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.
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.
Let’s discuss a big issue that usually comes up in marriages that have been in progress for five, 10 years or more, and that is the issue that deals with survivor benefits. What kind of survivor benefits, and how do those come into play in a property division situation? Survivor benefits mean that the parties, either one or both parties, have a pension retirement account or a military retirement. In the typical example of a military retirement, the military member has served 20 plus years, and at the end of a military career, the military member has to make an election as to whether or not he or she is going to accept survivor benefits as part of the retirement. There’s a cost associated with that.
Let’s assume you have a 20-year marriage and over the entire course of the 20 years the husband served active duty in the Air Force. Now he’s retired and the parties are going through a divorce. Survivor benefit would say that the parties have elected to name the wife as the survivor in the event that the former military member pre-deceases the former spouse. This is like a life insurance policy that protects the former spouse and ensures that the former spouse is going to receive a military retiree income if the military member dies before the former spouse.
Another way to address this is through specific retirement plans or pension plans that have a survivor benefit component to it. It is always a good idea to check with a lawyer to review those plans when you’re going through a divorce to make sure that if your spouse has had a pension and retirement account, and something happens to your spouse, that you’re going to get your share long after your spouse passes away.
Lastly, I want to talk about life insurance which is a very important issue in almost all family law cases, because if you have children, most courts are going to say that you need to name the children as beneficiaries to a life insurance policy. If you have a pension and retirement account, or even if you’ve done a military retirement that you can still have life insurance when SBP has been waived, survivor benefits have been waived so that the former spouse is protected in the event that the spouse who’s had the retirement account passes away.
Keep in mind that in Colorado a military retirement, a pension, or a retirement account, is treated as property. It doesn’t matter to a judge that one party or the other had the pension or retirement account. What the court is going to look at is the law in Colorado and say, was that pension, retirement account, or military retirement, was that acquired during the course of the marriage, and if so, what is the value of the marital share of that pension and retirement account? SBP, survivor benefits, are very important when you are discussing how those moneys should divided in any kind of a divorce or legal separation. You want to make sure that you have a qualified lawyer to discuss that with you.
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The Law Offices of Gordon N. Shayne
509 North Tejon St. Colorado Springs
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