Practice Areas (click each for details)
- Family Law
Family law (or domestic law)—the branch of law that deals with families—includes divorce (with or without children), parental-responsibility cases for the custody of children, adoption, end-of-life planning, dependency and neglect cases, some probate cases, and any other circumstance where the courts become involved with a family.
The goal of child-centered family law is to make sure that the children involved in a family law case have as much healthy access to each party as possible, and that the children (and clients) go through as little trauma as possible.
Adoption is the legal procedure for giving a non-biological parent all the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent. Two common types of adoption are kinship and stepparent (or second-parent) adoption. Adoptive parents submit to background checks and, in some cases, investigations of their home environments.
In kinship adoption, if biological parents have had their rights terminated or abandon their children, a family member can seek to adopt.
Stepparent (or second-parent) adoption is appropriate when an adoptive parent has a legal relationship (a marriage or civil union) with one biological parent and the other biological parent is unknown, has abandoned the child, or consents to the adoption.
Divorce is also known as Dissolution of Marriage. As well as ending a marriage and allowing remarriage, the purpose of a divorce is to determine the division of the couple's assets and debts and, if there are children, to establish how parental responsibilities shall be allocated.
In Colorado, a couple doesn't need a ceremony or a marriage license to be legally married. Some of the factors that prove a common-law marriage are the parties living together and “holding themselves out” as married. This means that the parties consider themselves to be married in public and in private. While common-law marriage is legal in Colorado, “common-law divorce” is not. Whether a marriage is common-law or based on a marriage license, a married couple must go through the courts to divorce.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
When two parties have children together without being married, either may seek the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. This term encompasses what many people think of as “legal custody” (decision making) and “physical custody” (parenting time), and also includes child support. Decision making refers to major medical and educational decisions. Parenting time is based on the number of overnights per year that a child spends with each parent.
Modifying Parental Responsibilities
Parental Responsibilities, whether established through a divorce or through an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities case, are not set in stone. Parents can seek to change parenting time, decision making, or both based on a change in circumstances and a court's determination of the child's best interests or whether the current situation endangers the child's health or well-being.
- Child Support
Establishing Child Support
Child support may be established in a divorce by an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities decision or through the juvenile courts (when one party works with Child Support Enforcement). Child support is based on several factors, including how many overnights the child spends with each party, the incomes of the parties, and expenditures on medical care and daycare.
Modifying Child Support
The amount a party pays in child support does not have to be permanent. It's wise to review child support amounts regularly for the benefit of both the paying parent and the child. The courts allow parties to modify their obligations whenever changing circumstances affect child support by 10% or more. Reasons to modify child support include, but are not limited to, changes in income, overnights, or medical or daycare costs.
- Contempt of Court
When someone disobeys court orders, they may be in contempt of court. The initiating party in contempt proceedings provides evidence of contempt and asks the court to remedy or punish the contempt. The defending party shows the court that there was no contempt or that the contempt was justified. Contempt cases in family law most often arise from nonpayment of child support or from one party not allowing the other the ordered parenting time.
- Grandparents' Rights
Colorado law offers broad protections for grandparents to maintain their relationships with their grandchildren.
After divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities, if the custodial parent prevents a grandparent from spending time with a grandchild, the courts can order that party to allow grandparent visitation.
- Dependency and Neglect
Dependency and Neglect (D&N) cases are initiated by the department of human services when they are provided with evidence that a child may not be adequately cared for.
In Dependency and Neglect cases, parents are often represented by court-appointed counsel, but there are exceptions. Special Respondents to a D&N may not be appointed representation and Respondents who are not indigent may not be provided with a lawyer. In some cases, parties may also be more comfortable with a private attorney who can spend more time on their case than a court-appointed lawyer.
- Estate Planning
Estate Planning and End of Life Planning include drafting wills and trusts, establishing Powers of Attorney, and preparing Living Wills.
Wills and trusts are important documents for parents and homeowners. Powers of Attorney and Living Wills allow family or friends to provide care for people when they are not able to make decisions for themselves.
When a loved one dies, the probate process (which can be very simple or very complex) ensures that the remaining estate is distributed according to the wishes of the deceased. Probate also resolves disputes among beneficiaries of the estate.