Boulder Family Law Attorney
Family law cases can be emotionally intense and personally challenging. At Dolan + Zimmerman LLP, our Boulder family law attorneys are skilled at assisting our clients through these difficult issues while working toward a resolution in an efficient and conscientious manner. Family law deals with all family and domestic relationships, including divorce, child custody, paternity issues, and corresponding financial issues. For assistance with your serious family law matter, contact our Boulder family law lawyer today.
We Handle All Aspects of Family Law
When working with you, we listen to you, ensure you are advised of the law, and advocate for your interests while seeking to find resolutions that are best for your family.
We are experienced in representing clients in all stages of family law proceedings, from the initial divorce or child custody proceeding through modifications, including alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration, and in litigation when necessary. Whichever path your case takes, we strive to obtain the outcome you desire in the most efficient manner possible.
We assist parties throughout Boulder and surrounding counties of Colorado with family law issues, including:
- Divorce and property division
- Establishment and modification of maintenance
- Parenting rights and responsibilities, including child custody
- Establishment and modification of child support
- Domestic violence and protection orders
If you need help with your child custody case, please reach out to our Boulder child custody lawyers today.
Types Of Family Law Cases We Handle
Divorce and Separation
There are few life events more impactful than divorce. Along with the emotional impact of separating a family, divorce carries important financial implications.
These are not issues that you can try to navigate alone. It is important to consult an experienced attorney to learn about your rights. From property division to maintenance and child support issues, we have experience handling many types of cases, including:
- Legal separation
- Common law marriage
- Same-sex marriage
One of the most contentious parts of a separation or divorce is child custody. Colorado’s phrase for child custody is parental responsibilities, and there are two types, physical and legal. Physical refers to custody or visitation rights, whereas legal refers to a parent’s right to make important life decisions on the child’s behalf. We can help make sure custody and parenting time are determined with your child’s best interests in mind and with as minimal stress as possible.
What Does “Best Interests of the Child” Mean?
The best interests of the child standard is used by Colorado courts to make child custody determinations. This standard requires courts to consider a wide range of factors when determining which parent should have primary custody of the child or children involved.
Some of the factors that may be considered under the best interests of the child standard include:
- The wishes of the child’s parents;
- The wishes of the child, if they are old enough to express a preference;
- The child’s relationship with each parent;
- Each parent’s ability to care for and meet the needs of the child;
- The stability of each home environment;
- Each parent’s mental and physical health;
- The presence or absence of domestic violence in each home;
- The ability of each parent to encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent; and
- Any history of substance abuse by either parent.
Based on these and other factors, courts will make a determination about which parent should have the primary parental responsibilities. In some cases, joint responsibility may be ordered, which means that both parents will share equally in the responsibility for raising their child. In other cases, one parent may be awarded sole responsibility, with visitation rights granted to the non-custodial parent.
Marital Asset Division
Colorado is not a community property state, which means that courts will not automatically assume that all assets acquired during the marriage should be divided evenly between divorcing spouses. Instead, Colorado courts use the principle of equitable distribution, meaning the courts determine property division in a way that is fair to both parties. However, fair doesn’t always mean equal.
Factors the court may look at include the following:
- Each spouse’s earning capacity
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage (including child-rearing and homemaking)
- Any debts or disparities in income or earning capacity between the spouses
- Whether either spouse contributed to the other spouse’s education or training
- The standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
As for separate property, courts generally view this as belonging to the spouse who acquired it and will not divide it between the parties. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if the separate property has increased in value during the marriage due to the joint efforts of both spouses (such as improving a family home), then it may be subject to division in a divorce.
We can help you determine what that means in your case and advocate for a fair distribution.
Spousal maintenance, also often referred to as alimony, is the financial support that is ordered by the court for a spouse after divorce. The purpose of spousal maintenance is to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient or to maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage. Maintenance is awarded in many cases; however, it is not automatic.
In Colorado, there are two types of spousal maintenance: temporary and permanent.
Temporary spousal maintenance is financial support that is paid by one spouse to the other during the pendency of the divorce action. The purpose of temporary spousal maintenance is to allow both parties to maintain their pre-divorce lifestyle and to prevent a party from becoming impoverished during the divorce process. The amount of temporary spousal maintenance and the duration of the payments are both decided by the court on a case-by-case basis.
Permanent spousal maintenance is financial support that is ordered by the court after the divorce has been finalized. The purpose of permanent spousal maintenance is to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient or maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage. There are statutory guidelines in Colorado that courts must use when determining whether to award permanent spousal maintenance and, if so, how much to award.
These statutory guidelines take into account factors such as:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and physical condition of each spouse
- The financial resources of each spouse
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- The educational background of each spouse
- The vocational skills of each spouse
- The employability of each spouse
- The custodial arrangement for any minor children
- The tax consequences associated with an award of spousal maintenance
Child support will typically be an issue in any divorce case that involves children. According to Colorado statute, children are entitled to appropriate financial support from each parent. This is true even if one partner does not have physical or legal custody. Income is the most significant factor when determining if one parent will pay monthly child support and what the amount will be. Other factors, such as the visitation schedule and the number of children, can also impact the calculation.
When Can Child Support Be Modified in Colorado?
In general, child support orders can be modified every three years or if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances” since the last order was issued. A substantial change could be a significant increase or decrease in income, a change in custody arrangement, or an increase in the cost of living.
If you and the other parent agree on the terms of the modification, you can submit your agreement to the court for approval. If you do not agree, you will need to file a Motion to Modify and appear before a judge at a hearing.
What Happens at a Motion to Modify Hearing?
At the hearing, both parents will have an opportunity to present evidence and witnesses in support of their position. This could include tax returns, pay stubs, or bank statements. The judge will also consider testimony from both parents.
After reviewing all the evidence, the judge will decide whether to grant the modification. If so, the judge will issue an amended order specifying the new terms of child support.
We will use our extensive experience in handling these cases to help you establish, modify, and enforce child support orders.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Before or after marriage, some couples desire to make agreements that explain how property and debts will be divided, whether maintenance will be paid, and if each person will pay their own attorney’s fees should their relationship end in divorce. We can talk about your options and the best way to structure any agreement to ensure it is legally effective.
Pros and Cons of a Prenup
There are several reasons why you might want to consider a prenuptial agreement. If you have significant assets or property, you may want to protect your ownership rights in the event of a divorce. If you have children from a previous relationship, you may want to make sure they inherit your property. And if you are entering into a second marriage, you may want to make sure that your first spouse is provided for in the event of your death.
Additionally, if you own a business, signing a prenup can help ensure that your business remains yours in the event of a divorce. Without a prenup, your spouse could end up with half of your business, which could be disastrous for you both financially and emotionally.
Finally, a prenup can save you time and money in the event of a divorce. If you have a prenuptial agreement in place, it can act as a roadmap for how to divide your assets in the event of a divorce. This can save you and your spouse a lot of time, energy, and money that would otherwise be spent on protracted negotiations or court battles.
While there are many good reasons to get a prenuptial agreement, there are also some potential downsides that you should be aware of. First, drafting a prenuptial agreement can be expensive and time-consuming. You and your future spouse will need to hire attorneys and possibly other experts to help you value assets and determine how they should be divided in the event of a divorce.
Second, some people feel that creating a prenuptial agreement can put a damper on their wedding plans. If you’re already feeling stressed about planning your wedding, adding another item to your to-do list can be overwhelming.
Third, drafting a prenuptial agreement can be emotionally charged and can cause tension between you and your future spouse. You’ll need to have open and honest conversations about your finances and your expectations for the marriage. This can be difficult for some couples who are used to keeping their finances separate.
A prenuptial agreement is not just for the rich and famous. It can be beneficial for anyone who wants to protect their assets and safeguard their future. If you are getting married, take some time to talk to an experienced family law attorney about whether a prenup makes sense for you and your fiancé.
Protective Orders in Colorado
A protective order is a legally enforceable document that requires the person named in the order to stay a certain distance away from the person seeking the protection.
How Do I Get a Protective Order?
The first step in getting a protective order is to file a petition with the court. The petition must include specific information about the abuse you have suffered, such as the dates and types of incidents. Once the petition has been filed, a judge will review it to determine whether to issue a temporary protective order. If a temporary order is issued, there will be a hearing within two weeks where both parties can present evidence and testimony. At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a permanent protective order.
A court can issue a protective order that prohibits any contact between the restrained person and the protected individuals (or their children). Prohibited conduct or contact often includes contacting the protected individual (even through a third party), harassing, injuring, intimidating, stalking, and threatening or harming them.
It can also prohibit entering or remaining on the premises of the family home and coming within a specified distance of a protected person or premises.
A protective order in Colorado can also prohibit any digital contact between the restrained person and the protected individuals. Digital contact includes any interaction or communication with the protected person, directly or indirectly, including electronic and digital forms of communication. This includes phone calls, emails, text messages, and social media platforms, such as Twitter direct messages, Snapchat Instagram, etc.
Why You Need a Boulder Family Law Attorney
Dealing with family law matters is always a troubling time, and navigating the legal details of these situations is tricky and often frustrating. It is highly recommended to seek professional representation and let a family law attorney handle your case. That way, you have peace of mind knowing that the legal aspects are handled appropriately, giving you the freedom to focus on the challenges you and your family are facing.
The divorce process may appear simple at first but can quickly turn complicated. For instance, the proceedings can seem matter-of-fact, but properly drafting legal documents regarding support, custody, and division of assets is difficult to accomplish on your own. An experienced Boulder divorce lawyer can handle the legal work with relative ease, even if complications arise.
Furthermore, a Boulder family law attorney has a deep understanding of the formulas used and how calculations are made by the Colorado courts to determine support. Based on that knowledge, they can determine an adequate amount of child support or spousal maintenance, as well as verify the accuracy of the proposed payouts. If they are too high, they will negotiate a reduction in payments, and similarly, if it is too low, they will fight for your right to further compensation.
Understanding the Colorado Divorce Process
The divorce process takes a minimum of 91 days in Colorado, starting from the filing of the initial petition. However, it can take longer or shorter depending on your specific circumstances. Proceedings can be delayed if there are disputed issues, for instance, related to asset division or child custody. Every case is different, but here is a general timeline for a Colorado divorce.
- Initial filing and service. Before filing for divorce, you must be a Colorado resident for at least 91 days. To begin the divorce process, one of the parties must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. Once your spouse is served, the 91-day waiting period begins until the court decides on your request for divorce.
- Response. Your spouse has the opportunity to file a response to the petition within 21 days of being served. Those served outside of the state of Colorado have 35 days to respond.
- Financial disclosure and initial status conference. Within 42 days from the initial filing date, you and your spouse must submit your respective financial information to the court. This deadline can be extended with the court’s permission. Within this timeframe, both parties are also mandated by law to attend the initial status conference (ISC), which will be your first appearance in front of a judge.
- Temporary orders. The court may issue temporary orders regarding spousal support, child support, temporary use of the marital home, attorney fees, and other relevant issues.
- Settlement efforts. Both parties must engage in required mediation to attempt to resolve the divorce case amicably. If you settle your case at mediation, a stipulated agreement can be created that the court can approve as a final order. On the other hand, if you cannot successfully resolve your disputes, the case will move to trial. Going through divorce litigation will typically extend the process by over a year.
- Final hearing. The final hearing will be scheduled after the 91 days or later. The attorneys for each side will present evidence, call witnesses, and make their arguments. The court will make permanent orders regarding support, asset division, custody, parenting time, and other unresolved issues. The judge or magistrate will then grant a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Generally, the more you and your spouse compromise and work together to settle family matters, the faster you can finalize your divorce and move on with your lives.
What You Can Expect A Boulder Family Law Attorney From Us
We will handle all the legal work involved in your family law matter, which can include:
- Discuss your case and goals, assess your options with a strategic eye, and stand your ground.
- Calculating the proper amount of support you are entitled to in an agreement.
- Drafting custody or property agreements, filling out and filing divorce forms, financial statements, and any other necessary legal forms.
- Explaining and representing you throughout the mediation process, assessing any settlement opportunities, and informing you of potential benefits or pitfalls. Additionally, we can assist with drafting a binding agreement between you and your ex.
- Helping you resolve child custody disputes by agreement or in the courtroom.
- Successfully negotiating a divorce settlement that is fair and equitable.
Each family law situation is unique. Contact us today to talk about your specific needs with a Boulder family law attorney.