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

empty-pocket-1-1536707In Part 1 of this article, I wrote generally about the consequences of not paying Colorado child support. In this Part 2, I will discuss in more detail what a private attorney can specifically do to enforce a child support order, including contempt, garnishments, judgment liens, and garnishment of bank accounts. As I emphasized in the last article, if you’ve been ordered to pay child support for your children, it is not an obligation you should get behind on because the consequences can be severe.

The most commonly used enforcement technique when child support is not paid is contempt of court, pursuant to Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 107.  Under Rule 107, consequences can include up to a 180 day jail sentence and/or a fine for every child support violation.  These are called “punitive sanctions” and are designed to purely to punish for noncompliance.   “Remedial sanctions” can also be sought as part of contempt proceedings, including the paying of attorney fees.  With remedial contempt, there is still the possibility of jail if the court determines an obligor continues to violate the child support order while having the present ability to pay it. Continue reading

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By: Stephen J. Plog

stock-photo-42542538-hints-tips-keys-mean-guidance-and-adviceDivorce is nothing to be entered into lightly.  It takes a lot of thought, as well as emotional preparation.    As with anything else important in life, the divorce process can also entail a fair amount of strategy and planning.   In Part 1 of this post, I touched upon a couple of topics, documentation and protection of passwords, tied into things you might do as part of preparation for your Colorado divorce.  In this Part 2, I will discuss additional tips to consider when contemplating or facing a divorce.


SOCIAL MEDIA:   In this day and age of digital communication and persona, it’s not uncommon for people going through a divorce or custody case to have one form of social media page or another, whether Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or others I’m probably too old or un-hip to be aware of.   The moment you start thinking about divorce, particularly if you have children, you should take an inventory of your on-line presence and clean up anything that might have a chance of hurting you in court.   Pursuant to Colorado Rules of Evidence, Rule 801, your statements can be used against you by your spouse in court.  This includes things you post on the internet.  I have dealt with an array of cases over the years in which things such as Facebook pages have become an issue, and evidence.   Bashing your spouse on line or sharing your thoughts about him or her as a parent can potentially damage your custody case.   Pictures of wild partying can, too.   Likewise, sharing your thoughts or plans related to finances, or perhaps your spending habits, could also lead to negative inferences being drawn by a court regarding your motivations on certain issues.   Moreover, sharing your every thought on line might alert your spouse as to your strategy or wishes, thereby giving him or her an advantage when it comes to court or negotiations.  To be safe, take down any and all posts related to divorce, custody, or any behaviors that could be construed as negative.  Additionally, you should block your spouse from all accounts or pages.  In fact, you should make all pages, such as Facebook, private, at least for the time being, and only allow those in who you can trust with 100% certainly.  As they say in the movies, “anything you say can, and will be used against you.”  On the flip side of this topic, if you believe your spouse’s social media pages have anything of value on them, copy away, and preserve those records (presuming you have legal access to them). They might come in handy for both you and your divorce attorney. Continue reading

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By:  Sarah T. McCain

stock-illustration-31986884-hashtag-on-blackboardIn this day and age, social media, in one form or another, is ever most lives.  Across the age spectrum, a  a lot of interactions that take place via social media.  As with anything else, it comes with both good and the bad.  The use of social media creates an additional realm to be looked at when it comes to litigating Colorado divorce and custody cases.   It’s important to realize that the posts you make on social media may have an impact on your  family law proceedings.  In this article, we will go over those items, as well as look at what technology and social media provisions you may want to incorporate into your divorce or custody agreement.

First, it is important to take a mental inventory of  your social media tendencies when entering into a Denver family law case.  If you are the type of poster who puts it all out there on social media, be warned that this may be viewed unfavorably by the court if your posts are negative, risqué, or are considered to be disparaging of the other party.  You may believe that your postings are separate from the children (if any) in your case, but courts tend to believe that these negative beliefs and statements do not co-exist solely in a bubble on social media.  Courts tend to believe that the emotions displayed on social media are not kept solely in the social media world and that they can spill over into emotions or feelings which could be shared with your child.  You may also want to consider limiting the pool of individuals who see your posts and removing or blocking those that may report back to the other party. Continue reading

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stock-photo-87360451-two-hands-holding-jigsaw-pieces-to-finish-house-shape-puzzleBy: Jessica A. Bryant

One common question that arises when people are contemplating a Colorado divorce, or entering into a marriage and wanting to protect themselves for the future, is how to make sure their spouse can’t get their pre-marital or other separate property items in a divorce.

Separate property takes several different forms, including:

– Property obtained by gift or inheritance (ex: trust funds, funds received from a deceased relative, real estate received by inheritance, funds provided by gift, etc.);

– Property obtained in exchange for property owned prior to the marriage or property received by gift or inheritance (ex: trading in a car you had before the marriage for a new car, using funds from the sale of a home obtained by inheritance to purchase a new home, etc.);

– Property obtained after a decree of legal separation is entered (if you go the route of seeking a legal separation instead of a divorce, once you get that decree, property you acquire is considered separate);

– Property agreed to be separate by valid agreement of the Parties (i.e., pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements but the statute specifies the agreement must be valid so it is advised you consult with a Colorado divorce attorney before entering into and relying on such agreements to ensure validity) Continue reading

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By Curtis Wiberg

batch-of-dollars-1239377If you’ve been ordered to pay child support for your children, it’s not an obligation you should get behind on.   When it comes to ensuring that child support is paid, Colorado law is not messing around, and the consequences can be quite severe.  Those consequences can range from complete financial ruin to the loss of your freedom, up to 180 days at a time.    In Part 1 of this posting, I will touch on some of those consequences you might face.   Part 2 will be reserved for the broader and more severe reach attorneys may have to enforce a child support order.  I will also educate my readers regarding the long arm of the government as relates to child support debt.  Sometimes you may have both the government and a private attorney coming after you.   Again, the system as a whole takes child support seriously.  You should, too.

The financial consequences alone for not paying child support can persist long past your children becoming adults.  Under Colorado statute, your monthly child support obligation is treated as an individual judgment for every month in which it’s not paid.  That judgment then allows the parent receiving support (the “obligee”) to execute the full range of collection options normally available to a creditor, as well as other options only available for support judgments.

Unlike other judgments that collect 8% annual simple interest, child support judgments collect 12% interest per year, compounded monthly. See C.R.S. § 14-14-106. Furthermore, the statute of limitations to collect on child support judgments is 20 years.  It is possible, because of the compounding interest, for a person who only owes $200 per month and who skips out of paying child support for ten or more years, to end up owing over $100,000, even though the principal balance is a small fraction of that.  In fact, we have litigated cases in which $100,000 or less in principal turns into $400,000 or more.  Once that judgment is in tact, wages can be garnished up to 65% of the obligor’s after-tax income.   This can be financially crippling to anyone, and the law generally doesn’t care. Continue reading

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By:  Sarah T. McCain

goal-1549525I recently ran across news article on the internet which briefly told the story of a family juggling the often difficult balancing act of activities and custody.  In that family’s story, though not told in detail, the judge had issued a one year ban on the minor child’s participation in golf, a sport in which she excelled.   In fact, her level of excellence was such that she was already gaining the attention of the professional golf world and various coaches.  Her father had been her coach and presumably the parent who took her to tournaments and oversaw her training.   The one year ban resulted from a disagreement between the parents as to her ongoing participation in the sport and its impact on parenting time.

My initial human, non-legal reaction was shock and anger for the little girl.  I get a judge potentially punishing parents for bad behavior, but not a 10 year old girl with so much promise. It’s clear that the only one who is suffering from the court’s ruling and the on-going disagreement is the minor child.   As an attorney, I disagree with the judge’s ruling and believe it is not in a child’s best interest to ban her from engaging in a sport which is clearly important to her and something she loves.   The article raised questions for me about each of the parents and which one was to blame, if not both, for the legal conflict.  I also know the article may have raised many questions for those who read it related to how judges in Colorado deal with activities, including their impact on parenting time and finances. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of this issue so that your child is not caught in the middle of a difficult situation. Continue reading

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By:  Stephen J. Plog

check-list-1150080With nearly two decades of Colorado family law practice under my belt, I have seen and heard almost anything and everything imaginable related to divorce and custody cases.   This includes stories from cases or clients concerning various bad behaviors on the part of the other party, and sometimes my own clients.   Those bad behaviors might be financial in nature, such as canceling an insurance policy or draining an account.   They might be child related, such as one spouse neglecting the kids or failing to assist with school work.  Of course, I have also heard things much worse.   Often times, the stories I hear stem from the time period prior to a divorce case being filed.  In some instances, the damage can be undone.  In some, it cannot.

Not all divorce cases contain sinister allegations or behaviors and some can be fairly routine.   A fair amount of cases settle relatively easily.  A fair amount do not.  In either scenario, it’s important to keep in mind that approaching the divorce process strategically and with self interest in mind matters.    This includes not only while the case is pending, but in the months or weeks prior to filing.

In most cases, the proverbial trail of bread crumbs indicating to one or both spouses that a divorce is looming is there.   Signs that there is trouble ahead can materialize months before hand, yet few people really start taking steps to protect themselves or ready themselves for the process until they are in it.   From a legal strategy standpoint, wouldn’t it make sense to be ahead of the game?  Below are some pre-divorce and early-process tips to help you throughout your case in terms of day to day functionality, for your protection, and when it comes time to either settle or go to court. Continue reading

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stock-photo-86429759-recovery-word-cloud-conceptBy Jessica A. Bryant

One significant area of concern in some Colorado custody cases is that of addiction.   More often than you might realize, allegations arise regarding drug and/or alcohol abuse by one or both parents.  When these issues arises, there are a variety of considerations, including, how to prove them, how to defend against them, and other considerations when fashioning a parenting plan.

  1. Proof: When concerns arise that the other parent in your Colorado custody case may abuse alcohol and/or drugs, it is not enough to simply appear at court and tell the judge or magistrate you have concerns regarding substance abuse.   You must be able to prove to the judicial officer that there is a problem. If the other parent has a criminal record related to drug or alcohol use (possession, driving under the influence, etc.), there are ways to obtain proof of their criminal history to provide to the court.  This can include getting records directly from the criminal case or logging onto various websites which list not only criminal charges, but also the disposition of those charges in the criminal court.

If there is no documented history of drug or alcohol abuse, you may need to request the appointment of an expert. Common types of appointed experts in custody cases are Child and Family Investigators (CFI’s) and Parental Responsibilities Evaluators (PRE’s). While CFI’s cannot complete substance abuse evaluations, they can request that either or both parents undergo drug and/or alcohol testing. For example, a hair follicle test can detect certain drugs back, approximately 90 days. You could also request, or the CFI or PRE could recommend, that one or both parents undergo an independent substance abuse evaluation. This is an evaluation completed by a trained professional, generally a Certified Addictions Counselor (CACIII), to determine whether key features of abuse are present in an individual. While a CFI/PRE conducts a comprehensive evaluation related to overall custody recommendations, a substance abuse evaluator evaluates only on the issue of substance abuse. Continue reading

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law-education-series-2-1467427By:  Sarah McCain

In this day and age of on-line, check-the-box divorce forms, the general public is often left with the impression that handling a Colorado divorce case on their own is an easy process.   Sometimes it can be, such as when the parties agree on each and every issue (though I recommend always consulting with an attorney to make sure the i’s are dotted and the tee’s are crossed).   However, there are also instances in which people choose to represent themselves in contested Colorado divorce cases.   In these instances, people often go into the courtroom believing that somehow the court is going to guide them through the process or that they will be given certain breaks or concessions because they don’t have an attorney.   This is just not true.   I have had many cases in which the other party chooses to go to trial without a lawyer.    They are generally shocked to learn that the judge will hold them to the same standard as an attorney regarding procedure and rules of evidence.

When you file a divorce or custody case, or a modification, with the court, the paperwork that you receive from the Court (generally a Case Management Order) will often set forth deadlines and standards of practice.  A party without an attorney may wonder what this means for him or her and may fail to grasp all of the deadlines that exist. Unfortunately, there is not an easy-to-read manual which lays out everything that needs to be done, and when.  The Court does its best at advising parties to the extent allowed.  However, in complicated financial or parenting time matters, the basic information given by the court may not be enough to formulate an understanding of what really is required or needed to effectively litigate. Continue reading

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stock-photo-34813364-mother-and-daughter-talking-with-counselor-during-family-counseling-sessionBy:  Curtis Wiberg

One of the most emotional issues in a contested Colorado divorce occurs when the parties do not agree on what parenting arrangements are in the best interests of the child/children.  The concerns one parent may have about the other parent and how that concern affects the well-being of the children can be hard to prove to the Court. For these reasons, Colorado enacted two separate statutes authorizing a Court to appoint an expert to look into the family situation and make recommendations to the Court as to what is in a child’s best interest, both as to decision making (legal custody) and parenting time (visitation).

One statute (C.R.S. § 14-10-116.5) authorizes the appointment of a Child Family Investigator (CFI). In essence, a CFI is a neutral, third person charged with the duty of investigation the best interest of the children and submitting a written report, with recommendations, to the court.   A CFI is often-times a lawyer, but sometimes a mental health professional.  An advantage of using a CFI is the cost, as the fees are statutorily capped at $2,750, except in extraordinary circumstances, and are usually split between the parties.  CFI’s can be used both before final orders and after, such as in a modification situation.  In post-decree divorce cases or in custody cases, if one party is indigent, the Court can authorize the state to pay that person’s portion of the CFI’s fees.   A CFI’s investigation usually involves interviewing each parent alone, a home visit with the parent and child/children, a review of the pleadings, an interview with the child if they are old enough, a review of any questionnaire the CFI provides the parent, and interviews with any collateral witnesses like extended family, teachers, or therapists. Directives prepared by the Colorado Supreme Court govern the conduct of the CFI to ensure an unbiased and thorough investigation that is well documented, among other things.  The CFI then prepares a report of his or her findings and submits recommendations to the court on decision-making, parenting time, holiday parenting time, and if appropriate, recommendations for counseling or lifestyle changes for either or both parties. Continue reading