinator, and others agree that he or she can have parenting time or even be the primary residential parent.

How do the courts decide these difficult cases? In general, the courts will look at whether the perpetrator received therapy or counseling, how far in the past the incident was, the healthiness of the attachment between the perpetrator and the child, the impact of the abuse on the child, and the perpetrator's ability to put the child's needs first.

Continue reading "Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody in Colorado " »

September 15, 2014

Colorado Custody and Relocation With Children (Part 2)

Part 1 of this posting, from June 2014, focused on the basics of relocation with children in a Colorado custody case, including analysis(es) related to situations which might arise either prior to a case being filed, or while a case is pending, as well as pre-final orders requests to move from Colorado with children, covered under a court case called Spahmer. Though various portions of statute and case law deal with the pre-final orders aspects of custody and relocation, there is a completely different legal standard for seeking permission to leave Colorado with the children after final orders have entered in a divorce or custody case.

Once final, or "permanent" orders have entered, there are two scenarios in which relocation with children could become an issue. Prior to getting into an analysis of the law related to properly requesting a change in location, I will briefly address a situation we, as Denver custody attorneys, see from time to time. Though not common, there are instances in which one party to a custody case decides to leave Colorado, or the Denver metropolitan area, with the children and without seeking permission of the court or the other party. If there are parenting time orders in place, the expectation of any court is that they will be followed. If one party decides to just leave Denver, and abscond with the children without permission, the law affords various remedies to the other party. Of course any family law attorney should advise his or her clients that just leaving with the children can have tragic legal consequences.

When on party leave Colorado with the children such that he denies the other party his or her visitation, he or she becomes subject to relief under C.R.S. 14-10-129.5, which relates to enforcement of parenting time orders. Most certainly, he or she will ultimately lose actual physical custody of the children for leaving the state without permission. He or she will likely also be subject to contempt of court proceedings, which can include jail. C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 also contains contempt like provisions. Beyond these avenues for relief, the person wrongly leaving, when caught, can expect to have is or her visitation taken away and will likely have to endure supervised visitation for quite some time until he or she proves they are no longer a flight risk. The arm of the law within the United States is long. Should one elect to flee to another state, once found, it is likely the other side with take steps under the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act to get the children returned to Colorado. Finally, violating Colorado custody orders and fleeing the state, or area, with the children is technically a felony and can lead to serious criminal consequences, including potentially prison. Colorado family law courts do not like to see their orders regarding visitation violated and the penalties can be harsh. Of course, the "relocation", per se, discussed in this paragraph is the exception and the wrong way to go about things.

When a party determines that he or she wishes to move from Colorado, with the children, the proper route to go is to seek relief from the court pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129, the parenting time modification statute. C.R.S. 14-10-129(2)(c) specifically addresses the issues centered around a parent's desire to relocate with the children, including procedures, legal standards in terms of what the court is looking for in terms of information to make a determination, etc. Relocation cases are generally also viewed under a case called Ciesluk, 113 P.3d 135 (Colo. 2005), in which the court determined that a court should look at the best interest factors set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124, as well as those enumerated in (2)(c). Unlike a Spahmer analysis, the reason for the move under Ciesluk matters more significantly.

Continue reading "Colorado Custody and Relocation With Children (Part 2) " »

July 23, 2014

Child Custody Laws for Same-Sex Couples in Colorado are Far From Certain

One of the most important aspects of any divorce proceeding is who is going to retain custody of the children. For opposite-sex Colorado divorces, there are rules that have been applied and defined over the years that create settled expectations. However, as more and more same-sex couples get legally married in other states, there is a question as to how Colorado law will treat these relationships.

i-love-my-child-1106732-m.jpgAs a starting point, the State of Colorado does not consider same-sex marriages entered into in other states to be legally binding in Colorado. So if a same-sex couple who was married outside the state splits up while in Colorado, Colorado law will apply and will not recognize their marriage.

This can lead to situations where, if the parents had been of the opposite sex, the law would be settled. However, since the couple is a same-sex couple, the law is unsettled. This creates a difficult situation for same-sex couples because there is no way to know what to expect when splitting up.

Continue reading "Child Custody Laws for Same-Sex Couples in Colorado are Far From Certain " »

June 9, 2014

Colorado Custody And Relocation With Children (Part 1)

stock-photo-4332028-vacation.jpg

Though we can all look back to a time when people were born and raised in one town or one state, the reality is that today's society is both national and transient in nature. People work for national companies, with multiple locations. Job transfers to new areas of the country are a fact of modern day employment and the 21st century economy. People no longer stay put in one location. Aside from employment situations, people with children may have other reasons to move from Colorado, such as acceptance into an out of state university, military reassignment, or a desire to just be closer to a family support network somewhere else. When families or couples are together or intact, these moves are just part of life and everyone jointly rolls with the changes to come. However, things can be entirely different, and moving can be much more difficult, for people either going through an initial Colorado custody or divorce case, or those wanting to move at some point after final orders are entered. As a basic premise, one must keep in mind that obtaining court permission to move pre-decree or pre-final orders can be a much easier proposition than seeking to move at some point in the future after the initial phase of a case is done.

Prior to the entry of final orders in a Colorado custody case, or divorce with children, both parents have equal rights to children and there is no specific law, per se, that prohibits one party from just packing up and moving with the children. However, once a family law case involving children is filed, Colorado statute, either Colorado Revised Statutes section 14-10-107 or 14-10-123, precludes people from leaving the state with the children while the case is pending, absent agreement from the other party or an order of the court. If a case has not yet been filed and one parent moves from Colorado with the children, there is no statutory violation under sections 107 or 123. That being said, our courts, depending on the circumstances, have the power to order the party who left with the children prior to a case being filed to return them to Colorado. This might occur in situations in which a party just left Colorado with the children, absent an agreement or notice to the other party, and the other party timely files an emergency motion requesting their return. In such instances, the court may look at how long the party and children have been gone prior to filing, whether the other party knew of their whereabouts, or other logical factors tying into whether it is in the children's best interest to come back.

Continue reading "Colorado Custody And Relocation With Children (Part 1) " »

March 9, 2014

Will Amendment 64 Affect Colorado Child Custody Cases?

flowering-cannabis-plants---hydroponics-indoors-1431036-m.jpgAs most Colorado residents know, recreational marijuana use was approved via Amendment 64 last fall. The status of marijuana in noncriminal matters, however, remains ambiguous. How will Amendment 64 be implemented? A task force was set up to recommend positions that lawmakers should take about marijuana regulation. The force did not offer a recommendation about how marijuana use should be handled in a child custody case. This could prove problematic in certain cases, but for the most part child custody cases will continue to function as before.

If a parent is not participating wisely in parenting a child, his or her poor decisions will affect the custody arrangements made by the court irrespective of whether marijuana use has influenced those decisions. For example, if a father is too busy with a grow operation and getting high to make sure a child is getting to school or taking his or her medications, his parenting decisions will be scrutinized irrespective of marijuana's legality.

Medicinal marijuana has actually been an issue in family law cases for several years. Many parents have reported another parent's marijuana use to the court in order to get the second parent in trouble. It seems clear that many people do feel marijuana use by a parent is more of a problem than drinking a glass of wine or smoking a cigarette, even though marijuana is now legal. Denver Judge Karen Ashby has noted that medical marijuana has been treated no differently over time than other substances. A parent who smokes a joint after dinner may not be treated differently than a parent who drinks a glass of wine over dinner. Both marijuana and alcohol are likely to be considered on a case-by-case basis now that both are legal substances.

Continue reading "Will Amendment 64 Affect Colorado Child Custody Cases? " »

October 30, 2013

Colorado Custody: Pregnancy, Birth, and the U.C.C.J.E.A.

stock-photo-1532654-love-care.jpg

Colorado custody is represented in an extensive body of law stemming from both statute and case law. The primary statutory section related to the establishment of custody and visitation is Colorado Revised Statutes section 14-10-124. Though this is the general section courts and lawyers look to, experienced Denver area family law attorneys know that there are additional statutory sections and intricacies that come to play. Though most custody cases in Colorado involve two parties who live in Colorado and intend on staying in Colorado, there are instances in which interstate issues arise. Without getting into an extensive analysis of interstate custody, this posting will focus on the issue of pregnancy, where a child is born, and how the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act governs custody matters in such instances.

Occasionally, though not often, our Colorado custody lawyers will get a call from an expectant mother wanting to retain legal services prior to the birth of her child. With similar frequency, we will also get calls from a potential father indicating that his former girlfriend, or sometimes wife, is pregnant, and wanting to know his rights and options as relate to custody. In either instance, the first question our attorneys will ask relates to where the child will be born and/or if the expectant mother is planning on remaining in Colorado to give birth. This question is extremely pivotal as relates to whether Colorado will even have jurisdiction to exercise jurisdiction over the child.

Pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the UCCJEA, C.R.S. 14-13-102, a Colorado court can exercise custody, properly termed "parental responsibilities, jurisdiction over a child if Colorado is the child's "home state." The home state is generally the state in which a child has resided for the preceding 6 months prior to commencement of a case. For children under 6 months of age, the home state will be that state in which the child has lived since birth.

When an expectant father calls, his first question is often whether he can file a custody case prior to the birth of the child. The answer under Title 14 is "no." However, under C.R.S. Title 19, Article 4, the "paternity" statutory section, one can file a paternity case regarding an unborn child. In these instances, our attorneys are very cautious to assess what the father's wishes are. Additionally, we always ask whether he believes the expectant mother is intending to stay in Colorado during her pregnancy or if she is planning on going out of state to have the child. If the mother is planning on having the child out of state, and is not likely to return, there is really no reason for the father to file a custody case prior to the birth of the child. If the child is born elsewhere, regardless of where conceived, Colorado will not have jurisdiction over the child. Expectant fathers will often respond in disbelief when presented with the notion that they really have no say in whether the mother goes elsewhere to have the child or decides to live prior to birth of the child. Though a court, at least in a Title 19 situation, can exercise jurisdiction in this instance over the potential mother as will relate to financial issues, such as child support, the reality is that jurisdiction as to custody flows with the child, not the parents.

Continue reading "Colorado Custody: Pregnancy, Birth, and the U.C.C.J.E.A. " »

September 29, 2013

When May Non-parents Petition for Parental Responsibility in Colorado?

big-sister-first-day-of-school-1115880-m.jpgIn Colorado and other states within the United States, parents are deemed to have fundamental rights related to their child's care, guaranteed by the Constitution. However, parental rights may be trumped by a child's best interest. For example, there are circumstances in which a child's best interest may be better met by a nonparent than parent. A non-parent may petition the court for an allocation of parental responsibility only if certain conditions are met.

In a 2012 case, the Colorado Supreme Court considered the question of a minor whose parents divorced five months before she was born and who had a half-sister on her father's side. The minor lived outside Colorado with her mother until she was 3 years old when the father asked that she live with him and the half-sister.

The minor lived with the father and half-sister in Colorado for six years until the father died in 2008. At that point, she continued to live with her half-sister. For the first two years of living with her father, her mother visited regularly. But for the last several years before the father died, the mother had no physical contact, only telephone conversations and correspondence.

Continue reading "When May Non-parents Petition for Parental Responsibility in Colorado? " »

May 14, 2013

Colorado Appellate Court Considers Great-Grandparent Visitation

333066_nana.jpgAn area that can present a cause for concern in Colorado child custody cases is the question of grandparent visitation. Can grandparents request visitation with their grandchildren through a judicial process just as a divorced parent asks for parenting time with his or her child? Colorado gives grandparents more legal rights than many states do, but these rights are still limited. A grandparent can bring a case to court only under certain circumstances.

Colorado Revised Statutes 19-1-117 controls this issue, stating that a grandparent can seek judicial recourse under such conditions as: (1) the parents are legally separated or divorced and there has been a child custody case, (2) custody of the child has been given to someone other than the parents, (3) the marriage of the parents is annulled, or (4) the child's parent who is the child of the grandparent dies.

Additionally, grandparents cannot sue for visitation merely because they are estranged from the parents. The grandparents bear the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that a parent who wants to deny them visitation is not acting in the child's best interests and also that visitation would be in the child's best interests.

Colorado courts also look at a parent's rights in these visitation cases. An unusual but instructive discussion came up in an appellate case earlier this year In re Parental Responsibilities, MDE. In that case, a great-grandmother sued for visitation under the grandparent statute when her granddaughter got a divorce.

Continue reading "Colorado Appellate Court Considers Great-Grandparent Visitation " »

May 1, 2013

DENVER CUSTODY: YOUR CHILD WON'T GO FOR VISITATION. WHAT DO YOU DO?

stock-photo-16278020-seperated.jpg


Denver custody and divorce attorneys see all types of cases related to child issues. This includes divorces with children, custody cases, cases involving modification of visitation, cases involving enforcement of existing visitation orders, and contempt of court cases. The parent/child relationship in one case will not be the same as in another. Though the general hope is that the bond between mother or father and the child is strong, the reality is that that bond can be strained for various reasons, whether related to the break up of the family, a child with behaviorial issues, a parent with challenges in terms of appropriately parenting, a parent engaged in child alienation, time, distance, or a child just getting older and spreading his or her wings. From a custody law standpoint, the question arises of "what do you do when your child doesn't want to go for visitation?" The answers vary, but there are steps to take to heal relationships, enforce your court orders, and to protect yourself if you are the primary custodial parent.

Though not extremely common, it is not that unusual to have a non-custodial parent entitled to parenting time indicate that a child, or children, do not want to come for visitation with him or her. Often times, the non-custodial parent will be left with no real explanation other than the other parent saying the kids are "angry," "afraid," "bored," "don't like your new spouse," etc. Of course, children are not always going to feel comfortable sharing those feelings with that parent, out of fear of hurting their feelings or upsetting them. The non-custodial parent is left in a postion of wondering what the right move is? Should they force the children to come, knowing they don't want to? Is the other parent doing something to influence the childr not to come? Will the court do anything? Court's are used to allegations from some custodial parents that the children don't want to go for visitation, for various reasons. Generally, the children's statements would be hearsay and not admissible in court. As such, the key to figuring out what is going on is counseling. Counseling in these types of situations can come in many forms. When a child doesn't want to go for parenting time, for whatever reason, one can try to get to the core of finding out why via getting the child into individual counseling?

From a problem solving standpoint, perhaps the more effective tool would be to get the child and non-custodial parent involved in reintegration or reunification counseling. This is joint counseling with parent and child designed to figure out what's going on and to work with both parent and child to get over the emotional or behavioral hurdles which have the child avoiding visitation. The sole focus of the reintegration therapy is to heal the relationship. Aside from situations in which a child is resisting parenting time, this type of counseling is also generally deemed appropriate by the courts in situations in which a parent has been absent for long periods of time. Above either parent's wishes or rights, a court wants to know that a child is emotionally safe and comfortable with visitation. As such, reintegration therapy will generally be the first, and hopefully last, step. Sadly, there are cases in which this therapy doesn't work. Neither parent or child may be willing to change their positions or behaviors. The custodial parent may be alienating the child from the other parent. These types of concerns will likely come out in the therapy and can also be dealt with via the court.

When your child does not want to come see you, the primary concern should be how to deal with things. Forcing the child in a non-therapeutic setting can only make things worse, particularly with teenagers. Additionally, parents must keep in mind that as kids get older, say 14 or 15 years of age, they will want more autonomy. Courts recognize this as well and once kids reach their mid-to-late teenage years, courts will often factor in their wishes when dealing with visitation. Again, forcing the issue can make the rift greater. With children this age, it is better to take things slowly, with the hope that they will see the light and come around once they reach adulthood. By this I mean that you shouldn't sacrifice your future relationship by forcing the issue in a highly aggressive manner today. The law affords remedies which one can avail himself or herself of. Don't give up. Just proceed with intelligence, and in a legally appropriate manner.

Continue reading "DENVER CUSTODY: YOUR CHILD WON'T GO FOR VISITATION. WHAT DO YOU DO? " »

February 28, 2013

Colorado Custody and Parenting Time Modifications Involving Complex Questions of Law

As Denver family law attorneys, the lawyers at Plog & Stein understand that life events happen after a court order is in place for child custody and visitation (referred to as parenting time). A parent's or parents' circumstances may have improved with a new or better-paying job, stable housing, or simply a good mental state. An improved status for the parent seems to equate better parenting for the child or children, but it is not always as simple as that for the Colorado court system - especially when the parties discussing custody include people who are not the child's or children's biological parents.

In the last year, an appellate decision, In re the Parental Responsibilities Concerning B.R.D., A Child, 2012 COA 63, No. 10CA2386, examined what factors needed to be present for a modification of a prior court order regarding decision-making and parenting time. In this case, the child had been placed for adoption by the mother shortly after his birth. She formally asked the court to place him for adoption and give up her parenting rights, and the couple proceeded with the adoption process. The biological father learned that he had a son several months later and opposed the adoption. The biological mother then decided to withdraw her request, causing the adopting couple to request the court that the biological parents' rights be terminated.

702367_page_curl_.jpgSubsequently the couple and the parents figured out an arrangement that gave the couple sole parental and decision-making responsibilities and parenting time to the biological parents throughout the week and weekends. The biological parents asked that they be allowed to seek modification in the future, and were ordered to pay child support to the couple. As more time passed, the biological parents grew closer to the boy and sought to have more time with him. Specifically, the father sought to have more time and greater say in the decision-making process regarding the son's life.

The lower court looked at the standard set in a case, In re Parental Responsibilities of M.J.K., 200 P.3d 1106 (Colo. App. 2008), to see whether continuing the original order that gave the couple the main care of the child and decision-making should continue. The Court found that it would not endanger the child and that it would be in the boy's best interests to keep the status quo because the change would potentially cause greater harm than benefit.

The father appealed and said that the Court looked at the wrong legal standard in its decision. The appellate body agreed and said that Colorado follows a presumption that the biological parent is a fit parent who will act in the boy's best interests. It would then be up to the couple to challenge the presumption and show that it wouldn't be in the boy's best interests for the father to have more time and decision making in put, and that it is in his interests for the order to remain in place as is.

Continue reading "Colorado Custody and Parenting Time Modifications Involving Complex Questions of Law " »

November 30, 2012

Making It Through The Holidays While Contemplating Divorce

santa.jpg

Thanksgiving has come and gone and now we are approaching the winter holidays, including Christmas and Hannukah. The holidays are wonderful times of the year for families and especially children. These upcoming days can be particularly stressful for couples contemplating divorce in the New Year, while remembering happier times.

Putting off filing for divorce until after the holidays is quite common. However, do not allow your sadness and tension to put a damper on the excitement for your children. Here are a few tips on how to make it through the end of the year.

Try and make this holiday season extra special. Perhaps being together with family during this joyous time of the year will allow you and your spouse to reconsider the impending divorce. It might be a time to sit down and consider counseling or mediation to resolve some of the issues prompting your decisions.

Most importantly, focus on your children. They are about to be impacted by decisions that you and your spouse are about to make, although they have had no input in the decision process. Allowing them to see that you both love them and are able to communicate, without fighting, will help them to accept the separation once it becomes a reality.

Go out and buy holiday decorations and decorate the house together. Go shopping and buy some of the items on the children's wish list, including something for yourself. Just remember not to go overboard. The last thing you want is to have large credit card debt added to the stress of going forward with the divorce at the beginning of the year.

If you and your spouse have joint credit cards or bank accounts, budgeting during the holidays is important so that one spouse doesn't attempt to outspend the other. It can also be a good time to begin obtaining separate banking accounts and credit cards to make the financial transition easier later.

Try doing things that are inexpensive. Consider going to your children's holiday festival at school, riding around and looking at holiday lights and displays, lending a hand to an elderly friend or relative and attending a holiday service at a place of worship of your choice. Create fun traditions that can be transitioned into your new life after the divorce is final.

The timing of filing for a divorce is never easy and going through the holidays with this on your mind can be overwhelming. Embracing the holiday traditions and focusing on making this a special time for your children can help you to successfully navigate the season.

Continue reading "Making It Through The Holidays While Contemplating Divorce " »

October 7, 2012

DENVER CUSTODY: A TALE OF TWO CASES

With many years as a custody lawyer in Denver under my belt, I have come to draw certain assumptions about the law, the court system, and how things work. Most family law attorneys use those assumptions, which are formulated with experience, legal knowledge, and a keen sense of each court, to guide them in their representation of their clients. However, as in any profession, from time to time, an attorney may hear of situations or outcomes that go against what those years of experience tell them.

In the last two weeks, I have heard of two similar Denver area custody cases, in two metropolitan area counties, with almost idential facts and two widely different outcomes. Though one might think the law is the law and the facts are the facts, the reality is that each case can be decided based solely on the specific court or judge's beliefs, perspective, and perception of the law. Though this is a fact I have known for sometime, I still try to believe that the law is the law and the facts are the facts. I guess I am the eternal optimist. I have written at least one blog posting regardng the subjectivity a court can bring to a family law case. Below, I will use the fact patterns of the two cases I heard about to give a real life example to my readers.

Before getting into each fact pattern, I will let you know that the court's, counties, and judges will not be divulged. Likewise, specifics will be altered. The gist of each scenario will not.

In the first case I heard about, the father of a child had left the state of Colorado with that child, roughly 5 months before the case was filed, and had taken the child to California. In that case, the mother had filed a Denver area custody case around the time of the fifth month. Along with the filing of the petition, the mother also filed an emergency motion indicating that father had fled with the child, concealed his whereabouts, and denied any contact. In that case, the court granted mother's emergency motion and entered an order granting mother custody and authorizing the issuance of papers for mother to retrieve the child, with the assistance of law enforcement, in California. Mother's emergency motion indicated that the child was in "emotional danger" based on being removed from Colorado and her presence. In this instance, the court granted the motion "ex parte," meaning without having heard from father. Father, upon being served with the petition and the motion, roughly two weeks later, contacted an attorney to deal with the issue. As part of the process, father filed an emergency motion of his own, indicating that he had left Colorado based on a pattern of domestic violence, had provided mother information where he was, has received mail from mother during the time in question, and had in no way concealed his presence. In scenario one, the court did not care and ordered the child returned to Colorado and mother's temporary custody.

In the other case, in a completely different county, the father left Colorado with the children, for New York, roughly a week before mother filed her custody case. In addition to the filing of the petition, mother filed an emergency motion, which contained similar language to the emergency motion filed in scenario one. In that emergency motion, mother sought an emergency order, ex parte relief, and orders regarding return of the children to Colorado. In scenario two, mother's motion was initially denied becasue father was not yet served with any of the court pleadings. In scenario two, mother filed a second motion upon father being served. In scenario two, the court did not grant mother's emergency custody motion, but rather indicated she could set the matter for a forthwith hearing roughly a month down the road.

Continue reading "DENVER CUSTODY: A TALE OF TWO CASES " »

June 14, 2012

YOUR COLORADO CUSTODY CASE: HELPING YOUR ATTORNEY HELP YOU

stock-photo-18620697-close-up-of-the-word-strategy-in-a-business-diagram.jpg

Having dealt with hundreds of Colorado custody cases over the years, I am well versed in what is needed to effectively prepare for and litigate battles regarding visitation and decision making. The key to handling custody matters truly rests with preparation. However, this preparation is not just related to your final hearing. The preparation begins from day one of the attorney/client relationship. It involves changing behavior patterns, changing ways of thinking, preparing to deal with the custody expert(s) who may be involved in your case, changes in terms of how you speak to your children, and more.

We have all heard the catchy sports proverb, "there's no 'I' in 'team'." There should also be no "i" in "attorney/client relationship," though linguistically there are technically three. By this, I mean that preparation in a custody case truly takes a joint effort. The skill of phenomenal Denver custody lawyers, with great experience and courtroom skill, is only going to go so far without the input and assistance of his or her client. Attorney and client should truly be a team in preparing to go through the custody case.

Over the years, I have arrived at the conclusion that the best results are gained for a client in a custody case when he or she is involved from the ground up in terms of preparation. As such, I strive to inform clients of various things he or she can do to help. I also make it a rule to try to prepare my clients for dealing with custody experts and getting ready for their final hearing. Below are some of the tools I employ, which are ultimately designed to help you, the client:

1. Writing out your story: A Colorado custody case is not just as simplistic as "I'm a good mom" or "I'm a good dad." Each case has a potential history to it. There may be things that were said or done related to the child, with the child, or with other people that may matter. The littlest whiff of information may have a bearing on the outcome of a case. Perhaps I am being a little melodramatic, but some fact from two or three years back can be pivotal. I see it. As such, I will often ask my clients to write me out their "story" or a chronology of the good, the bad, and the ugly related to the raising of their child. This chronology should include statements or actions of the other party, important events in the child's life, areas of concern, etc. I will generally ask people to go back three to four years. I don't need to know about Timmy's, who is 12 years old, potty training at age 4. I do need to know about his dad yelling at him and calling him mean names for getting a C on his spelling test at age 10. By putting past memories related to the child on paper, particularly in chronological fashion, a client is forced to organize, conceptualize, and contextualize his or her thoughts. This can assist the client with getting ready to testify in court or discussing the case with a child and family investigator or parental responsibilites evaluator. Additionally, it provides me with a written summary of facts I may need to be aware of or may use to the client's advantage. On a financial note, I often say, "I can read in 20 minutes what would take us 2 hours to talk about." Though I would love to talk to my client for 2 hours, I would rather save him or her money and receive the information straight from the source, with the ability to go back to it for reference as needed.

2. Keeping a journal: As indicated above, the past history regarding a child is important. Recent or current history matters as well. Custody cases can take as much as a year, depending on the county. A lot can happen during that time period. It is important to have clients keep a journal of things that occur while the case is pending. This should include behaviors or things said by the other party, as well as the child. A journal might be admissible in court. It might be shared with a custody expert. If nothing more, it is a way to record newer occurences which I, the attorney, might find relevant. I always instruct clients to make sure they keep the journal secured, such that neither the other party, nor the child, can get to it. The time period in which a Denver divorce or custody case is pending can be emotionally charged. This may be a good time to record events related to your ex behaving badly purely out of the motion that comes with this type of litigation. As with the chronology, the keeping of a journal may also help save money on attorney fees.

Continue reading "YOUR COLORADO CUSTODY CASE: HELPING YOUR ATTORNEY HELP YOU " »