Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
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kids-1575435By:  Curtis Wiberg

One provision many parents use when formulating a parenting plan is what is commonly known as a “Right of First Refusal.” Essentially what this provision requires of each parent is that when one parent is unable to exercise the parenting time that they have been awarded, that parent must contact the other parent to give the other parent the option of spending that time with the kids before the parent that is unable to exercise his or her parenting time can be allowed to make other arrangements for the care of the children (e.g.: relatives, babysitters, etc.).

Typically, the parties agree to have the provision apply for overnight parenting time. So, as an example, Mom gets called away on a business trip at the last minute that will keep her from watching her kids on the Monday and Tuesday overnight that week. With a right of first refusal provision, Mom would be required to contact Dad and ask him if he wanted those overnights. Only if Dad declines can Mom then contact a different caregiver to watch the children while she is away.  Though right of first refusal provisions are certainly still enforceable, subsequent to a 2007 Court of Appeals decision, it became much less common place for a court to order them absent an agreement between the parents. Continue reading

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Ready-300x210By:  Sarah McCain

When an initial allocation of parental responsibilities, or more commonly known as a “custody” case, is filed involving your child or children, it is possible that you are caught off guard. However, in most cases, disagreements between parents or a natural unraveling of a relationship will give you a good heads up that a case is on the horizon. It may also be a modification of the current situation wherein you are filing the request to the court to make a change. In these circumstances, it is important to make sure that you are one hundred percent ready to proceed in what will likely be a difficult case. This includes being ready both with your arguments and for the emotional strain that can take place not only on you, but on your kids as well.  Preparing for a Colorado child custody case entails so much more than just filling out forms and filing them with the court.  Are you ready?

Initially, it is probably best to sit down with a family law attorney to discuss your specific situation. An experienced attorney may be able to direct you as to what documentation or evidence you should be compiling and what individuals you should start including in your life to ensure that you are able to make a solid argument. For example, if you are making an argument that the children are suffering emotionally due to the parenting time of the other parent, it is important to note that proving emotional harm can be difficult. Having a therapist on board seeing your child or children before the motion is filed may be beneficial for you. A therapist is then prepared to support you in court through testimony, written reports, or interaction with a child custody expert.  Child custody cases can involve a great amount of thought, detail, evidence, and preparation.   Making sure you are prepared is a step in the right direction. Continue reading

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3d-illustration-mobile-technology-mobile-phone-1412071By: Jessica A. Bryant

As technology advances, it also impacts the way parties to a Denver family law case may try to present evidence to the court. However, these advancements are not always for the better. One major development is the creation of cell phone apps that purport to allow you to print off the text message from your phone. These apps make it sound perfect for a court proceeding- what better way to present your text message evidence to the court than through an app that coverts your text messages into one complete document? The problem with these apps is the method by which they convert the text messages to be printed out. If you try using such an app, you will find that what is printed out is basically a document of typed conversations. It really looks no different than what you could create in a word processed document. In other words, it is not as if the app is printing the text messages as depicted on your phone. The app converts the text message format and, through this conversion, changes the reliability/authenticity of the text message conversation.

In order to admit a document into evidence, pursuant to the Colorado Rules of Evidence, the court needs it to be authenticated.  In other words, the court typically needs a witness to confirm that the document is what it purports to be. However, getting a document admitted is only the first step. Once a document is admitted the court gets to decide how much weight it gives a particular document.  In other words, a report from an impartial expert on the case, who may have conducted a detailed investigation, met with the parties, the children, and made insightful recommendations to the court, may be given significantly more weight than a letter from a party’s mother saying they are a great parent. Both documents may be admitted because the expert and mother confirmed the submitted document was what the attorney was claiming it to be. That does not mean, though, that the judge will view both documents with the same amount of consideration. Continue reading

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working-with-laptop-3-1545962-300x226By:  Curtis Wiberg

The telephone is an amazing way to keep in touch with children.  Skype, Facetime, Facebook video messaging, and other social media applications have made remote communication even more amazing.  In a divorce situation with kids involved, video communication has taken a lot of the sting of being separated from children for a lengthy period of time away.

At the beginning of my career, I dictated my letters and court pleadings onto cassette tapes, to secretaries who could type 100+ words per minute (and who were the only employees that had computers on their desk), and the fax machine (with the shiny white roll-up paper) was the revolutionary device that was changing the world.  To think that 20 plus years later, my clients could talk in real time to their children from anywhere in the world would have been unfathomable. But in those 20 years, we’ve gone from the unfathomable to the common, where video parenting time is almost invariably in every divorce parenting plan.  And, it is largely beneficial for all involved. Continue reading

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professor-at-work-1430040By: Janette Jordan

According to the Colorado Judicial Branch 2016 Annual Statistical Report, starting at page 32, there were 34,966 family law court filings in 2016.   In speaking with court clerks, some will say that up to 70 percent of those are done by people without attorneys.  We’ve written on the subject of proceeding without an attorney several years ago, but I figured an update was in order. The legal system is a unique area of practice in that it allows for individuals to represent themselves (a term referred to as appearing “pro se”) in a Court of Law. This holds true for Denver family law cases. However, the court will still hold them to the same standard as a practicing, licensed attorney. So, what do you do when you find yourself being brought to court or needing to take someone to court with a family law dispute?

It takes two to tango and the same can be said for a non-contested case. More often than not, there are going to be issues that the parties cannot agree on or may be entirely unaware of.  The court cannot give you legal advice, so where do you turn to ensure that your rights and interests are being protected? That’s where having an attorney is invaluable. Having an an experienced family law attorney in your corner adds that extra layer of protection and insight.

The unfortunate reality is that conflict has a cost. Abraham Lincoln said, “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” Attorneys do not work for free and they cannot finance your case for you. However, the way I recommend clients look at it is as an investment in their future. You are retaining an attorney for their expertise and ability to get you through this process. A majority of the work that I do on a daily basis is trying to undue or fix past outcomes because a person did not have a lawyer and tried to do it themselves. Some of the hardest cases for me to turn down are ones where a person calls because they have a final hearing coming up last minute and are not prepared.  If available, I will certainly take those cases on.   However, when an attorney is not available for a last minute hearing, the litigant may end up having to do the case on their own.  The hope and goal are that you only have to go through this process once, so let’s do it right the first time. Continue reading

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dictionary-1426438-300x226By: Stephen J. Plog

As a Denver divorce lawyer, I regularly meet with people in need of help with their family law cases.   With each meeting, I have to be conscious of each person’s level of awareness when discussing the legal aspects of their case.   After almost twenty years of practicing  family law, it’s easy to forget that to the person going through their first introduction to the world of divorce, the common phrases that attorneys use may sound like complete gibberish unless explained.  The soup of divorce related terms which might cause confusion for the person going through divorce for the first time is no more intelligible than if I were talking to a computer technician or mechanic about the specific parts of a computer’s CPU or the specifics of how a to rebuild a car engine.   Below I will list some of the common terms one might hear when going through a divorce, with the intent of educating so as to help readers make sense of some of the words they might hear, yet not fully understand.

Petition:   A petition is the initial document filed in a divorce case.  It lets the court know a brand new case is being started.  For divorce, the petition is called a “petition for dissolution of marriage.”   In a custody case it would be called a “petition for allocation of parental responsibilities.”   Petitions must be personally served upon the other party, along with a “summons.”  Once petition and summons are personally served, the court has jurisdiction over the second party to the case. Continue reading

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magnifying-glass-1579149-300x226By: Sarah T. McCain

 

I recently sat around a dinner table with a variety of women in different situations. The one item all shared was that their young children were going to be outside of the home for a period of time. The circumstances varied, ranging from a first sleepover to going to stay at dad’s house for the weekend. However, one item was consistent in that all of the women were deeply curious as to what would go on during this time away and what would be said. In child custody (parental responsibilities) cases, this become even more of an issue, especially when you have concerns that the child(ren) are not being cared for appropriately or when you have concerns that parental alienation may be taking place in the form of the child(ren) hearing negative statements about you or your  home. Continue reading

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Therapy-300x200By:  Jessica A. Bryant

When going through a custody case, or a divorce involving children, in Colorado, you may hear the court, other party, opposing counsel, and/or expert mention “reintegration therapy.” Reintegration therapy can have important, long-lasting implications for you and your children.  Therefore, before taking a position on reintegration therapy (sometimes referred to as “reunification therapy”), it is important for you to know what it is and if it is a good fit for your child custody case and, most importantly, your children.

Reunification therapy is a type of therapeutic interaction between an absent parent and their child(ren) designed to build, or rebuild, the bond between them.  It is may ordered in lieu of parenting time and/or as an initial step before supervised or unsupervised parenting time starts.   It is possible for a parent to have regular parenting time and simultaneously be involved in reunification therapy with the children.  Typically such is not the case and therapy will precede parenting time.   Continue reading

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hand-in-hand-1-1444277-300x226By: Curtis Wiberg

Divorce and child custody cases can be emotionally traumatic events for an entire family, which can result in behaviors by parents that can affect children for a lifetime.  Family law courts in Colorado are cognizant of the lasting psychological scars a child custody case can leave on children, as well as the scars parents’ words and actions can have on them stemming from subtle or overt behaviors not even intended to damage the child by the parents.  One such behavior is the parentification of children (also known as “parentizing”), wherein a parent treats a child as an equal, confiding in a child with adult issues, using children for emotional support, and/or leaning on a child to assume a parental role for younger siblings.   In these cases, a parent might turn to the child to fulfill the parent’s emotional needs or sense of loss as a result of the marriage ending.   In other cases, a parent might burden the child with actual physical tasks, such as caring for that parent or siblings in on form or another.  In essence, the parent places adult emotional burdens and concepts onto the child. When parentification occurs, lines and boundaries get blurred and an enmeshment can exist which, though comforting to the parent seeking to soothe his or her emotional wounds, can negatively impact the child and his or her own identity and sense of self.   Continue reading

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family-closeness-3-1438586-300x200By: Janette Jordan

Grandparent visitation is a unique area of family law that not many people are aware of. This is different from grandparents adopting a grandchild, seeking custody (parental responsibilities) of a grandchild, or seeking a guardianship of a grandchild.  For more on those topics, please visit some of our prior blog posts.  In Colorado, the State recognizes grandparent visitation rights with a minor child under a specific set of conditions set forth in statute.

Pursuant to §19-1-117 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, a grandparent or great-grandparent can ask the court for “reasonable” visitation time with the minor child if there has been a child custody case or case concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities relating to the minor child previously filed with any Colorado court. The following situations are cases in which a petition for grandparent visitation would be appropriate: Continue reading