Divorced with Kids: Tips for Back to School

Resolve to make each school year better than the last.

Resolve to make each school year better than the last.

It is that time of year again: teachers are decorating their classrooms, parents are shopping for school supplies, and students are enjoying the last few days of summer vacation.  The new school year is about to start.  What are you going to do to make this a great year?

Back-to-school season is even more stressful when your child shares two homes.  Your child’s education is tough enough already–meeting teachers, tracking homework, signing and filling out permission forms, keeping track of extracurricular activities–without having to deal with the extra chores involved in split custody.  Here are a few tips to get your child’s school year off to a good start–

1.  Keep a positive attitude. Your child may be reluctant for the summer to end and for the back-and-forth of regular visitation to resume.  When you keep a positive attitude, it makes it easier for your child to make the adjustment.  Your child will feed off of your emotions.  Don’t let them sense that you are uneasy about your ex-spouse’s visits.  Instead, help your child to look forward to spending time with their other parent.

2.  Don’t let your child hear you talk bad about the other parent. I get it: you and your ex-spouse don’t get along.  There are hard feelings and bitterness.  It is so easy to make snide comments about the other parent.  But don’t.  At least not within the hearing of your child.  Bite your tongue.  If you put the other parent down in front of your child, your child will resent you instead of the other parent.

3.  Don’t make your child be the messenger. If you have information that the other parent needs to know, don’t make your child deliver the message.  Visitation exchanges are hard enough without putting pressure on your child to remember and convey information to their other parent.  It doesn’t matter if the information is trivial or important:  if the other parent needs to know, then you need to communicate directly with the other parent.  If you aren’t on speaking terms, then send an email.  Or write a note, put it in an envelope, and hand it to the other parent during the visitation exchange.

4.  Be involved. Get a copy of your child’s school and extracurricular activity calendar.  Attend programs, open houses, games, and concerts.  Go meet your child’s teacher.  Sign up for the school’s internet portal and check your child’s attendance, grades, and homework.  Help with fundraising activities.  Go to school and eat lunch with your child.  These are great ways to show your child you care, even though the two of you may not be able to live in the same house all the time.

5.  Make an effort to get along with the other parent. Let bygones be bygones.  Bury the hatchet.  Turn over a new leaf.  Be respectful and courteous of the other parent.  When your ex-spouse has a scheduling conflict, needs to change weekends or exchange times, be gracious!  This is not for the other parent’s benefit, but your own and your child’s.  When you can communicate and accommodate with the parent, your stress levels will go down, and your child will feel more comfortable in an unnatural situation.  Do it for you!

This year does not have to be just like last year.  Your child is a year older, and has matured more than you realize.  Make his or her year better by following these tips for a great school year.  You won’t regret it.

Mediation Tip #2: Be Prepared!

To maximize the chance of a successful mediation, you must be prepared. You cannot show up for mediation without thinking about about your case and expect it to settle favorably.

The best way to settle any lawsuit is to be ready to try the case. The same is true in family law cases. If you are prepared to take the case to trial, you will know the strengths and weaknesses of your case. When you are not prepared to go to trial, you are shooting in the dark. You have to know your case. You have to know the likely or probable outcome in court. You have to know your best case scenario and your worst case scenario. You gather that information and determine your position through experienced legal advice. Continue reading

Park County Courthouse

Park County CourthouseThe Park County Courthouse is located in Fairplay, Colorado. Fairplay is the fifth-highest incorporated place in the State of Colorado, at 9,953 above sea level. The courthouse contains the Park County Combined Courts is located at 300 Fourth Street, one block northeast of the old Park County Courthouse on the square. This “new” courthouse was constructed in the 1980′s.


Park County is part of the 11th Judicial District of Colorado, which is comprised of Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, and Park Counties. Although Park County only has about 14,000 residents, the county is geographically vast, and is geographically the 17th-largest county in the State.

The old courthouse, pictured below, was built in 1874, and was in use until 1983–nearly 110 years. The old courtroom took up the entire second floor. Presently, the old courthouse is the home of the Park County Library. However, a new library has been planned, and could open as soon as 2014. When the library moves to the new location, the old courthouse is slated for restoration.

The Old Park County Courthouse

The old Park County Courthouse is presently the home of the Park County Library, but could be restored in the next several years.

If you live in Park County, Colorado and need a lawyer, consider the Law Office of Kirk Garner in Woodland Park. If you live in the Lake George area, in the southeastern part of the county, you may be 45 miles or more from your county seat, but you are only about 20 miles from Woodland Park. You may even drive through Woodland Park on your way home from work. Call Kirk Garner today.

Grandparent Visitation

Most of the family law cases involving grandparents fit into one of two categories: grandparent visitation and grandparent custody. Grandparent visitation is when a grandparent seeks court-ordered visitation time with a grandchild. Grandparent custody is when grandparents seek physical custody of a grandchild; that is, when a grandparent seeks to become the primary person responsible for the physical safety and emotional welfare of the grandchild. Today’s post will deal with the subject of grandparent visitation. I will take up the issue of grandparent custody in the future. Continue reading

Facebook, Infidelity, and Court

An interesting article appeared in SmartMoney today, entitled “Does Facebook Wreck Marriages? This short article examines whether social media–and Facebook in particular–put marriages at risk of affairs.

Author Quentin Fottrell identifies three dangers. First, users who would otherwise remain faithful to their spouses can easily become tempted by the people they interact with online. “The social network is different from most social networks or dating sites in that it both re-connects old flames and allows people to “friend” someone they may only met once in passing.”

Second, even if an affair was not caused by social media, Facebook may lull users into a false sense of security, where they feel safe to post information that might tip off a significant other. “It could be something as innocuous as a check-in at a restaurant, he says, or a photograph posted online.”

Finally, when couples find themselves in divorce court–whether there was an affair or not–information from social media can and will be used as evidence to determine child support, alimony, and even custody. The article quotes attorney Randy Kessler, the current chairman of the family law section of the American Bar Association, that “any pattern of behavior that’s recorded on Facebook relating to parenting skills, excessive partying or even disparaging remarks about a spouse that violates a court order could be admissible in court.”

I encourage you to read the entire article, and to exercise extreme caution in your social media activities.

El Paso County Courthouse

El Paso County CourthouseThe El Paso County courthouse is located in downtown Colorado Springs at 270 South Tejon, at the corner of Tejon and Vermijo. The large, modern courthouse is across the street from the iconic former courthouse, which is now home of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

If you have a case set at the El Paso County Courthouse–or perhaps you are a witness or have jury duty–you should arrive early enough to find a parking space, make your way through building security, and find the location of your courtroom. The main entrance is shown in the photo above and is on the east side of the building facing Tejon Street. There is an entrance on the south side of the building, but it is only for attorneys and court staff who have an identification badge issued by the Fourth Judicial District.

The courthouse has two main wings–the older south wing and the newer west wing. Rooms located in the south wing have room numbers beginning with “S”, and rooms located in the west wing have room numbers beginning with “W.” Division courtroom assignments are listed on signs and monitors in the main lobby. There is an information desk in the lobby of the south wing.

Kirk Garner’s Colorado Springs law office is located in The Downtown Executive Center, 422 E. Vermijo, just three blocks east of the courthouse. If you need a lawyer in El Paso County, give Kirk Garner a call today!

Mediation Tip #1: What is Mediation?

MediationBefore your family law case goes to trial, the judge will probably require you to mediate. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution–”alternative” meaning that it is an attempt to resolve the dispute without having to resort to trial.  In mediation, the parties meet with a neutral third-party, usually but not always an attorney, who is trained to help parties resolve their differences. The mediator will meet with each side–usually in separate rooms–and will go back and forth between the parties to gather information and convey offers and counter-offers.  Mediators are useful because they help the parties find common ground.  They will also provide valuable feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of your case.  Hence, even if you don’t settle the case, you will have gained insight into your case that will help you prepare for trial.

The mediation process is entirely voluntary:  no one will force you to settle the case if you don’t agree to the settlement, and no one is going to decide the case for you.  If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they simply walk away and prepare for trial.  However, if the parties are able to resolve the dispute, it is likely that the parties will save significant time and money–not to mention the emotional investment–that it would otherwise take to prepare for trial.

In future posts, I will discuss more tips to help increase the likelihood that your mediation will be successful.  In the meantime, if you have a question about the mediation process, feel free to leave a comment.

Parent Education Classes

If you have a domestic relations case involving children under 18 years old, whether the case is for dissolution of marriage or allocation of parental responsibilities, in El Paso or Teller Counties, then you and the other parent will be required to attend a two-hour Parent Education Class to learn about the divorce process, how best to parent your children through a divorce, and the effects of divorce on your children. These classes are formally called the CFIT Seminar, for Children and Families in Transition. If you do not live within a reasonable distance of Colorado Springs, yet your case is pending in Colorado Springs, you may be able to take a different course elsewhere, so long as the class is approved by the Court. Also, if your cases is filed in another Colorado county, chances are that you will have to take a parent education class approved by your jurisdiction. Check with the court clerk in your county for more information.The Effect of Divorce on Children

Classes for both El Paso and Teller Counties are held in Colorado Springs, in the jury assembly room, Room W113, of the El Paso County Courthouse, 270 South Tejon. The courses are held three times per month, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, and from noon to 2:00 p.m. on the third Friday of each month. Reservations are not required, but you should arrive early enough to find parking, go through building security, and locate the classroom in time to register. If you arrive more than 10 minutes late, you will not receive credit. Bring your case number to make sure you get proper credit.

Please note that you are not permitted to bring children with you to the parenting seminar. For the Friday class only, babysitting is available through Court Care; however, you must call ahead and make a reservation for your children. The Court Care office may be reached at (719) 442-1972.

If your case is filed in El Paso or Teller Counties, there is no extra charge to attend the CFIT Seminar, as a fee is charged as part of your filing fees. However, if you are attending the Colorado Springs class for a case filed outside of El Paso or Teller Counties, then you will have to pay a fee of $25.00 to obtain credit.

The class consists of three videos: the first film describes the court process, including the terms and concepts involved in the allocation of parental responsibilities; the second video describes co-parenting; and the third details the effects of divorce on children. This is a valuable seminar: you will learn important information that will help you make your divorce or separation as easy as possible for your children.

If you have children are considering divorce or a suit for the allocation of parental responsibilities, call the Law Office of Kirk Garner today to discuss your legal rights and remedies.