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.

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.

CFIT classes are designed to teach ways to minimize the effect of your divorce on the 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.

Calculating Child Support

How much child support will I have to pay? How much child support will my ex-spouse have to pay? These are common questions that need to be answered so that you can prepare for the future after divorce or separation. The calculation of child support is complicated. The Colorado State Judicial Branch has provided lawyers and parents with a worksheet to help calculate support (which is linked below), however, every case is different. The application of your circumstances to the child support guidelines must be considered carefully to make sure that all rules and exceptions are applied. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney to make sure that you do not shortchange yourself.

In Colorado, child support is governed by section 14-10-115 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. This long and complicated section contains guidelines for child support based upon the income of the parents and the amount of parenting time exercised by each parent. While the amount of support will vary depending on the circumstances of the parties and children, the code contains a formula to calculate the child support that is presumed to be in the best interest of the children. A Microsoft Excel spreadsheet containing the formula is available from the Colorado State Judicial Branch, and can be found here– Child Support Worksheet. Instructions on how to fill out the worksheet can be found here–Instructions.

There are two major elements to the child support formula:

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Now Serving Teller County!

PPCU-300x160The Law Office of Kirk Garner is pleased to announce that we have opened an office in Woodland Park, to better serve clients in Teller County. The office is located on the second floor of the Pikes Peak Credit Union, 720 W. Midland Avenue, Woodland Park, at the intersection of Highway 67 and West Midland Avenue. We have an absolutely magnificent view of Pikes Peak and Woodland Park. There are only a few attorneys who practice family law from Teller County. If you live in Teller County and need an attorney for dissolution of marriage, child support, spousal maintenance, grandparent rights, or a Department of Human Services matter, call us today.

How Alimony Works in Colorado, Part Two

Calculating temporary alimony can be a contentious process.

Calculating temporary alimony can be a contentious process.

In Part I of my series about alimony in Colorado (which you can read here), I discussed how alimony (officially called “maintenance”) is awarded as part of temporary orders while a divorce is pending.  Specifically, that post dealt with the formula that is presumptively applied when the parties earn a combined annual income of $75,000 or less.  In this post, I will continue with the discussion of temporary maintenance (that is, maintenance awarded before the divorce is final) for situations in which the spouses together earn more than $75,000 per year.

When the husband and wife’s combined annual income is greater than $75,000 per year, there is no presumptive formula or guideline for the court to apply.  As such, the amount to be awarded is determined on a case-by-case basis.  Each case is different, and different judges will calculate temporary alimony differently.

Step 1.  Is a spouse eligible for temporary maintenance?

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Uncontested Divorce vs. Contested Divorce

It is more likely for your divorce to be uncontested when you know your rights.

It is more likely for your divorce to be uncontested when you know your rights.

When a prospective client calls to discuss a divorce, one of the first questions I ask is whether the case is contested or uncontested.  This is especially true when people want to know how much I charge for divorce.  Uncontested divorces are much cheaper because there are no issues to be decided by a judge or mediator.  Most people hope their divorce will be uncontested, but in reality there are very few truly uncontested divorces.

The Uncontested Divorce. An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses want the divorce.  They have discussed the issues: how the property and debts will be divided, whether maintenance will be paid and how much, where the children will live, how much child support will be paid, how much parenting time the non-custodial parent will have with the children.  Whatever the issues the soon-to-be ex-spouses face, they have discussed them and have reached an agreement.  It is very helpful for the agreement to be in writing, to prevent miscommunication and misunderstanding.  Uncontested divorces are rare because if the spouses could communicate and reach consensus, the chances are they wouldn’t be getting a divorce.

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How Alimony Works in Colorado, Part 1.

Temporary spousal maintenance is designed to equalize the finances until the divorce is final.

Temporary spousal maintenance is designed to equalize the finances until the divorce is final.

Alimony is a payment of money from one spouse to another for the purpose of financial support or equalization of incomes. In Colorado, alimony is technically called “spousal maintenance.” There are two kinds of spousal maintenance: temporary and permanent. Temporary maintenance is the payment of money from one spouse to the other before the marriage has been dissolved (i.e., before the divorce is final). Permanent maintenance–what most people think of when they hear the term “alimony”–is the payment of money from one former spouse to the other after divorce.

In this article, I will discuss temporary maintenance when the spouses earn a combined annual income of $75,000 or less. In future articles, I will discuss 1) temporary maintenance when combined annual income exceeds $75,000; 2) permanent maintenance; and 3) other aspect of alimony, including modification, termination, and tax treatment.

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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.

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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.

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