Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
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people-1458971-300x226By: Plog & Stein, P.C.

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: Plog & Stein, P.C.

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.  

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magnifying-glass-1415592By: Plog & Stein, P.C.

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: Plog & Stein, P.C.

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