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.

Modifying Parenting Time

I want to discuss with you motions to modify parenting time. One of the biggest issues in motions to modify parenting time occur when a parent, who is the primary parent, wishes to relocate with the children to another state. In the law, that kind of relocation is called removal and it takes the permission of a judge or the other parent in writing and a court order in order for relocation to occur. Now, in those situations what is required is that the parent who wishes to move away with the children has to file a motion with the court making the request for relocation and stating the reasonable grounds for the relocation.

In Colorado, the court cannot require a parent to live in Colorado or anywhere. It is the children that are under the control and jurisdiction, what they call continuing jurisdiction of the court. If a parent wishes to relocate because that parent got a great job in Chicago and wants to move out of Colorado with the children, that parent is going to need to establish what is the criteria for that relocation that would serve the best interest of the children. Things like family members being in Chicago, increased financial access, schools, education, health care, all those kinds of things are a factor. Of course, the other parent can make an argument that the relocation is not in the best interest of a child.

Effective Ways To Resolve Differences Without Going To 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.

Divorce Mediation: What is it and How Can it Help Me?

I want to talk to you about mediation and what mediation is, and how important mediation is in your case. Mediation is an informal proceeding in which the mediator is someone who is qualified and has a certain number of hours that they’ve taken in the mediation process. In mediation, usually what happens, is the mediator, who is a neutral third party who doesn’t know anything about your case, is going to go between two different conference rooms, the conference room where mother may be, or the wife, and the conference room where father or husband may be. Each one of the parties will have their lawyers present in those separate conference rooms.

Mediation is confidential, so it’s not taped and recorded. In the mediation process, the parties will have an opportunity to discuss with the mediator what they feel their legal issues and the outcomes that they want should be discussed, and the mediator will carry that information back and forth between the two rooms. There are certain things that you can do to be fully prepared for mediation. It’s always been my practice, that before mediation the client comes in, and we have a legal strategy meeting, to discuss what we want to see as an outcome.

If you are going to mediate a typical divorce case where there are children, then you’re going to be discussing all of the financial aspects of your case. Property, debts, house,cars, those kinds of things. On top of it, you’re going to be expected to mediate a parenting plan. A parenting plan that’s going to discuss how the parents are going to co-parent and share custody, visitation, holidays and decision-making with the children. There’s a lot of things that you can do to make sure that mediation is as powerful as you want it to be. My message is always the same to my clients, that mediation represents your last best opportunity to resolve your case in an amicable or friendly manner, before you get to the judge.

By the time you get to a judge, it’s too late. You can’t negotiate with a judge. A judge is there to hear the case and make a decision, so mediation is a very important proceeding in our family law courts. Many of our family law mediators will reduce a mediation agreement to writing. That means you’ll have an agreement from that moment that you reach an agreement in mediation, and you can avoid a costly time-consuming hearing in front of a judge when you reach an agreement in mediation.

Successful decision of a legal problem

Mediation and Arbitration: An Overview

TV shows and movies often dramatize the legal system, leading people to think that heated exchanges under oath on the witness stand are necessary to resolve every legal situation. While those depictions may reflect what happens in some high profile criminal proceedings, they do not accurately reflect options for resolving civil matters, including those that fall under Colorado Statutes. Continue reading “Mediation and Arbitration: An Overview” »