Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
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magnifying-glass-1415592By: Johanna E. Blumenthal

An expert is somebody who is uniquely qualified by his/her education, knowledge and experience to offer opinions regarding matters that are scientific, technical or that require specialized knowledge. See C.R.E. Rule 702. Although any witness could potentially by certified as an expert by the court if he/she possess the requisite education, knowledge and experience, not every witness can offer expert opinions to the court. 

In some family law cases, hiring an expert is crucial to the success of your case. This is particularly true when your case turns on a fact that requires an expert opinion (an opinion that is based upon specialized knowledge). For example, if your case is based upon a showing that your child’s emotional development is being substantially impaired, you will likely need a developmental psychologist to offer an expert opinion regarding this and why this is the case.  

Even if your case does not strictly need an expert, many cases benefit from the use of experts as expert opinions can be useful to: 1) facilitate settlement (when the impasse between the parties is being caused by a dispute that an expert opinion can resolve); 2) offer recommendations and solutions (when the parties are truly unsure what is correct or best under the circumstances); 3) facilitate the admission of evidence in the court proceeding (when you need to get into evidence hearsay statements of a minor, a minor’s therapist or even just consolidate a lot of information into a more digestible format) and/or 3) bolster one party’s position.  While the use of experts flows from C.R.E. Rule 702, in most family law cases, C.R.C.P. Rule 16.2 is going to govern timing in terms of disclosing experts for court. Continue reading

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law-library-1241321By: Jessica A. Saldin

One of our recent blog posts detailed some fairly significant changes to the Colorado child support law as relates to the consideration of voluntary unemployment and underemployment.  However, those changes are not the only changes passed by the legislature.  This article will detail some of the additional changes recently made to the Colorado child support law.  

The changes to the voluntarily unemployment/underemployment section are the primary 2019 changes.  The only other 2019 change requires parties filing a verified entry of support judgment (a method by which to enforce child support orders) to send such to all parties.  That being said, the legislature has preemptively enacted changes to go into effect in 2020, which will be discussed further below.

The 2019 changes are immediate and affect all child support proceedings.  Specifically, the law states that it “shall apply to all child support obligations, established or modified, as a part of any proceeding…regardless of when filed” (C.R.S. 14-10-115(1)(c)).  In other words, if you filed a divorce case two months ago, the current child support law, including all recent changes, affect your case (new law, not old law applies).  This could cause a multitude of difficulties for individuals facing potential underemployment claims.  For example, if you were not working at the time your case was filed because you were caring for a child twenty-five months of age, you would not have been considered voluntarily unemployed at the time the case was filed; but, due to recent statutory changes, you now could be considered voluntarily unemployed.  As the changes are very recent, it is yet to be seen how judges will take this into consideration, if at all.

Beyond the 2019 changes to the child support law, there are additional changes coming July 1, 2020.  One such change was to amend the description of adjustments to gross income, including the descriptions of the low income adjustments.  Most notably, the minimum monthly amount of child support, when the paying party’s monthly adjusted gross income was less than $1,100, was $50.  Starting July 1, 2020, when the paying party’s monthly adjusted gross income is less than $650, the minimum amount of child support is only $10 per month.  Starting July 1, 2020, the table of child support amounts will also be adjusted.

Additionally, starting July 1, 2020, the child support law codifies child support cases law regarding how support is calculated when there are two or more children subject to the child support calculation but each child has a different number of overnights with each parent.  Prior to this case, there was case law that explained how overnight parenting time should be calculated, but it was not clearly laid out in the law.  Starting July 1, 2020, the law will clarify the way to calculate the number of overnights.  Specifically, you will add together the number of overnights for each child, then divide that number by the number of children included on the worksheet.  For example, if a parent has 104 scheduled overnights per year with two out of the three children and 182 scheduled overnights per year with the other child, you would add up all the overnights (104+104+182) and divide by 3 to arrive at the number of overnights to use on the worksheet.  For this scenario, you would then run a child support worksheet for three children with the parent having the average,130, scheduled overnights per year. Continue reading

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law-education-series-3-1467430-300x226By: Stephen J. Plog

As July 1 soon approaches, it’s that time of year again when revisions to Colorado statutes often come into effect.  Family law statutes related to divorce, child custody, and child support are no exception to this phenomenon.   While things do not generally change too radically, even simple, nuanced changes can have an impact on family law cases.   In this blog post, I will discuss changes to the primary Colorado child support statute, C.R.S. 14-10-115, which go into effect in 2019.  Interestingly, the 2019 version of statute also references changes which will go into effect in 2020.  I will leave those changes to another blog post, to be drafted by one of our other attorneys, Jessica Saldin. Continue reading

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thread-1476487-300x194By:  Jessica A. Saldin

In a prior post I discussed the effect a long-term physical separation may have on your Colorado divorce case.  A physical separation is not a legal process and simply refers to a period of time when you and your spouse lived apart.  In contrast, though, there is a legal process- known as a legal separation- that can be pursued instead of a divorce.  A common question is how a legal separation differs from a divorce case.  

Procedurally, a divorce case and a legal separation case are very similar.  Both start with the filing of a petition and obtaining personal service over the other party.  Both cases start with an initial status conference and an order for mediation.  Ultimately, if the parties are not able to resolve the case by agreement, both a divorce and legal separation requiring a permanent orders hearing to let the judge make the ultimate decision regarding the various relevant issues.  Continue reading

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By: Johanna E. Blumenthal

Many people are reluctant, nervous, or even fearful of going to court. This is understandable because most people have never been to court and find the formal setting uncomfortable. Additionally going to court can be inconvenient to people who live far away from the courthouse (sometimes even out of state) or for people who have to take time off of work during the court’s business hours. Given the inconvenience of going to court, people often ask if they can just “file the papers.” In essence, what they want to know is whether it is possible to get divorced without going to court. 

In Colorado, you CAN get a divorce decree without ever stepping foot inside the courthouse.   If this is your goal, the most reliable way to ensure that you avoid ever going to court (and, in some cases, the only way) is for you and your spouse to consult with and work with attorneys.  Even if all necessary documents are filed and full agreement has been reached, the parties will still need to attend a quick, final hearing unless they have submitted what is a called an “affidavit for decree without appearance of parties.”   This document basically lets the court know that everything has been filed and asks the court to enter the divorce decree without anyone having to physically appear.  This Affidavit can only be used as a means to avoid court altogether if there are no minor children of the marriage or, if there are kids, both parties have attorneys representing them in the divorce.       Continue reading

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By: Michelle L. Searcy

In Part 1 of this article, I started venturing into comparing Colorado divorce laws with those of other states, as listed an online divorce article I came across.  I continue my interstate legal the journey in this Part 2, looking at other states and their laws compared to the ones I deal with on a daily basis in my role as a Colorado family law attorney.

While it is easy to marry in Nevada, Nevada divorces present more complexity.  However, annulments may be granted to parties “incapable of consenting to the marriage due to a lack of understanding.”  Colorado allows annulments on a very limited basis.  A Colorado court may declare a marriage invalid on one of the following bases: (1) lack of capacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol; (2) lack of physical capacity to consummate the marriage where the other party did not know of the lack of capacity; (3) an underage party did not have consent of parents or guardians; (4) one party entered the marriage in reliance upon a fraudulent act or representation going to the essence of the marriage; (5) a party entered into the marriage under duress; 6) one or both parties entered the marriage as a jest; or (7) the marriage is prohibit by law (such as situations where one of the parties is still married to another person).  While incestuous relationships fall into the last category, first cousins can marry in Colorado.   Continue reading

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school-kids-1561890-300x194By:  Stephen J. Plog

While we’ve written about this subject before, it’s been a while.  From time to time, safety or endangerment issues can arise in a child custody case.   These types of issues can range from one parent having a drug or alcohol problem which limits their ability to safely parent, to a parent engaging in emotionally or physical abusive behaviors.  In instances in which these types of safety issues present an immediate risk to the children such that there are concerns regarding their safety with one of the parents during their court ordered parenting time, Colorado statute offers an emergency remedy in the form of a Motion to Restrict Parenting Time pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129(4).

Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129(4), a motion to restrict parenting time can be filed if the children are in “imminent” physical or emotional danger.  “Imminent” means immediate and the court will be looking for acute and current concerns tied into the safety of the children.   Once a motion to restrict parenting time is filed, the parenting time for the accused parent ceases, unless supervised parenting time with a licensed mental health professional can be arranged.  In most cases, once the motion is filed, the court will do an initial review and will either enter an order upholding the statutory restrictions and requiring the setting of a hearing, or will deny the motion, usually based on a lack of information or allegations amounting to “imminent danger.”  If the motion is denied the process stops.  If the motion is granted, statute requires that a hearing be conducted within 14 days.   At that hearing, the party filing the motion will be expected to provide evidence supporting the raised allegations.

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courtroom-1-1236725-300x201By: Sarah T. McCain

When you start a family case, the first document that you will receive from the court is called the Case Management Order. This order often includes a Notice of Initial Status Conference. After working in this field for many years, I continue to be surprised by the number of individuals who simply receive these documents and set them aside, without even bothering to read them. Both documents provide important information that could be vital to ensuring that your case gets off on the right foot.  Failing to review and follow the CMO can potentially lead to negative results in your case.

First, the NOISC that you receive either provides a date in which you will meet with the court for the very first time or it provides the information on how to go about scheduling this very first meeting. This Initial Status Conference is required as part of the case, pursuant to statute, and it can only be vacated under very specific circumstances, such as when when the correct document (a Stipulated Case Management Plan) is filed to let the court know that this conference is not necessary. However, in most cases you will need to attend this conference.  Continue reading

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By Michelle L. Searcy

While browsing the news one morning, I recently came across an article discussing some “surprising” divorce laws throughout the country and wondered how those laws compare to Colorado laws on the same subjects.  This article, which will be posted in two parts, explores those comparisons.

In Arkansas, couples have the option to enter a strict “covenant marriage.”  If that option is chosen, getting a divorce becomes more difficult.  Those in a covenant marriage must attend marriage counseling and separate for a specific time period before a divorce will be granted.  Colorado does not require marriage counseling or any period of separation prior to filing for a divorce.  However, given the cost, stress and impact of divorce on the parties and the children, it may be worthwhile to attend marriage counseling to explore possibilities of reconciliation voluntarily

California law includes a statutory six month waiting period before a divorce will be final.  Colorado has a statutory waiting period too.  However, in Colorado, the court can enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage 91 days after service of the petition.  It is not unusual for divorce cases to take six months to one year to be finalized depending on the circumstances. Continue reading

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In my experience, nothing seems to annoy a judge more than being required to allocate who gets the personal property acquired during a marriage – TVs, beds, tables, paintings, etc. Accordingly, most attorneys tell their clients to try figure it out among themselves.  When valuing personal property in a divorce, unlike insurance valuations, courts generally use “garage sale” values to determine what tangible personal property is worth, and almost invariably, it’s not worth much. Keep in mind that courts are vested with discretion to divide marital property in a divorce as they deem to be fair.

Thus, when you are paying your attorney $250 – $350 per hour, arguing over who gets the 2 year old flat-screen or the used king-sized bedroom set, the divorcing couple needs to make a cost-benefit determination of whether a fight over a possession is financially worth it, or whether to just take a deep breath and buy a replacement item. Continue reading