Develop a Divorce Plan to Keep the Goal in Mind

Divorce is a difficult journey. Have a plan for life after divorce.

Divorce is a difficult journey. Have a plan for life after divorce.

Divorce is a difficult journey–don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It doesn’t matter whether the divorce is “uncontested” or “simple;”  it doesn’t matter how good your lawyer is; it doesn’t matter how free from blame from the breakup of the marriage you perceive yourself to be–divorce is always going to be difficult.  Whether you were the spouse who sought the divorce or not.

Sometimes along the journey of divorce, we get caught up in various battles of the day and we lose focus on the ultimate goal. Sometimes it seems the most important thing is the process of ending the marriage:  filing for divorce, gathering documents, mediation, preparing for hearings and trial, and getting it over with!  At other times, the most important thing is getting out of the painful relationship and away from your spouse as quickly as possible.  Others may seek revenge by using the system to punish their spouse for hurtful or abusive behaviors.  The most important thing to focus on, however, is the ultimate goal, the finish line:  life after divorce.

Whether you wanted the divorce or not, whether you feel you have been wronged by your spouse or not, no matter how complex the process may seem, your main focus needs to be your life after divorce.

1.  Make a plan.  Early on in the divorce process–even before separation, if possible–you need to develop a plan of how you are going to live after divorce.  Visualize yourself as single again.

Where will you live? Can you afford to live in the same home you share with your spouse?  If you need to move, what kind of home do you need?  A house?  An apartment?  Will you need to rent for a while or will you be able to buy a home right away?

How will you support yourself financially?  If you are not employed, what kind of job will you seek?  How much income will you need?  Will your spouse be required to pay you child support or alimony to offset your expenses, or will you be required to pay your spouse?  Will your current income, plus or minus child support or alimony, be enough to support you in the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed?

If you have children, how will they been cared for?  Do you foresee the children living with you most of the time, living with the other parent, or do you anticipate sharing custody and parenting time?  If you work, how will the children get to and from school?  Will your work allow you time off to take the children to the doctor?  Will the children need a babysitter?  Are there any family members or friends nearby who would be willing and able to watch the children?  Keep in mind that being a single parenting is usually more challenging than being a married parent.

2.  Be realistic.  Life after divorce–no matter how attractive it seems when you are stuck in an unhappy marriage–will not be a cake walk.  Remove your rose-colored glasses.  Be realistic about your situation, your capabilities and limitations.  Discuss your plans with friends, relatives, and your lawyer.  Seek honest feedback from those you trust.  Do your friends think your goals and plans are achievable and realistic?

Your plan will be dependent on the law as applied to the facts of your case.  In order to formulate a plan, you will need to know how the courts would likely rule on the facts of your case.  Thus, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney early on.

3.  Be flexible.  No matter how good your plan is, it must be flexible.  You must be able to adapt to unforeseeable situations.  If your plan includes keeping the house and having full custody of the children, how will you adapt if the judge awards the home to your spouse, or if you have to share custody?  What if your spouse’s child support is higher than you anticipated?  What if you lose your job? What if it turns out your expenses are more than you anticipated?

If you are inflexible, then you will perceive any setback–whether great or small–as a major defeat.  If your plan is rigid, you will never be happy with the result of the divorce, even if you are awarded 95% of what you set out to achieve.

Remember the goal: a happy life after divorce.  Make a plan for the future:  be as detailed as possible.  Make sure your vision of the future is realistic and achievable.  Always be flexible because your plans will need to change as your situation changes.

If you need help formulating your plan for life after divorce, call me.  Set up your free thirty-minute consultation today.

How Property Division in Divorce Works

prop-divWhen parties get divorced, all property acquired during the marriage must be divided between them.  Property division is one of the most important issues in a marriage dissolution. There are all types of property that have to be distributed, including real estate, automobiles, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, employment benefits, furniture, recreational vehicles, and personal effects.

Property division is a three step process:

1.  Setting Aside Separate Property.  The first thing that the parties or the court must do is to set aside each parties’ separate property.  Generally speaking, separate property consists of all property owned by a person before they are married, together with property they received during the marriage by gift or inheritance.  Any property exchanged for separate property is also separate property, provided that the exchange can be traced.  Any property received after a decree of separation is separate property.  The characterization of property as separate or marital is very important because the court cannot award one spouses’ separate property to the other spouse.  Some exceptions apply, so if you have any questions, you should consult with an attorney.

2.  Valuation.  Once the separate property is set aside, the next step is to determine the value of the remaining marital property.

Property is valued as of the date of divorce or the date of the hearing to divide the property, whichever occurs first.  It is easy to determine the value of some items of property.  For instance, we can easily determine the value of shares of stock by the stock exchange price on the date of divorce.  The value of other items of property is much more subjective.  It may be necessary to obtain a formal opinion of value from a professional appraiser.  Different people may have widely different views on the value of property.  In one divorce I handled, the wife’s expert valued the husband’s business at two million dollars, while the husband’s expert valued it at zero.  Ultimately, the judge will decide how much the property is worth.  Each party must be prepared to assert what they believe the property is worth, and to prove that value with appropriate experts and sources.

3.  Equitable Division.  Once the separate property has been set aside and the marital property has been valued, it is time to distribute the marital property between the parties.  Marital property does not have to be divided equally.  Rather, the court will make an equitable division of the property, as it deems is just consider all facts and circumstances, including several facts set forth in the law.  The court has wide discretion to determine what is fair in each case.

It is technically incorrect to say “I am entitled to half of ‘X’.”  You are entitled to a fair portion of ‘X.’  That could be exactly one-half of ‘X,’ it could be more than half, or it could be less than half.  This is why it is important for you to be prepared to persuade the judge why it is fair for you to receive the portion of property you are seeking.

Property division is both simple and complex.  The general rules are simple.  The application of the facts and exceptions to the rules is complex.  It is important to have the right attorney advise and advocate on your behalf so that you can truly receive a fair portion of the marital property.  Call Kirk Garner today for a free consultation.

Divorce in the News: Stay-at-Home Parents Are At Financial Risk During Divorce

A very interesting article in the Huffington Post this morning, written by divorce lawyer Beverly Willett, entitled, “Are Stay-At-Home Parents At Financial Risk During Divorce?“  Willett writes,

In practical terms, if the breadwinner leaves, the first risk faced is lack of immediate access to funds. Even if you have a joint bank account, your spouse might decide to open a new one in which to deposit paychecks. Joint stock or savings accounts may require joint approval for withdrawals. This could leave stay-at-home parents hostage for money until they are able to secure a temporary order of support as well as funds with which to defend themselves. For that, they’ll undoubtedly need to hire an attorney and pay a retainer, unless the lawyer is willing to wait.

Indeed, the non-working spouse is at the greatest risk when the divorce was not anticipated.  Unfortunately, most states have adopted no-fault divorce grounds, permitting one spouse to the union to seek divorce unilaterally, regardless of the other spouse’s wishes.  In Colorado, the cause of the breakup of the marriage is not admissible in the divorce.  Courts will not consider which spouse is at fault when weighing how to divide property “equitably.”  The benefits the innocent spouse expected to receive from the continuation of the marriage are not deemed relevant, even when it comes to the award of spousal maintenance.  Willett continues,

The financial risk stay-at-home parents face when it comes to alimony is even more troubling. When no-fault was instituted, permanent alimony awarded to spouses who had given up their careers to become stay-at-home parents began to fall out of favor, permanent alimony being deemed incompatible with the clean break idea behind no-fault.

Read the entire article.

For the time being, Colorado does make provision for spousal maintenance, otherwise known as alimony.  If you are an innocent spouse or stay-at-home parent, call the Law Office of Kirk Garner to set up a consultation to discuss your eligibility to receive alimony.

Testifying in Court

The judge weighs the witness's credibility.

The judge weighs the witness’s credibility.

It can be a scary and intimidating experience to testify in court.  Most people don’t have to testify in court very often.  It is okay to be nervous.  Most people are nervous when they testify.

To some extent, testifying in court is uncomfortable because it is unnatural:  Witnesses can’t just come into the courtroom, talk directly to the judge or jury, and say whatever they want.  Rather, they have to answer questions posed by a lawyer, while the judge and jury listen to the exchange.

If you are being called as a witness it is either because you are a party in the case or one of the attorneys believes you have important information that the judge or jury needs to consider in making a decision.  Whenever I am preparing a witness to testify, I give them the following instructions:

1.  Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  It is very important that you tell the truth, to the best of your ability.

2.  Listen to the Question.  Make sure you understand the question.  If you don’t understand the question, or if the question is vague, ask for clarification.  Without being difficult, you may ask, “If you’re asking my ‘X,’ then my answer is ‘Y.’”

3.  Answer the Question.  Don’t answer the question you wish the lawyer had asked you, answer the question that was asked.  Answer only the question asked, without adding information or making commentary.

4.  If the question calls for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, then answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

5.  On the rare occasion when you can’t answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ then say so.

6.  Even when you are asked a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, it may be more clear for you to answer, ‘that is correct’ or ‘that is not correct.’  Lawyers don’t always frame questions precisely.  For example, if you are asked, “You did not go to work on Monday, isn’t that true?”  You answer, “No.”  Are you testifying, “No, I did not go to work,” or is it, “No, it is not true that I did not go to work?”  If you answer, “That is correct,” then everybody will understand what you mean.

7.  Don’t argue.  The lawyer asking you questions may be rude or insulting.  She may insinuate things that upset you.  Nevertheless, do not become argumentative.  This is not your turn to ask questions.  This is not time to have a conversation with the lawyer or anybody else.

8.  Don’t get smart.  When you are on the witness stand, it is not time to crack jokes or be witty.  This is not the time to hurl insult or make snide comments.  The judge or jury is watching your demeanor and body language, and they will judge your credibility–whether they think you are telling the truth.  It is common in trials for two witnesses to give conflicting testimony: the judge or jury must decide whom to believe.  If you make inappropriate comments, your testimony may be disregarded.

9.  Don’t cop an attitude when the other lawyer is asking questions.  Give your spouse’s attorney (or the other side’s attorney) the same respect that you showed when your own attorney was asking questions.

10.  Don’t get defensive.  Don’t assume the questioner is trying to trap you.  Don’t infer a bad motive.  The lawyer asking you questions may or may not be trying to imply something by the manner of the questions being asked.  Your job is not to be defensive, it is to answer the question.

11.  Don’t look for clues or an answer from the lawyer or the audience.  Only one witness may testify at a time.  When you are on the witness stand, you are the only person who may answer the question.  Don’t look to your spouse or anyone in the audience to help you remember something.

12.  If you don’t remember, say so.  ‘I don’t recall’ is always the right answer if you genuinely don’t recall.  If you claim you don’t recall something you should be able to remember, it may appear you are lying.

13.  Don’t speculate or guess.  Again, if you don’t remember, don’t try to recreate your memory.  Don’t be talked into a false memory.  If you didn’t see something or didn’t hear it, if you could have personal knowledge of something, then say so.

14.  Your own lawyer (or in most cases the lawyer who called you to testify if you are not one of the parties) generally must ask you open-ended questions:  Who?  What?  Why?  When?  How?  The fact that the question is open-ended does not give you the right to go on and on with your testimony.  Give a concise answer if possible.  It is easier for the lawyer to ask another question if she wants more information than it is for her to stop you when you are giving too much information.  Just make sure your answer is not misleading.

15.  The other side’s lawyer, or the lawyer who did not call you to testify if you are not a party, may generally ask close-ended questions that call for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  This is called ‘leading the witness’ because the lawyer is stating the facts and merely asking the witness to affirm or deny those facts.  “Isn’t it true that ‘X’?”  “It was cloudy that day, wasn’t it?”  You may feel that your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is misleading.  You may feel the need to explain yourself.  This is not the time to do that.  If you try to explain your answers, the lawyer asking questions may object and ask that you be directed to simply answer the question.  If your attorney feels it would be helpful for you to explain your answers, he may ask you when it is his time to do so.  Until then, answer the question you have been asked.

16.  During your testimony, a lawyer might object.  Something like, “Objection Your Honor, calls for speculation.”  When a lawyer makes an objection, stop talking.  Do not answer the question until you are told to do so.  Generally speaking, if the judge sustains the objection, you will not be allowed to answer the question.  If the judge overrules the objection, you will be allowed to answer.  In any case, the best thing you can do is sit quietly until you are told to answer the question or the lawyer asks you another question.

17.  Sometimes the judge will address you directly.  She may ask you are question or give you an instruction.  Listen carefully to what the judge is saying and answer the question or follow the instruction.  Judges can get quite upset when witnesses refuse to follow their instructions.  The judge has the power to hold you in contempt, so it is never wise to make the judge angry.

18.  Don’t ask the judge if you have to answer the question.  You should assume you have to answer the question unless someone says you don’t have to answer the question.  There is an important exception to this rule:  You do not have to answer a question that would tend to incriminate you.  If you are being asked about something and your answer could be used to convict you of a crime, you may invoke your right against self-incrimination.  If you are not being asked about something that could incriminate you, you will have to answer, even if the answer is embarrassing or personal.

19.  Don’t talk over the lawyer asking you questions or anybody else.  Wait for the lawyer to completely finish the question before you answer.  Your testimony is most likely being recorded by a court reporter or a tape recorder.  It is very difficult for a court reporter to accurately record what everyone is saying when more than one person is talking at a time.

20.  Answer with words.  That is, do not nod or shake your head: the tape recorder cannot hear your answer.  Do not answer with ‘uh-huh’ or ‘nuh-uh,’ because it is very difficult to tell the difference between those two answer when your testimony is written down.

Following these guidelines will help you to effectively testify in court.

Advice for Parents in the Military

Active military duty is hard on families.  Too often, marriages are a casualty of war.  When our servicemen are deployed for long periods of time, it is not uncommon for husbands and wives to grow apart.  Even when marriages survive, relationships with children can suffer.

If you and your spouse are having marital difficulties, and you anticipate separation or divorce, don’t forget the children.  Your efforts to maintain contact with your child during duty and deployment will directly affect the amount of parenting time you are granted when the divorce is final.  It could even determine whether the other parent is permitted to move out of state with your child.  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Keep the lines of communication open.   Don’t let communication problems with the other parent keep you from speaking with your child.  Maintain telephone contact.  Utilize video-conferencing such as Skype so that you can see your child and your child can see you–it helps communication tremendously when you can see the other person and read body language.

2.  Don’t forget to write.  Send your children letters and emails often.  If your child is old enough to have a facebook or similar account, check in regularly.  Text them.  Show them you are interested in what they are doing.  Ask them about grades, friends, and activities.

3.  Send cards and gifts.  Make sure to remember your child’s birthday, as well as holidays and special occasions.  If you won’t be home for Christmas, ship gifts home, or buy them in advance and leave them with a friend or family member.  When you return home, bring the children a treat or souvenir from your trip.

4.  Exercise your visitation.  When you are in the country and stationed near your child, don’t neglect your visitation.  See you children every chance you get.  If you have court-ordered parenting time, ask for extra time.  Don’t let the other parent unfairly limit contact with your child.  For example, if you have already separated and you are in a new relationship, and the other parent says you can’t see the child when your boyfriend or girlfriend is around, then send the boyfriend or girlfriend away for the weekend and spend time with your kids!  Show the other parent and the judge that your children are more important to you than your new love.

Helpful links–

Maintaining a Close Bond During Deployment

C’mon Baby, Do the Locomotion: Locating and Relocating with a Child in a Colorado Divorce

A parent may decide where they wish to live upon divorce, but after divorce relocation is more complicated.

A parent may decide where they wish to live upon divorce, but after divorce relocation is more complicated.

Question 1: I am about to get a divorce, and I want to move back home to Texas. Will the court prevent me from moving with my child?
Answer: No. Colorado Law recognizes a parent’s right to decide where they wish to live upon divorce. Unlike some states, whose courts have the power to restrict the residence of a child (and thus a parent) to a particular county or geographic area, Colorado courts have decided that each parent has a constitutional right to live wherever they want.  If you want to move to Texas or any other place when the divorce is final, the court will not stop you.  What the court will do, however, is allocate parenting time between the parents based upon the best interests of the child.  In deciding how much parenting time each parent should have, the court will consider the “physical proximity of the parents to each other as it relates to the practical considerations of parenting time.”  If you decide to move to Texas and the other parent is going to stay in Colorado Springs, the court will have to determine which parent should have the most parenting time (i.e., primary custody), and what kind of visitation the other parent should have.  In this example, the judge could decide that it would be best for your child to reside most of the time with the other parent in Colorado Springs.  The judge would grant you specific parenting time.  On the other hand, if the judge determines that it is in the child’s best interest to reside with you most of the time, then the child will be able to move with you to Texas, and the Colorado Springs parent will have specified parenting time.  In either case, the judge will specify how the child will be transported between parents, and will allocate the costs between you in whatever way the judge believes is fair.

Question 2:  My divorce was final two years ago.  Both my ex-husband and I live in Colorado Springs.  We have two children together, and they live with me most of the time.  My ex-husband has parenting time every-other weekend.  I want to move to Texas to find work and be closer to my family.  Do I have to get permission from the court to move?  Will the court let my child move with me to another state?

Question 3:  My ex-spouse and I both live in Colorado Springs.  She is the primary caregiver, and I have visitation time.  She just informed me she has been transferred to Pennsylvania.  Is there anything I can do to prevent my ex-spouse from moving with the children?

Answers to Questions 2 and 3:  A parent seeking to relocate with a child after a divorce has been granted will need will need to get permission from the court before they move.  The document the parent will file is called a Motion to Relocate a Minor Child.  The former spouse will need to be served with the Motion.  Assuming that the ex-spouse opposes the move, a hearing will be scheduled.  The parents will go to court, and the judge will decide whether the move would be in the child’s best interest.  A Motion to relocate is unusual in that neither party has the burden of proof.  There is neither the presumption that primary caregiver will be allowed to move, nor the presumption that the child must stay.  The judge will consider all of the evidence presented by the parties in making the decision.  There are twenty-one factors for the court to consider:

-the wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;

-the wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;

-the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;

-the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;

-the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;

-the ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;

-whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;

-the physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;

-whether there is credible evidence that one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect;

-whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of domestic violence;

-the ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;

-the reasons why the party wishes to relocate with the child;

-the reasons why the opposing party is objecting to the proposed relocation;

-the history and quality of each party’s relationship with the child since any previous parenting time order;

-the educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location;

-the presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;

-any advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver;

-the anticipated impact of the move on the child

-whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable parenting time schedule if the change requested is permitted; and

-any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child.

As you can see, this inquiry is fact-intensive.  Each case turns upon its own facts.  Therefore, whether you are desiring to move or opposing a move by the other parent, it is important that you put on the best case that you can.  The advocacy of a good lawyer is important.  Contact Kirk Garner to discuss the facts of your case.

Flat Fee Divorce: Know Exactly How Much Your Divorce Will Cost at the Front End!

Divorces can be incredibly expensive.  Most divorce lawyers charge by the hour, and rates range between $200 to $400 per hour, or more!  This means that for a short phone call to your attorney, you will be charged $50, $60, or $100!  Is the advice you receive during that phone call worth that much?  It might be, depending on the nature of the question, but it usually doesn’t seem like it.

There are all sorts of problems created by the hourly fee model:  the lawyer has no incentive to settle your case quickly and efficiently because it means he or she will be paid less.  This model assumes that every minute of a lawyer’s time is of equal value, regardless of the benefit imputed to the client.  In my experience, this is a false assumption:  the amount of time the lawyer spends on the case bears little relation to the actual benefit received by the client.

Fortunately, there is another way: the flat fee contract.  With a flat fee, the lawyer will estimate–based upon his experience and the information provided by the client–how much it should cost to complete the case from start to finish.  The attorney may quote a fee that is somewhat higher than a standard, up front, hourly-fee retainer, where the client makes an initial deposit then pays for attorneys time.  This is because there is a certain amount of risk involved in a flat fee that is not present in an hourly fee contract.  If the lawyer underestimates the complexity of the case, he could end up losing money.  On the other hand, the higher flat fee is often attractive to the client, because he knows the total cost at the front end.  He doesn’t have to worry about being billed $75 for a simple phone call, because phone calls are included in the total fee.

A good flat fee arrangement will set objective measures so that the lawyer and client can tell when the lawyer’s fee is earned.  For instance, the contract may state that the lawyer will have earned a percentage of the total fee as soon as the divorce petition is filed, another percentage after the financial disclosures are completed, another upon entry of temporary orders, and the final balance upon completion of the case.  That way, the unearned portion of the client’s fees may be refunded if the case is dismissed; for instance, if the husband and wife reconcile as soon as the petition is filed.

It should be noted that not even the best attorney can anticipate every issued in a divorce or custody matter.  The amount of time and effort that an attorney must spend on a case is determined not only by the client but also on the other party and opposing counsel.  Therefore, a good flat fee contract will set out what situation will merit an increase of the fee.  For example, if the client hires an attorney for the limited purpose of increasing the other parent’s child support obligation, and then the other parent files for full custody; the flat fee will not cover the custody case.  The lawyer and client will have to renegotiate the fee for representation on the broader issues.

Every system has pros and cons, and the flat fee contract is no exception.  It is not right for every case.  However, when a person with limited resources faces the uncertainty of the legal process, a flat fee contract will provide some assurance that the process will be affordable and efficient.

Do-It-Yourself Divorce?

Representing yourself in court can be scary.

Representing yourself in court can be scary.

Do I have to hire a lawyer to get a divorce?  The answer is no:  you have the right to represent yourself in court. Pro se (pronounced “pro say”) is the term used to describe a party who represents himself in court, without an attorney.  In as many as half of the divorces filed in El Paso County today, neither party hires a lawyer.  The most common reason a person will represent himself is the high cost of hiring an attorney.  While you can represent yourself, for the reasons stated below, I don’t recommend it.

Why does divorce cost so much?  The old punchline says….“Because it’s worth it!”  But seriously, divorce costs so much because it is a long and complicated process.  The State of Colorado has adopted divorce laws and procedures designed to ensure that property is divided fairly and that children’s best interest is protected.  Those laws require both parties to disclose and document all property, debts and expenses.  Furthermore, Colorado courts actively manage all lawsuits, including divorces.  This means that certain hearings and deadlines are imposed in every case–even in cases where the parties have agreed to everything.  Ironically, these procedures were designed to ensure fairness and to prevent parties and attorneys from abusing the legal process.  But they have the effect of complicating every case, even the most simple ones.

Another reason divorces cost so much is that the law of divorce is much more complicated than most non-lawyers realize.  There are laws about the characterization of property, laws concerning the division of parental responsibilities, and procedural laws which govern the case from beginning to end.  There are laws of evidence and proof, which dictate how we prove the value of property and who can testify.

But I can do it myself, right?  Yes, you can represent yourself in a divorce or family law case.  Neither party is required to hire an attorney.  Courts are generally prohibited from giving legal advice to non-lawyers, but there are a number of resources available to help parties through the process.  For instance, the Colorado courts website has a Self-Help Center with information and forms.  The forms can be downloaded in Word or pdf formats, and can be filled in on line.

Helpful Links  Here are links to pro se legal resources and legal aid in Colorado–

Colorado Judicial Branch Self-Help Center

Colorado Judicial Branch Forms and Instructions

Fourth Judicial District Self-Help Center (El Paso County Courts)

Fourth Judicial District Legal Help List and Pro Se Resources

Additionally, the El Paso County Bar Association has legal resources for the public available on its website–

El Paso County Bar Association, For the Public

If you need legal representation and absolutely cannot afford an attorney, contact Colorado Legal Services–

Colorado Legal Services

But should you?  Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  You have the right to remove your own appendix, and Evan O’Neill Kane did just that, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

As I stated earlier, divorce is a very complex subject.  There are several substantive legal issues, including property (characterization, value, and division), spousal maintenance, and parent-child matters (including custody, parental rights and responsibilities, child support, visitation, etc.).  And then there are the procedural issues, which include how to go about filing for divorce, the requirements for the pleadings, service of process, drafting orders, and presenting your case before a judge.  Lawyers are trained to handle all of these matters.  The judicial system was designed by lawyers for lawyers.  Handling the case by yourself is risky.  If not done properly, it may actually cost more to fix problems after the fact than it would have to hire a lawyer to do it right the first time.

If you simply cannot afford an attorney, it may be helpful to talk to a lawyer about the process.  The Law Office of Kirk Garner offers free half-hour consultations.  Also, we offer unbundled legal services, which is a fancy way of saying that we will handle a limited part of the case if you cannot afford to hire me to represent you throughout the entire process.  You won’t know that you can’t afford it until you talk to a lawyer to discuss your payment and representation options.  Call today.

Keep a Visitation Journal or Calendar!

22888gfb1yh0sed1Honore: We met at nine
Mamita: We met at eight
Honore: I was on tim
Mamita: No, you were late
Honore: Ah, yes, I remember it well. We dined with friends
Mamita: We dined alone
Honore: A tenor sang
Mamita: A baritone
Honore: Ah, yes, I remember it well!

(“I Remember It Well,” from the musical Gigi, 1958)

“He said, she said.”  That’s what we call a dispute between two parties when the only evidence is one parties’ word against the other.  When there are two sides of a story, the judge must determine which party to believe: Which party is more credible?  Is there any other evidence which will corroborate a party’s story?

The best way for you to clearly remember events, dates, and times is to write them down.  Keep a diary, log, journal or calendar!  This is especially important when disputes arise over visitation, exchanges of children, and telephone contact.  Take, for example, the following exchange–

Wife:  He was fifteen minutes late bringing Junior back.

Husband:  I was on time!

Wife:  It has happened five times since March!

Husband:  I was late only one time!

Wife:  I keep a calendar, and I write down the time he returns Johnny every time.  See here:  he was at least fifteen minutes late on April 1, April 15, April 30, May 7, and May 28!

Who are you going to believe?  Most likely, the person who has regularly documented the events.

Keeping a journal is also helpful to document specific conversations you have had with your spouse.  What was offered, promised, or threatened?  What was the context?  Your notes will refresh your memory when it comes time to testify six months from now about the conversation you had last night.

Now, I have one caution about keeping a journal:  you are not keeping score.  Parents should learn to cooperate in the raising of their children, including visitation and communication during and after divorce.  Mothers and fathers should learn to give and take.  Be understanding when your spouse has unexpectedly been detained at work and cannot make the exchange on time.  However, when the same party makes a habit out of being continually late, a journal and some documentation can help curb that habit.

About Kirk Garner

Kirk Garner was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1967.  He was raised in and around Lubbock, Texas, and graduated from Shallowater High School in 1985.  Kirk graduated from Abilene Christian University in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.  The week after graduation, he married his wife of now 22 years.  They have three daughters.

Kirk graduated from Baylor University School of Law in 1995.  During law school, he served on the Baylor Law Review, and was a member of the international legal fraternity Phi Delta Phi and the Harvey M. Richey Moot Court Society.

Upon graduation, Kirk Garner was admitted to the Texas Bar, and practiced law in Winnsboro, Texas, for fifteen years.  He had a general small-town practice, including family law, civil litigation, probate, and criminal defense.

In 2010, Kirk obtained his license to practice law in Colorado.  He and his family pulled up stakes and moved to Colorado Springs, where they had always wanted to live.

Kirk Garner opened his Colorado Springs law office in 2010. The Colorado Springs office is devoted to all aspects of family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, adoption, and grandparents’ rights.

In 2011, Kirk Garner added a second office in Woodland Park to better serve his clients in Teller County.  The Woodland Park practice is more of a general-civil, small town law firm. In addition to family law and dissolution of marriage, the office handles civil litigation, probate, and other matters. Have a case in Teller County? Call Kirk Garner today to see if he can help.