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.

This is not to say, however, that you have to do the same amount of preparation in every case, or in every stage of the same case. The amount of preparation for trial or mediation is in proportion to the nature of the case, the issues at stake, the distance between the positions of the parties, and the amount the parties have to spend to take the case to court. Sometimes the best time to mediate a family law case is at the very beginning, when neither side has postured for trial, and when the parties are still able to communicate. In this situation, the parties will not be as prepared as they would be later in the case, but they may be able to settle the case at great savings of money and emotional expense.

If the parties are unable to settle the case early, then they will enter the discovery phase of the case, where information is gathered and exchanged and the sides start getting ready for trial. At this stage, the parties can and should spend more time preparing for trial and mediation.

To prepare appropriately for mediation you should: Continue reading

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Park County Courthouse

Park County Courthouse

The Park County Courthouse in Fairplay, Colorado.

The 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.

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Grandparent Visitation

Grandparent Visitation

Kirk Garner handles grandparent visitation cases in Colorado.

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.

In a perfect world, parents would be and remain married and children would maintain a close relationship with all extended family members. In the real world, of course, this is not always the case: sometimes parents never get married; sometimes they divorce; sometimes a parent dies before children reach adulthood; and sometimes the parents are incapable of acting in anyone’s best interest except their own. In general, we like to think that children benefit from close and loving relationships with their grandparents. Occasionally, however, the parents and grandparents do not get along well, and parents prevent the children from seeing the grandparents. In some situations, the parents are acting in their children’s best interests because there are legitimate reasons why contact with grandparents would be detrimental to the best interest of the children. In other cases, the parents place their owns motivations above the best interests of the children, and prohibit contact that would be good for the children.

The Colorado Children’s Code contains procedures that grandparents may follow to obtain court-ordered visitation with grandchildren. However, Continue reading

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Pueblo County Judicial Building

Pueblo County Judicial Building

The Pueblo County Judicial Building at the corner of West 10th and North Grand Avenue.

Although my offices are located in El Paso and Teller Counties, I handle cases in other counties, too. Pueblo, Colorado is the county seat of Pueblo County, which is the southern neighbor of El Paso County. Downtown Colorado Springs is only 40 minutes or so north of downtown Pueblo.

The Pueblo Combined Courts are located downtown in the Pueblo County Judicial Building (pictured), at 320 West 10th Street, at the corner of West 10th Street and North Grand Avenue. With all due respect to the people of Pueblo County, the Judicial Building is a rather depressing structure that resembles a giant Kleenex box. It is definitely a case of function over form. The exterior design would not be all that bad, except that it is impossible not to compare it with the old Pueblo County Courthouse, pictured below, which is one block to the east. Continue reading

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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.

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Is Marriage a Legal Contract?

Contract

According to law professor Eugene Volokh, marriage is indeed a form of contract.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has a fascinating post in which responds to a reader’s question, “Is Marriage a Legal Contract?” This is an interesting aspect to the legal relationship we call marriage. Volokh discusses the privileges and benefits that flow between the parties, and concludes:

So marriage is a contract, and has long been described as a contract, but it’s a very peculiar kind of contract that has its own special legal rules. To ask whether marriage is “technically” a contract doesn’t make much sense, because it presupposes a single unique meaning for the term “contract.” If by contract you mean “a contract as typically defined at law,” which is to say a contract that has most of the legal consequences that a typical contract has, then the answer is “largely not,” because marriage contracts have such specialized legal consequences. If by contract you mean “something the law has typically labeled a contract,” the answer is “probably yes,” simply because “marriage contract” has long been a common term. If by contract you mean “a mutual agreement that the law treats as binding as a consequence of the parties’ having agreed to it,” then the answer is “yes.”

Read the whole thing.

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El Paso County Courthouse

El Paso County Courthouse

A statue of America the Beautiful author Katharine Lee Bates looks beyond the El Paso County Courthouse to Pikes Peak.

The 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!

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Mediation Tip #1: What is Mediation?

Mediation

Courts will usually send a family law case to mediation prior to trial.

Before 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.

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You Don’t Have to Leave Teller County to Find a Lawyer

Teller County Boundary Sign

You don't have to leave Teller County to find a good lawyer.

You don’t have to leave Teller County to find a good attorney: the Law Office of Kirk Garner has an office right here in Woodland Park!

A number of attorneys have an office in Woodland Park, but only a few handle family law cases and general civil litigation. I have over fifteen years experience helping small-town, rural folks with their legal problems. From divorce and child custody cases to small claims court to probate and wills, I have the experience and know-how to handle your case. So whether you live in Cripple Creek, Victor, Florissant, Divide, Crystola, or Woodland Park, call me today to schedule an appointment. You won’t regret it.

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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.

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. Continue reading

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