Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
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caution-1315680By:  Sarah T. McCain

When the decision to physically separate and dissolve the marital relationship is made, there are some basic steps each party to a Colorado divorce should consider taking to ensure a smooth transition, an ability to appropriately deal with finances in the short-term, and an ability to logistically function as they move on to the initial phases of an actual divorce case.   Specifically, there are steps one might initially take to make dealing with bills, expenses, and personal property easier.  Regardless of the complexities in your case, some simple preventative measures might go along way.

The initial stages of dividing finances can be a rocky experience for many couples.  It’s important to have an understanding of what the financial circumstances are.  You will need to know what the overall marital obligations are, such as utilities, mortgage or rent, car payments, insurance, and credit cards.  This should include an understanding of due dates and how these items have traditionally been paid.   The first step is gathering documents necessary to give you a clear picture, which should be done before either you or your spouse leaves the marital residence.   Gathering these documents jointly and creating a plan regarding who-will-pay-what is preferential.   If collaboration is not an option, it still makes sense to gather as much documentation as possible so that you can assess not only how best to protect yourself financially, but also for purposes of compiling evidence for your case.  Once you leave the home you should presume you’re not likely getting back in.  Conversely, once your spouse leaves, presume he or she will take various documents that you may no longer have easy access to.  Having a clear understanding of the financial puzzle will help you to figure out what needs to be done throughout the process. Continue reading

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meeting-room-1480575By: Jessica A. Bryant

Whether an initial divorce case, initial custody case, or a request to modify a prior custody or support order, you will generally receive an order from the court requiring you to attend a mediation session before the final hearing.  Mediation orders vary from county to county (for example, some counties require mediation before they will set your contested hearing, or even your first court appearance, whereas other counties just require mediation to be completed within a certain amount of time before the hearing).

However, one common requirement for mediation in every county is that parties must mediate “in good faith.” That requirement, though, is generally not defined anywhere in the order.  Therefore, people often question exactly what it means to mediate in “good faith.”   One very important thing to note is that good faith mediation does not mean you have to reach agreements. You are never required to reach an agreement at mediation. Mediation is a confidential process and if no agreements are reached all the mediator tells the court is that the parties appeared, mediated, and no agreements were reached. Continue reading

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US-Map-300x225By:  Curtis Wiberg

Every state has adopted what is known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In cases where parents may reside in different states, this uniform act helps establish which state’s courts have jurisdiction to make determinations affecting the custody of the parties’ minor children.

Once one state’s jurisdiction has been established and custody orders have been entered, C.R.S. § 14-13-202 provides that that state shall have “exclusive, continuing jurisdiction,”  unless….    Generally, as long as one parent remains in the state where the initial custody proceeding occurred, that state shall retain jurisdiction to hear any future custody or visitation issues concerning the minor children.  This is a basic, core provision of the UCCJEA which, in some cases, becomes impractical.

Continue reading

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calculator-300x200By: Stephen J. Plog

In the vast majority of Colorado divorce or custody cases I have litigated over the years, child support is an issue to be resolved.   Child support is calculated based on a statutory formula, with the primary variables being the income of each party, the number of children, the number of overnight visits per year for each parent, and lesser items such as monthly health insurance premiums or day care costs.   As one might imagine, people can argue over almost anything, including each of these variables that going into the calculation, but for the number of children.   In most cases, the primary variable being argued over is income.    Aside from arguments regarding someone being unemployed or underemployed and the amount of income that should be attributed to them, battles can arise over forms or types of income.    This includes arguments regarding bonus and commission income which one might earn above and beyond their base salary.   Contrary to common belief, bonuses and commissions are income for calculating child support pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-115. Continue reading

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property-market-1223813By:  Stephen J. Plog

As indicated in various, previous posts over the years, one of the primary issues which can arise in any divorce case is the division of marital property. While reading the news the other morning, I came across a story regarding the case of an English couple battling over their divorce and division of property.  The gist of the article tied into an appellate ruling related to division of the marital estate and whether that division would deviate from the norm based on the husband’s contributions.  Specifically, the parties were arguing over how to divide their $225 million marital estate, with the husband arguing he should receive a greater share than normal due to his special contribution to the marital estate.   The special contribution the husband claimed was the fact that his superior intelligence or “genius” lead to the creation of the vast amount of wealth to be divided.    The English appellate court ultimately ruled against him.

While analyzing this and other cases, the author pointed out that under English law, the norm is to divide a marital estate equally.   This is also the norm in most Colorado divorce cases, whether that norm is arrived at through settlement or a hearing with the court.  Given that many of our notions of legal fairness stem from English law, I was not shocked to learn this.   Of course the bigger aspect of the article was the issue of how British courts might treat contribution of one spouse towards the marital estate as a basis for deviating from the norm of equal and awarding the greater contributor a greater piece of the proverbial pie.   Given my years of experience and familiarity with Colorado family law, I immediately started pondering the issue of contribution and how often it’s really a factor in a Colorado divorce case. Continue reading

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no-symbol-circle-with-slash-prohibition-sign-1146029By:  Curtis Wiberg

If you are contemplating a divorce or legal separation, but are afraid of retaliation by your spouse, know that the Colorado Legislature has enacted law to protect you right out of the gate. This provision of the law is known as the Automatic Temporary Injunction and is located at C.R.S. 14-10-107 (4)(b).   The specific terms of the injunction are required to be set forth in both the divorce summons and petition.   There are four key protections set forth in Section 107, and they go into effect on the Petitioner as soon as the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed with the Court.  The protections go into effect on the Respondent as soon as the Respondent is personally served or signs a waiver of service. The four protections are as follows:

(A) Restraining both parties from transferring, encumbering, concealing, or in any way disposing of, without the consent of the other party or an order of the court, any marital property, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life and requiring each party to notify the other party of any proposed extraordinary expenditures and to account to the court for all extraordinary expenditures made after the injunction is in effect;

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breakfast-1457900By:  Sarah T. McCain

When it comes to parenting, even the most in sync parents have different styles. This can become even more apparent while going through a divorce or Colorado custody case, when all of your choices are under a microscope.  One area of parenting which can draw scrutiny for parents is the choice of meals given to children.  Yes, “meals.”  Dietary and food preference issues do arise in custody cases and over the years I have seen them.   These types of issues can range from dealing with a dietary medical issue to a parent being just a little too concerned about one too many Big Macs eaten during the other parent’s  visitation.  The real legal question to be addressed is whether a Judge will see the same level of concern that on parent might have and take action based on that concern.

Firstly, it’s important to recognize the eating patterns that took place during your relationship or marriage.  If the type of food provided is the same now as it was during the marriage, many complaints will not be taken seriously.  The Judge or Court will question why it was okay then but not now.  There may be a logical reason for the change in stance on diet and nutrition, but it will definitely need to be succinctly and logically explained for the Court to care.   Judges are extremely wary of people raising concerns in custody case to make the other parent look bad, as opposed to them raising legitimate concerns tied into the children. Continue reading

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the-thinker-by-rodin-1233081By: Jessica Bryant

I recently came across a news article regarding a New York custody case.    The child custody article focused on a case in which a New York judge awarded what was termed “tri-custody” over a child.  The specific background was that a married couple entered into an open relationship with their neighbor.  A child was born from the relationship, with the husband being the biological father and the neighbor being the biological mother.  Prior to any legal proceedings, the parties had agreed that the child would be raised by all three of them, including the wife, who was not the biological mom.  Eventually, though, the wife left husband to be with the neighbor.  This resulted in the husband filing a suit for custody of the child and wife filing for a divorce from him.  Husband and the neighbor agreed to shared custody, but wife filed her own case out of concern that if her relationship with the neighbor fell apart she would have to rely on the neighbor or her ex-husband to allow her to see the child.  The judge ultimately awarded the neighbor (biological mother) primary residential custody, the husband (biological father) weekend time parenting time, and the wife Wednesday nights and one week of vacation during the school year, plus two weeks in the summer. Continue reading

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right-or-wrong-1160031By Stephen J. Plog

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the basic concept of false allegations of abuse or violence being raise in Colorado custody cases.   This included delving into some of the case specific and systemic consequences or results flowing from people making false allegations.  I also touched on the damage these types of allegations can have on children and their bonds with the accused parents.   Finally, I touched on the fact that false allegations are something that sometimes take time to deal with and, depending on the specific allegations, may require a certain amount of patience.   With years of practicing as a Denver custody attorney under my belt, I have seen enough situations to have formulated the belief that justice has a way of working things out and exposing the lies, in the end.  However, exposing lies and false allegations doesn’t just happen by chance.  In reality, it takes skill, experience, a methodical approach to ultimately refuting those allegations.

In a general sense, the burden of proof regarding false allegations will fall upon the person making them, meaning courts generally adhere to the notion that the person raising an allegation of abuse or violence had better be able to back them up.     Though the accuser may bear that burden to build his or her case up, I am firm believer in the accused taking affirmative, proactive steps to build a case for refuting those allegations.    In reality, some allegations, such as those of a sexual abuse of a child, can lead a court to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach from the onset.  No judge wants to be responsible for allowing potentially dangerous contact.   As such, they may put protections in place, initially, which have the wrongly accused feeling like he or she is already damned in the eyes of the court.   As an empathic person, I wholly understand why they would feel this way.   As a professional, I know that things will need to take their course and that ultimately those false allegations can be undone and turned around.   As indicated in Part 1, it can truly be an exercise in patience.    Between drafting Parts 1 and 2, I came across an article in which it took a man wrongly accused of child abuse over 20 years before the system acknowledged he had one nothing wrong.    This was an extreme case which ended in his parental rights being terminated, but exemplifies the tragic outcome and effect that false allegations can have on a custody case and a parent’s relationship with their children.  Below, I will start discussing how to deal with various allegations and the process people may be faced with. Continue reading

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yellow-flag-in-pocket-1510212By:  Curtis Wiberg

Sometimes a high profile divorce can help teach a lesson on key issues that exist in an everyday Colorado divorce. The divorce proceeding currently underway in Texas involving Denver Bronco wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is one such case.

Gabriella Sanders filed for divorce in October 2016, in Texas. Within the last two weeks, the website TMZ broke the news that Gabriella Sanders alleges that Emmanuel Sanders committed marital “atrocities,” including spending thousands of dollars on multiple other women for the purpose of having extra-marital affairs. To add to the salaciousness of the allegations, Gabriella claims that Emmanuel lied to the Broncos of needing to be excused from practices in November to attend the birth of his baby when really he wanted time off in order to pursue these sexual relationships.  In fact, Gabriella did not give birth to their baby until the second week of December. Continue reading