Questions About Attorney Conduct

Lots of clients call here and ask questions about, “What do I do when I’ve had an attorney working on my case and the attorney is not returning my phone calls, not sending me email responses, and I have no idea what’s going on in my case?” It could be a divorce case, a legal separation, a child custody case, what have you.

My response to that is this. Whenever you’re hiring an attorney in any of these kinds of matters, you need to be comfortable with your lawyer, and you need to discuss, going into the case, how that lawyer operates. Is the lawyer going to return emails promptly? What happens if the lawyer is in court or mediation? How will I get my questions answered?

In this office, we offer a 24/7 phone line, and I have very experienced staff and a paralegal who’s been involved in family cases for many, many years, who will answer a lot of the questions that clients have while I’m in court or unavailable, and if you are not getting the proper service from your attorney, or your attorney is telling you what to do rather than you telling your attorney what you want to see happen, maybe it’s time to consider changing lawyers to someone you’re more comfortable with or can work with.

If you are in that situation and you are looking to hire an attorney to jump in and take over your case, remember to bring as many of the court documents with you when you see the new lawyer, so that that lawyer is not surprised by any of the litigation history or upcoming court dates.

How long does it take to get a Divorce In Colorado?

Lots of folks call our office and they ask, “How long is it going to take to get a divorce in Colorado?” Generally, divorce cases in Colorado are going to depend upon the jurisdiction that you’re in. If you’re in El Paso County, it’s probably within a timeframe of four to seven to eight months before you’ll be able to get a hearing on a contested divorce. Let me tell you what that is. A contested divorce or legal separation means that the parties do not have total agreements on all issues.

Basically, that means this. Under our law, if the parties have an agreement of all financial disputes, the division of property, debts, a spousal support, then they need to prepare a separation agreement in writing after financial disclosures are completed. If the parties do that and there are no children, they can easily obtain an uncontested dissolution of marriage hearing.

If the parties have children, the court is going to expect them to have a parenting plan in addition to a separation agreement that covers the children. This means to the court that all disputed issues have been resolved and the court will schedule an uncontested hearing. Uncontested hearing will allow you to get to court faster and will use up less time and money or expenses in attorney’s fees when all disputed issues are resolved.

I believe that everyone who’s involved in one of these processes with the stress that’s involved, both dealing with financial issues and the children, should always try to reach total agreements both with the financial disputes and the parenting disputes. That is something that I think that the courts recognize as well.

What Happens To 401k/Retirement Accounts In A Divorce?

I want to discuss with you what happens with a retirement account or a 401k account and how that may be involved in your divorce or legal separation or even in post-decree matter.

A post-decree matter means that you’ve already gone to court. You have had a judge enter a decree or a legal separation or a decree of dissolution of marriage, and in that decree of dissolution of marriage, one of the parties or both of the parties had IRAs and retirement counts or a 401k that had to be divided. And in a post-decree case, most often what we see is that somebody has not done what they’re supposed to do.

As an example, let’s say that IRA accounts were to be divided 50/50 in the divorce and husband had a $200,000 IRA account and he was supposed to give wife half, or 100,000 of that and he didn’t do that. And you want to go back to court to enforce those orders. That’s a post-decree issue.

In the typical divorce case, where there are 401k or retirement accounts, the court is going to divide those accounts down the middle. That’s pretty much what you can expect. Even though there is no law that says that the court has to divide everything 50/50, generally speaking, a marriage of any kind of length, four or five, six years or longer, a court is going to take into account who’s contributed to the 401k and whether or not that was a contribution made over the course of the marriage, and that’s how it’s going to be divided.

Differences Between A Military Divorce Scenario Versus A Standard Type Of Divorce

What are the differences between a military divorce scenario versus a standard type of divorce that’s filed, and perhaps some of the unique differences?

Of course, everyone knows that there is no such thing as obtaining a divorce or legal separation decree from a military court. That’s not something that’s covered by the Military Code of Justice. The states, individual states, all 50 states in the United States, have divorce laws, and if residency requirements are met, then the state where the parties live will have jurisdiction to move forward with what they call a civilian divorce.

In the military, as an example, there are rules that apply to family separation. In the civilian court, the rules refer to spousal support and child support. Sometimes in those military cases, the military authorities will order a soldier to pay family separation support before the civilian court ever enters any of its orders for child support or maintenance.

Additionally, when you are dealing with housing, your lawyer should be familiar with what the rules are for housing, how housing is paid, whether it’s base housing or off-post housing, and whether there’s a housing allowance that may be pertinent to the civilian divorce case. In all these kinds of cases, an attorney with lots of experience dealing with military matters, military questions of income, base pay, and other kinds of allowances is going to be important to know.

Information About Attorney Conduct

Lots of clients ask questions about, “What do I do when I’ve had an attorney working on my case and the attorney is not returning my phone calls, not sending me email responses, and I have no idea what’s going on in my case?” It could be a divorce case, a legal separation, a child custody case, what have you.

My response to that is this. Whenever you’re hiring an attorney in any of these kinds of matters, you need to be comfortable with your lawyer, and you need to discuss, going into the case, how that lawyer operates. Is the lawyer going to return emails promptly? What happens if the lawyer is in court or mediation? How will I get my questions answered?

At The Law Office of Gordon N. Shayne, we offer a 24/7 phone line, and I have very experienced staff and a paralegal who’s been involved in family cases for many, many years, who will answer a lot of the questions that clients have while I’m in court or unavailable, and if you are not getting the proper service from your attorney, or your attorney is telling you what to do rather than you telling your attorney what you want to see happen, maybe it’s time to consider changing lawyers to someone you’re more comfortable with or can work with.

If you are in that situation and you are looking to hire an attorney to jump in and take over your case, remember to bring as many of the court documents with you when you see the new lawyer, so that that lawyer is not surprised by any of the litigation history or upcoming court dates.

Contact us today for more infomation or to schedule a free consultation.

Alimony Or Spousal Maintenance in Colorado

In 2014, a new law took effect that deals with spousal maintenance. In many states, spousal maintenance is also called alimony. Alimony is where one spouse is paying to the other spouse a continual monthly amount for a certain period of time. The new law that took effect has advisory guidelines for what spousal maintenance will be or should be in any given circumstance that takes into consideration the duration of the marriage, the education of the parties, the employment capabilities of the parties, the life style or standard of living during the course of the marriage, and several other factors that the court has to look at in deciding whether maintenance is appropriate. The advisory guidelines have a formula that would state what the amount of the monthly
maintenance would be if it’s awarded by the court and what the duration of the maintenance would be.

As an example, in a 20-year marriage, where one party has been a stay-at-home mom and the other party has been the primary bread winner, what the court can do is order spousal maintenance for 50% of the length of the marriage, or 10 years. The amount of the maintenance pursuant to the formula would be 40% of the higher wage-earner’s monthly gross less 50% of the lower wage-earner’s monthly gross income, which would either be actual or imputed income, and determine what that monthly maintenance amount would be. Maintenance always terminates in the event of death of either party or the remarriage of the party who is receiving spousal maintenance. It’s always good to check with a lawyer and get proper advice whenever you’re dealing with the issue of spousal maintenance.

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.