Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases

Articles Posted in Divorce

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529523323-300x200By: Jessica A. Bryant

After getting married it is not uncommon for people to change the beneficiaries on their various accounts (life insurance, stocks, retirement accounts, etc.) to their new spouse.  In the event of a divorce, most types of accounts allow the beneficiary to be changed (be cognizant of the automatic temporary injunction that goes into place when a divorce is filed that prohibits changing the beneficiaries of certain accounts without agreement or court order until the case is completed).  However, one exception to this ability to always change the beneficiary, is a pension account.  Most pension beneficiary rules have a time frame after which the beneficiary cannot be changed.  For example, sometimes, when the person retires, that triggers the event such that their beneficiary designation becomes irrevocable.  So the question may arise, if a divorce is filed after the beneficiary designation becomes irrevocable, does the fact that you are a beneficiary of your spouse’s pension plan, or vice versa, mean that you have a marital property interest in their pension? Continue reading

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listen-1257756-300x226By:  Sarah T. McCain

During the end of a marriage, there can often be a significant amount of fighting. It’s hoped that these verbal arguments couples might engage in can be kept from the children.  As a marriage ends through the process of divorce, children often comment that it is better that they not be caught in the middle of the fighting. This is a goal I recommend all clients strive for and something the court will certainly expect tied into one facet of the C.R.S. 14-10-124 “best interest of the child” standard: the ability of the parents to put the needs of the child over their own.  However, what happens when the conflict continues and what can you do to make sure that this continued hostility does not impact your parenting relationship or the emotional health of your children?  Continue reading

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priority-mental-health-1546123-300x224By: Janette Jordan 

Divorce is an extremely emotionally taxing and difficult process. It affects both parties directly involved, and then the children. A divorce is essentially a fracturing of a family unit. One household now becomes two. One shared holiday now becomes split or alternated. The reality is that it is okay to seek outside help; and it is encouraged. For us divorce lawyers, divorce is a common occurrence and something we deal with literally every day (weekends and holidays excepted).  For you, the person going through the divorce, you are having to deal with a whole new set of issues, such as the legal aspect of your case, the emotional separation and loss, the uncertainty of the future, and maintaining stability for your children.  One of the best things you can do for them is to ensure they have a safe emotional outlet in which to participate and engage, such as therapy.

There are many approaches to therapy depending upon your unique situation and the age of your children. Most psychologists recognize that the time following the divorce is the hardest time for a child. The discussion, realization, and/or physical separation in the beginning can be traumatizing and upsetting, but a lot of the research suggests it is how the parents help their children navigate this transition that determines lasting psychological effects.  Continue reading

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240_F_27035570_gIfSgivcriIQhbNmeQU6B6WqHT5bllnH-300x225By:  Curtis Wiberg

Over the last several years, Denver real estate prices have increased rapidly and significantly.  In many Denver divorce cases, the largest asset needing to be divided is the marital home.  If the parties have resided in the marital home throughout the course of the marriage, keeping current on payments, and in this market where house prices have been rising, oftentimes a divorcing couple will have built up significant equity in the home (Equity = Sale Price minus Existing Mortgage owed). This valuable asset is something that will need to fairly divided between the parties as part of any divorce resolution.

The most accurate and assuredly fair way to divide the home equity is to sell the marital home.  What better way to determine how much home equity there is to divide than to go through the process and see how much is left over after sale and closing?  Even if the parties determine to sell the house, some issues can still arise if the sale is done during the divorce.  For instance, if the house in need of repair to get the home ready for sale, the parties need to figure out how to pay for these repairs and agree on a contractor. Some parties insist on doing the repairs or improvements themselves, which is an endeavor that can lead to tension and conflict in marriages that don’t even involve divorce.   Continue reading

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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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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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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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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