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March 2015 Archives

Being a Witness in a Family Law case

When a client is going through a dissolution of marriage, or is otherwise involved in a family law matter, it is often their first exposure to the court system and the idea of getting up on the witness stand an testifying under oath before a judge can seem very intimidating.  The best way to reduce anxiety about testimony, however, is to be prepared. 

Protecting the kids in a divorce

When in a divorce, it can be very important for a parent to take appropriate measures to protect their rights and interests. Another thing that it can be extremely important for a divorcing parent to do is to take appropriate steps to protect their kids and their kids' best interests.

Divorce vs. "Annulment"

Occasionally clients will call attorneys asking for an "annulment" rather than a divorce, particularly when the marriage is of short duration. Colorado law does not recognize the term "annulment," and it is very difficult to "undo" a marriage rather than going through the divorce process. Colorado does have a statute for obtaining a legal determination of the invalidity of the marriage. This statute, however, has very narrow grounds upon which a marriage can be determined to be invalid, the main categories are:

Divorce rate dropping in Colorado

Many different difficulties can arise during a marriage. Sometimes, the difficulties are such that a couple is able to weather through them and keep their marriage strong and on-track. Other times though, the difficulties cause enough damage to the marriage that the marriage becomes unhealthy and unable to be fixed.

Common Law Marriage in Colorado

Colorado is one of the few remaining states that still recognizes common law marriages. That means that in order to be legally married in Colorado, it is not always necessary to obtain a marriage license or go through a formal ceremony. There are three elements to establishing a common law marriage. The parties must 1) live together, 2) agree that they are married, and 3) hold themselves out to the public as married. Once parties are common law married, they are legally married for all purposes, and subject to the same laws as any other married couple. There is no "common law divorce" and couples who are common law married must go through the same process for the dissolution of their marriage as couples who have obtained a marriage license.

DUI Charges Can Affect Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities

When someone is engaged in a dispute over parental responsibilities (child custody), a DUI charge can have far-reaching consequences. Driving under the influence is one of the most common charges an individual is likely to face in their lifetime. It is possible for anyone to suffer a lapse of judgment, not accurately assess their level of intoxication, and be caught driving when they should not have been. A DUI charge obviously carries potential criminal penalties and potential drivers' license consequences. Driving under the influence is not a charge that legally requires any action by the court regarding child custody, and a DUI conviction will not necessarily have any effect, whatsoever, on a parent's parenting time or decision-making responsibilities However, Colorado courts are tasked with determining parenting time and parental decision-making based upon the best interests of the child, and a DUI charge against either parent will, at the very least, raise some questions in the judge's mind that will need to be answered.

I lost my divorce hearing in front of a Magistrate...now what?

When parties ask a Magistrate to make a decision to resolve the disputes they have in a divorce or child custody matter, there is almost one person who feels they lost. More likely, but parties often feel that they lost.  Resolving custody disputes by litigation takes the power away from the parents and places it into the hands of a Magistrate who doesn't know your children.  Despite this, sometimes litigation can't be avoided. 

Child Custody and Intoxication: Pot Versus Alcohol

With the legalization of marijuana, Courts have a unique challenge in family law cases involving parenting time and parental responsibilities.  The use of alcohol, although legal, can impair a parent's ability to care for their children.  At times, it is appropriate for the Court to limit a parent's use of alcohol.  The use of marijuana, although legal, can likewise impair a parent's ability to care for their children.  When faced with a request to place limitations on a parent's use or consumption of a legal substance in a child custody case, the Court must determine whether the parent's use of the substance has or is likely to place their child in harms' way.  The Court determines this by looking at the evidence.  The Court may look at whether or not the parent has consumed alcohol to the point of intoxication while caring for a child, whether the level of intoxication was such that the parent's ability to care for the child was impaired, and how often a parent becomes intoxicated.  The Court would look at similar evidence with respect to marijuana use.  In fact, in child custody cases, the Court must determine the same questions when considering a parent's use of any type of mood or mind altering substance, including marijuana.  http://www.denverpost.com/ci_22445228/parenting-and-pot-divorce-lawyers-perspective-marijuana-legalization 

What is The Difference Between a Magistrate and a Judge?

A Magistrate is a judicial officer who can resolve the limited types of disputes that are listed in the Colorado Rules for Magistrates.  The most common function of Magistrates in family law cases in Colorado are Temporary Orders hearings in divorces and Allocation of Parental Responsibility proceedings and post-decree matters.  Magistrates can preside over types of proceedings that are not specificaly permitted in the Colorado Rules for Magistrates but only if the parties consent.  Buyer beware, in at least one Denver Metropolitan County, the judiciary has issued a policy that you have consented to a Magistrate handling your matter if you don't object.  In other words, the County is defining "consent" as "failing to object" within 14 days of the proceeding commencing.  Most attorneys feel that there is a difference between "consent" and failing to object but thus far, this practice remains in place and will likely continue to do so until successfully challenged.  Make sure you read all of the documents you get from your judge or Magistrate very carefully so that you know whether you are required to "speak up or forever hold your peace" with respect to whether a Magistrate will hear you matter.

Parenting - drug/alcohol testing: what type of test should I require?

EtG testing is exclusively for alchol detection for parents who are not allowed to drink at any time (as opposed to being prohibited just during parenting time).  If two tests are done per week (evenly spread out), such as on Mondays and Thursdays, alcohol consumed during any day of the week will generally be detected.  This test will not detect drugs.  If illicit or prescription drugs are a concern, then the parent should take a 12 panel UA at the same time as the EtG.  Unfortunately, EtGs are somewhat expensive.  If two EtG tests per week is not affordable, then a random UA schedule should be implemented.  A 12 panel covers the vast majority of drugs and is the most common type of UA used.  One to two randoms per week is common.  Or random breathalyzers can also be mandated - these are the cheapest but least reliable in that alcohol usually dissipates from saliva after twelve hours. 

What Constitutes Parental Abduction?

Unfortunately, child custody cases can create the risk of parental abduction.  Parental abduction is the unlawful removal of a child by a parent from the State of Colorado without the consent of the other parent or a Court order after a child custody case has been initiated either by the filing of Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.  This prohibition is contained in C.R.S. 14-10-107.  Unfortunately, for many going through this legal process they are faced with a former partner or co-parent that may be willing to break the law or believes they will not get caught by doing so. Some parents may believe this is in the best interest of their child based on their beliefs regarding the other parent. Some may have an untreated mental health issue or believe that the court system is biased or unfair. Some are simply very angry. Regardless of the reasons or intentions this action is based on, it is extremely emotionally harmful to the child and can lead to irreparable legal consequences.

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Law Office of Alexandra White, PC
12625 E. Euclid Dr.
Centennial, CO 80111

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