Inheritance

Many cases that we have involving parties who have been married for any length of time deals with the question of inheritances and whether or not an inheritance would be impacted by a divorce or legal separation. An inheritance is the receipt of some sort of monetary estate by one of the parties from either a family member or a third party. Pretty much the law in Colorado is going to define an inheritance based upon the length of the marriage and what did the parties do with the inheritance. Let me give you an example. Let’s assume that in a 15-year marriage that the husband received an inheritance from his parents who passed away and that inheritance involved a 300-acre property in the state of Colorado, and he kept the 300-acres solely to himself, didn’t share it with the wife in any way, and all he did was pay taxes and insurance on the 300 acres during their 15-year marriage.

There’s a couple of rules that may apply and one of them is whether or not the marriage supported the 300 acres in any way. Did the marriage pay taxes? Did the marriage pay for improvements on the 300 acres? What did the marriage do to contribute to the well being of the property? In that situation, that inheritance would probably be called marital property because there was some co-mingling of marital funds with separate inheritance funds as opposed to inheritance funds that sat in a bank account, accrued interest that nobody ever received during the course of the marriage, and stayed separate.

Contact Shayne Law if you have any questions.

Financial Experts

In many family law cases, we encounter the issue of financial experts, particularly where the parties have been married for a substantial period of time. They’ve acquired a lot of assets or property. They have a lot of accounts, or maybe where one of the parties has been a self employed business entrepreneur and has developed his or her own business. There’s different kinds of financial experts in many of these cases. I want to talk to you a little bit about that. When folks have a home and they need to determine what the value of that home is in their divorce, they usually need a real estate appraiser to do that.

I had one case where the parties had an extensive art collection from all over the world and they needed someone to give them a value of their art. Another kind of expert we use often in these cases is called a forensic CPA or a forensic accountant. These kinds of experts are familiar with the tax code, they’re familiar with how to calculate present value for the determination of division of property, such as retirement accounts and pension accounts. They can prepare what they call marital spreadsheets which will be a document in a spreadsheet like an Excel spreadsheet that will state what the parties own and what all of their accounts are including bank and retirement accounts and what their debts are, and to determine what the best way would be to divide the marital estate. Experts are extremely valuable in certain family law cases, and I urge you to talk to your lawyer about whether you need those kinds of experts or not.

Contact Shayne Law if you have any questions.

How to Avoid Going to Divorce Court

A lot of clients that come in talk about how to reach agreements in a good way to avoid going to court. Many people feel and probably rightly so that the court system is not a very good place to air out your differences when you’re going through a divorce or dealing with the issues of your children and parenting time. I want to talk to you a little bit about effective ways to resolve your differences without having to go to court. One of the biggest reasons that I can give to parents and to anyone that’s going through a divorce or a custody case is that, if you go to court it is a public proceeding. It means that there is no privacy. It’s not confidential in any way. When you go through that process, a judge will make all the decisions, effectively meaning that you’ve lost all control over the outcome of your case because you have not been able to enter into any kind of agreement with your partner or your spouse and you’ve turned this role over to the judge.

Judges are used to doing this. This is their job. They kind of view these things in a black and white decision making role. There’s really not much room for emotion in a divorce or custody proceeding. A judge is going to say, “I’m going to make a ruling that I think is best. I’ve given you the opportunity to work out your differences with your spouse, but you haven’t been able to do that, so you’ve turned it over to me as the judge, and now I’m going to make the decision.”

There are different tools that are available to resolving these kinds of cases, custody,divorce, legal separation. One of them is called the settlement conference. A settlement conference is usually conducted between the parties in a room where everybody sits down and exchanges ideas in a civilized manner to see if the parties can come up with an agreement. Keep in mind that any agreement that you reach in a divorce or custody action must come after the parties have exchanged essential financial information. If the parties are able to resolve their differences in a settlement conference, there are appropriate documents that need to be prepared that the parties have to sign before it ever gets to the judge.  Another way is through mediation. Mediation means that there is a qualified experienced professional who is called a ‘neutral’. ‘Neutral’ means he doesn’t have any interest in who wins or which side is better. He’s supposed to be like the umpire in the baseball game. All he’s doing is calling balls and strikes. He or she is going to try to facilitate a settlement.  As an example, last week I was in a mediation. We had a very experienced mediator.She practices here in town. She helped the parties in separate rooms, come up with a plan that would work for their children. As a result of that, the mediator prepared a written agreement that day. Everybody liked the agreement. They added their own language. They ultimately signed off on the mediation agreement and reached a settlement.

The last thing I want to talk to you about is arbitration, and what is arbitration. Arbitration means that as part of the mediation process, usually a neutral arbiter, once again someone with a lot of experience, could be a retired judge or somebody that’s acted in that role, helps the parties come up with an agreement. If there are things that the parties are unable to agree to, the arbiter makes the call, makes the decision, puts it in writing and that becomes binding on the parties. There are a lot of rules that are associated with arbitration so it’s always important to talk to an attorney before you go to arbitration or before you decide that that’s a way for you to resolve your case, so that you have a clear understanding of what’s at stake before you ever start.

Court Appearances To Expect During Your Case

Often times clients want to know what kind of court appearances they are going to have to make in their case. Let me give you a couple of examples. If you’re a client that does not live here in Colorado, but your divorce case was here in Colorado and your ex-wife and the children still live here in Colorado, and let’s say you’ve moved to the East Coast of the United States, and you’re now living in Boston. You want to file a motion to be able to spend more time with your children, because during the initial divorce case, you only got very minimal parenting time and you want to change that. Well, if you have a lawyer here in Colorado and you file your motion here in El Paso County,or many of the other counties here in Colorado, the court will allow you to file through your lawyer a motion to appear by telephone, so that for whatever court appearances you have, you can make your presence known by appearing for whatever critical hearings there are by phone.

There’s also going to be other types of situations that come up in any family law case, where if you have a lawyer, a lawyer may be able to stand in for you at things like a status conference or pretrial conference before the judge, and your appearance can be waived. At the initial status conference, parties that have lawyers can agree to stipulate to timelines and avoid costly court hearings, so this is another advantage of hiring the correct or right attorney to assist you in those kinds of cases.

How Does A Paralegal Help With My Case?

I have found that one of the most important facets of being able to offer clients legal representation in their particular family law case involves our paralegals and the role that our paralegals have in supporting our clients and assisting our clients through a mind field of all kinds of hurdles and obstacles that are part of their case. A good paralegal is a person who is going to maintain the day-to-day contact with the client for a variety of reasons and to assist the client in understanding how the legal process works, what they can expect, and assisting the lawyer in making sure that the lawyer has what the lawyer needs when the lawyer goes to mediation or is in court.

Paralegals in this office are available by email. We even have a 24/7 phone number to contact us. Paralegals can answer simple questions and that will save the client money, because paralegals bill out at a different hourly rate than attorneys do. Paralegals can go over financial records, financial statements, clients timelines of events, and they can be instrumental in the success of your case. We rely on paralegals who in this office have a great deal of experience and can offer you as the client the kind of connection to this law firm that you need.