Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
Published on:

highway-1448970By: Jessica A. Saldin

It is not uncommon for people facing the end of a marriage or break-up of a relationship to contemplate moving out of state- either for a fresh start, to be nearer to family, or other reasons.  We often have people facing a divorce or custody case asking if they would get in trouble if they leave the state of Colorado with the child(ren).  In general, as long as there are no orders in place and they have not filed or been served with a divorce or custody case, there wouldn’t be any law preventing them from leaving Colorado.  However, that is not us saying we recommend people go ahead and leave.  If people leave the state with the children, and a case is then filed, the court has the authority to order the parent to bring the children right back to Colorado.  Additionally, the parent that left with the children is often viewed in a negative light with the court.  It can come across that the person left to try to “win” at the divorce or custody case and become the primary parent.  However, if there are provable issues of domestic violence and evidence that the parent left with the children for safety reasons, the court is not supposed to make a negative inference from the person’s departure (though they can still order the parent to bring the children back).

The better course of action (actually recommended by the court in a published court decision) is for the parent to remain in Colorado, with the children, and ask the court’s permission to move as part of the case.  In initial divorce and custody cases (before final custody orders are entered) a parent wanting to live out of the state of Colorado has special Constitutional protections.  As per a Colorado child custody decision, the court actually has to take each party where he or she intends to live and allocate custody accordingly.  Therefore, it is best to remain in Colorado until orders are entered by the court, rather than leaving prior to filing or being served and risk the court ordering you to bring the children back and starting off on the wrong foot with the court.  However, this does not apply to situations where you have written agreement from the other party to take the children out of state (email, text message, signed agreement, etc.) or where you are moving but the children will stay in the state of Colorado.  In those situations the court should not have an issue with you moving prior to orders being entered. Continue reading

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hand-fingers-1-1187038-300x140By Michelle L. Searcy

Colorado law requires the court to “divide the marital property, without regard to marital misconduct, in such proportions as the court deems just, after considering all relevant factors…” §14-10-113(1), C.R.S.  People commonly refer to this provision as “no fault.”  While it seems a simple concept, parties are often unaware of their own attempts to inject fault in a property division.  Most folks understand that the court is not concerned with who cheated or who decided to end the relationship, but there are other issues that may come up in a divorce where the parties may want to argue that the property division should favor them due to the acts of the other party.

One of the relevant statutory facts concerns “the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker.” §14-10-113(1)(a), C.R.S. The first aspect of this factor that one must consider is the contribution language.  I often hear how one party’s retirement should be theirs alone because they put in the work that allowed the retirement to grow.  However, by statutory definition, the retirement is included as marital property because it is acquired during the marriage. §14-10-113(2), C.R.S.   Continue reading

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chart-1238452By: Stephen J. Plog

As indicated in many previous Plog & Stein blog posts, Colorado Revised Statutes indicate that parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children.   This requirement is manifested in child support orders flowing from child custody, divorce, or stand-alone child support cases.  Monthly child support amounts are calculated pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-115 and pursuant to a table or formula which is essentially based on the parents’ combined incomes and the number of children to be supported.   Statute expressly caps the formula at a combined adjusted gross income for the parents at $30,000 per month or $360,000 per year.  Where does this leave high income families with a combined monthly income over the $30,000 cap?

In cases in which the parents’ combined gross monthly income is over $30,000, the court has various options available to it, though it cannot enter a child support order below what it would be at exactly $30,000 combined income, unless it has a good reason to deviate from the guidelines.  Specifically, C.R.S. 14-10-115 (7)(a)(II)(E) states, “The judge may use discretion to determine child support in circumstances where combined adjusted gross income exceeds the uppermost levels of the schedule of basic child support obligation; except that the presumptive basic child support obligation shall not be less than it would be based on the highest level of adjusted gross income set forth in the schedule of basic child support obligation.”   While a minimum amount is clearly set by statute, an amount above that minimum is squarely up to the judge presiding over the case, as reiterated or clarified in a recent Colorado child support case. Continue reading

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budget-cuts-1172571By Michelle L. Searcy

Comedians have written countless jokes about losing half of everything in a divorce.  While it is, by far, the most common outcome that the marital estate will be divided equally or nearly equally, parties to a divorce have considerable control over how much will be left to divide.  Sadly, it is not uncommon for people with fairly significant estates to walk away from a divorce with a fraction of what they had to start, and not because their former spouse received the majority of the property.

The first step to controlling costs in a divorce concerns budgeting.  You will need to decide when to move into separate homes.  In many cases, this is a given, but if you are able to peacefully co-exist on a temporary basis, then it is possible to reduce expenses during your divorce by continuing to share them.  Of course, you still need to plan and prepare for setting up separate households eventually.   Actually separating once the big financial picture has been resolved can save a tidy sum of money.

Continue reading

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leisure-1356172-300x218By:  Sarah T. McCain

In the past several years there has been a renewed focus on mental health care and those going through divorces or custody cases are not immune to those issues. It is incredibly common for a parent to seek the assistance of a therapist to discuss these often complicated emotional issues. Children are not immune to emotional or mental health issues either, especially when their parents are in the midst of high conflict cases.  If raised to a court that a child is struggling, it would not be unheard of for a professional involved with the case, such as a Child and Family Investigator, or the court itself, to suggest that a child be involved some sort of therapy to deal with the divorce related issues.  Therapy is generally seen as beneficial for children going through a divorce so that they have a third person outlet to talk to.  Until recently, parents were really in charge of the mental health process in terms of counseling, communication with counselors, access to information, etc. for children under the age of 16.   Additionally, children over 16 had their own rights as related to therapy and confidentiality.  This has now changed.

With the rise of mental health issues among children of younger and younger ages and the rise of suicide as the leading cause of death for Colorado youth ages ten through fourteen, Colorado has taken measures to ensure that children have every opportunity to access mental health assistance. 

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people-1458971-300x226By: Johanna E. Blumenthal

This part one of a two-part series on Collaborative Divorce in Colorado addresses what collaborative divorce is, who is involved, and some reasons that couples who are divorcing choose this process.  

Collaborative divorce is an alternative disputes resolutions (ADR) process which couples can choose to engage in when they have decided to end their marriage, but would like to avoid the negative effects often associated with contested litigation. The goal of a collaborative divorce process is to reach a full out-of-court divorce settlement through a series of meetings between the couple and their Collaborative Divorce Professional Team (see below). It is a transparent process in which everyone involved agrees to operate in a manner that is honest and forthcoming. Please note, this does not mean that the process will be 100% pleasant, after all a marriage is still ending and no process no matter how smooth can remove the emotional, financial, and formal stresses associated with a divorce.  Some states have even adopted statutes regarding collaborative divorce.   Colorado is not yet one of them.

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diary-page-1240501-300x237By: Stephen J. Plog

After over twenty years of practicing family law in the Denver area, I’ve seen all sorts of odd situations.  The stories I could tell range from run of the mill tales of spouses behaving badly to the truly bizarre.   Of course I cannot tell those stories due to the oath of confidentiality taken at the outset of my career.  Perhaps one of the most bizarre things I have seen as an attorney is when one party fails to show for their final divorce hearing. Fortunately, I cannot recall one instance in which this has happened to one of my clients.  I have have taken plenty of calls from potential clients calling after they’ve missed their hearing.  The vast majority of the time they are calling when it’s frankly too late to fix things.  The idea for this article flows from my reading a recent article online in which a used-to-be famous Hollywood start failed to show for his divorce hearing.

In some of these calls, there seems to be this misperception held by some people that if they fail to show up the court is somehow going to be looking out for them, going to be “fair,” or that the other side is going to go into the final hearing and ask for whatever their most recent settlement offer was.  Sadly, it just doesn’t work that way.  Firstly, pursuant to Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 55, a court can enter orders in default if a party fails to show up to court, or to take part in the process.    However, missing one’s final divorce or child custody hearing takes not reading multiple documents warning a party that failure to show up may lead to adverse, default orders being entered against them.  These warnings start at the outset of each case when the parties receive the court’s Case Management Order.  In most Denver area court, the Case Management Order has language somewhere indicating that failure to show or take part may result in default orders being entered.  Yet people fail to heed the warning. Continue reading

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denver-s-capital-building-1215927By:  Jessica A. Saldin

A prior blog post of mine discussed recent, and upcoming, changes to the child support statute and its potential impact on Colorado family law cases.  This blog post will discuss additional changes that I believe still need to be made by the Colorado Legislature to our family law statutes, for both clarity and consistency.

First, one glaring needed change regards voluntary unemployment considerations.  Prior to the recent child support statutes, a parent could not be considered voluntarily unemployed or underemployed if they were caring for a child of the parties under the age of 30 months.  However, one of the recent changes to the child support law was to change that age to 24 months.  The maintenance statute has not been similarly changed.  This could lead to disparate results in cases that involve both maintenance and child support.  For example, if a parent is not working because they are caring for a 27 month old child, that parent could be imputed income for the calculation of child support, but would still not be imputed income for the calculation of maintenance.  It is unclear whether this disparity was the intention of the legislature or simply an oversight.  However, it is my opinion that it was likely an oversight that will be rectified.  The child support statute basically indicates the legislature does not believe it is equitable for a parent to pay increased child support due to the other parent’s unemployed if the parties’ child is older than 2 years.  It seems unlikely that the legislature would still find it equitable for a parent to pay increased spousal support (supporting the other parent, more than the child) when it is not equitable to pay increased child support under the same circumstances.

Continue reading

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gavel-2-1236453-300x200By: Johanna E. Blumenthal

If you have ever called a law office seeking legal services in a pending case, you were probably asked whether anything was set with the court and, if so, what was set. This information is crucial because what one can expect and what one needs to do in order to be prepared for a setting with the court depends upon what type of setting it is.  In family law court, there are generally five major types of settings. Each is explained below.

Status Conferences

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By Michelle L. Searcy

Colorado’s Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act sets forth the laws applicable to divorces in Colorado.  While most divorce cases involve parties who live in the same state, often times one of the parties has either moved to or moved from the state prior to a party filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  This article addresses the jurisdictional limits and requisites in such cases.

Jurisdiction involves fairly complex legal questions that may be summarized by asking whether the court has the authority to enter orders concerning the subject in controversy and whether the court has authority over the person.