Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
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college-1440364-300x226By: Jessica A. Bryant

When in the middle of a divorce or custody case one aspect that often gets less consideration than some of the immediate issues/concerns is how to handle the children’s post-secondary/college expenses.  Child support in Colorado ends at the age of 19 unless the child emancipates before the age of 19 (becomes legally emancipated, marries, or if the child enters active military duty).  Due to the nature of divorce and custody cases, often parties are focused on the here and now, instead of the future.  

Under Colorado law, for any child support orders after July 1, 1997, unless the child is determined to be mentally or physically disabled, or unless the child is still in high school (but not beyond the age of twenty-one), a court does not have the authority to order any child support payments or other payments for the benefit of the child beyond the age of 19.  This includes the court lacking authority, under child support and divorce statutes, to forcibly order either parent to pay for college (whether the child is under 19 or not).  However, parents are always free to agree to provide for the children’s post-secondary (college) expenses and can do so via written agreement, filed with the court.  That agreement will be every bit as legally binding and enforceable as any other court orders.

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guinness-1362297By: Janette Jordan

It’s a hard question to answer, but one that is often asked.  What happens to the pets in a divorce? As if divorces weren’t emotionally wrenching enough, the thought that you also have to decide where your pets go, or with whom, or who has the final say can be extremely difficult.  We understand that to a lot of people, the pets are part of the family.  To some, they are considered their children. But how do the courts treat them?

In Colorado, one of the most pet-friendly states in the Country, the courts sadly still view pets as property, pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-113, and something to be divided in a divorce proceeding. If children are involved, your case will naturally involve determinations of parenting time, decision-making, and child support.  When pets are involved, the courts will treat them as an asset, something to be allocated to one party or the other.  Unfortunately, we have a ways to go in recognizing our furry friends as more than property, unlike a court in a Maryland divorce with pets which actually entered custody orders regarding the family dog.  Furthermore, unlike other assets, such as a bank account, you cannot literally divide a dog or cat.  Continue reading

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mother-reading-a-book-to-children-1438086-300x199By:   Sarah T. McCain

There are many ways in which the third parties in your life may impact a child custody determination. It is important to carefully weigh each role these individuals play in your life and the interaction they have with your child(ren).  Friends, neighbors, romantic partners, and family members could impact your child custody case.   Each of these individuals could not only be called to testify, but could also be interviewed by a child custody expert, such as Child and Family Investigators (CFI) or Parental Responsibilities Evaluators (PRE).   Negative things any of them do could be used against you when it comes time to determine things like residential custody or parenting time.  When starting parenting time or child custody litigation, it’s always a good idea to think about who’s going to be around your kids and what effect that interaction could have. Continue reading

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furniture-1-1425794-300x234By:  Stephen J. Plog

In the past, you may have heard stories about people fighting over the pots and pans as part of their divorce case.  When stories like this are told, it is usually done to emphasize how acrimonious a divorce case might have been.  However, we, as divorce attorneys, have literally seen people fight over pots and pans and have even written about such, some years back, in a prior divorce blog post regarding battles of tangible, marital property.  Though attorneys will generally indicate to clients that most courts do not want to get involved with dividing up dishes, furnishings, pictures, appliances, and other household items, in some cases there may actually be items of tangible, personal property of value which need to be factored in to the marital estate and divided.   The impetus for deviating from the norm of just physically splitting the household goods between the parties is going to be value.   Couches, televisions, and the like are just like cars.   They are generally going to be depreciating assets which, though important from a use standpoint, have no significant monetary value.  However, items such as artwork, guns, collectibles, jewelry, coins, etc. might.

In instances in which there are significant, distinct property items, or even just one item, which either spouse believes to be of worth, the situation might call for obtaining a formal appraisal, much as one might do with a house or other piece of real estate.  The challenge people might face is finding an appraiser or “expert” to do the valuation.   Keep in mind that whether for settlement or court trial purposes, a value needs to be determined and just going into court and saying, “I think this necklace is worth ‘$'” would be a risky, if not a silly approach.  Additionally, when looking for someone to appraise personal, tangible property, your divorce lawyer is going to be looking for someone with the credentials or experience to be worthy of potentially coming to court to testify as an “expert” within the meaning of Colorado Rules of Evidence.    Courts want to know that the person coming in to speak about a specific piece or classification of marital property knows what they are talking about.   Of course, valuations of personal property, including reports and testimony, cost money.   Thus, the initial determination, which may take some guess work on the part of both attorney and client, is whether, from a cost/benefit analysis standpoint, it’s really worth it to even raise the issue, engage the expert, etc.

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ringsBy:  Curtis Wiberg

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S.Ct 2071 (2015), and no state in the United States is able to deny the right to a same-sex couple to get married.

So, while the law seems clear as to what the Obergefell case means going forward, did the Obergefell case convert same-sex relationships that existed prior to Obergefell in states that recognize common law marriage?

In Colorado, the case that most clearly defines what constitutes a common-law marriage is the case of People v. Lucero, 747 P.2d 660 (Colo. 1987). Lucero articulates that there must be a mutual understanding between the parties to a relationship that the parties consider themselves to be married. Courts looking at whether the parties to a relationship have this mutual understanding look to such things as cohabitation, whether the parties file tax returns as married or single, whether on party takes the other party’s last name, whether there was an understanding amongst friends and families that a couple considered themselves to be married, and whether there was an intermingling of finances. Continue reading

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keep-an-eye-on-you-1-1461307-300x200By:  Sarah T. McCain

When emergencies, such as when the emotional and/or physical safety of the children is at risk, people generally turn to the court, asking for immediate protections, the primary one of which is supervised parenting time. There are many options when it comes to supervised parenting time and, in many cases, the best and only option will be using a facility. Traditionally, courts will first look to supervised visitation being done at a parenting time supervision facility. There are positives and negatives to using such a facility. Supervisors in these facilities are neutral individuals who take notes of what transpires at the visitation sessions, from the initial interactions to the moment where the non-supervised parent comes to pick up the minor child(dren). This can be beneficial in circumstances when allegations are being made of inappropriate statements to the children or allegations that the children are hesitant to be in the presence of the supervised parent. This neutral supervisor can be on the look-out and address any of those concerns. The supervisor can provide written reports for evidentiary purposes and can testify if necessary. Supervision centers generally charge an hourly rate, sometimes on a sliding scale. Continue reading

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house-2-1225477-300x236By:  Jessica A. Bryant

After a divorce decree is entered, there may still be steps that need to be taken to wrap up property division issues (for example completion of forms and orders to divide a retirement account and/or steps to divide the ownership and responsibility for real estate). When a home was jointly titled and jointly mortgaged during the marriage, and one person is keeping the property following the divorce, there are steps to take to finalize the sole ownership of that property item. One such step is changing over the title, which is as straightforward as signing a quitclaim deed and recording it with the clerk and recorder’s office for the county in which the property is located. The more complex step is getting the person that did not retain ownership off of the mortgage. This step is necessary for the protection of both parties. For the party retaining the property, it ensures they have complete ownership of the property, as well as complete responsibility for all liabilities, and can be solely responsible for future decisions for the property. For the person not retaining the property, it is critical to ensure you are removed from the mortgage. If the other person does not pay the mortgage, and you are still on the mortgage, the bank can come after you for recovery of the debt, regardless of what your divorce orders say. Therefore, if the other person will not be able to remove you from the mortgage for the property, it may be important to consider alternative methods of dividing the property, prior to finalizing the divorce, to ensure you are protected from creditors.

It is not uncommon for the individual that is the primary parent of the children to want to retain the house as their property, to ensure consistency for the children. However, depending on the person’s income, they may not qualify to refinance the mortgage into their sole name, which may cause issues for the other parent in terms of protection for credit, ability to qualify to purchase another home, etc. Therefore, before finalizing a divorce case, it is important to consider all aspects of the property division, including whether the party receiving any real estate as their sole property will be able to refinance any mortgages into their sole name.

One aspect that can be considered in determining a person’s qualifications or ability to refinance is whether there maintenance (alimony) orders in the case.  Alimony payments may be considered as “income” for mortgage qualification purposes.   However, alimony payments will only be considered for a refinance if they are court ordered payments, have been received consistently for six months, and will be received for at least three years. These time frames are important because steps you take while your divorce case is pending could actually affect whether a person is able to refinance the home. For example compare the following scenarios: Continue reading

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512154742-300x200By: Janette Jordan

In the State of Colorado, when you have a pending family law case before the court, such as a divorce filing, allocation of parental responsibilities filing, post-decree modifications, etc., courts typically require that the parties attempt alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In fact, C.R.S. 13-22-301, et seq. states that courts can require the parties of a contested issue or dispute to engage in some form of alternate dispute resolution.   The mediation is the most common form of alternate dispute resolution utilized by family law litigants, there are methods by which parties may elect to resolve their issues. Continue reading

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tape-recorder-1479279By: Curtis Wiberg

With the ease of technology making the prospect of recording phone and in-person conversations with a soon to be ex-spouse so much easier, more and more clients are presenting me with recorded conversations (whether audio or video) with their spouse for potential use as evidence in their divorce cases. A whole host of issues arise whenever this occurs.

The foremost consideration is ensuring that the recording was made legally. Colorado is one of the many states that allows for “one party consent” as an exception wiretapping criminal laws. C.R.S. § 18-9-303. What this means is that if there is one party to a conversation that consents to the recording of the conversation, then that is generally legal in Colorado. So, if you, as a party to a conversation, consent to the recording of the conversation, even if the other party is unaware that the conversation is being recorded, that is not illegal in Colorado. Continue reading

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sad-boy-1564119By: Stephen J. Plog

While attending an early morning elementary school band practice with one of my children, I saw something sad and troubling. Though I have had countless occasions in which to hear parents talk about child custody or divorce cases and how they impact their children, I have rarely, if ever, seen, firsthand, how children react when dealing with divorce. The interlude I saw between child and teacher was troubling enough to me that I feel compelled to write this post. My ultimate hope in doing so is to reach parents and to educate them on how a simple, brief conversation might prevent upset to their child down the road.

The specific incident I saw bright and early Monday morning involved an elementary school band teacher, a very nice person by all accounts, and a little boy, roughly 9 years old. While the collective group was working on perfecting one song or another which youngsters might learn in band, the teacher stopped the class to reprimand, appropriately, a few of the boys who had clearly spent little or no time practicing their songs or instruments. She addressed the first couple individually, who essentially responded the they hadn’t had time. The third boy, striving for honesty as little kids generally do when being put on the spot, tried to explain that he couldn’t practice at his mom’s apartment, only his father’s house. The teacher, obtuse to the fact that the little boy seemed nervous or apprehensive to talk, continued to press. The little boy explained that his mother lived in an apartment and that she was concerned that the neighbors would complain about loud music (or attempts at music). At this point, the little boy’s eyes were starting to well up with tears. He did not seem to be upset at the fact that he was being interrogated over his practice habits, but rather that he was having to discuss the fact that his parents were not together. I want to say I recall him saying the word, “divorce,” but cannot swear to such with 100% certainty. The teacher ultimately stopped. Continue reading