Survivor Benefits

I want to 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, and 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 and 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, and 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, and 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 but 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 SPP 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 so 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, and so SPP survivor benefits are very important when you are discussing how those monies should be divided in any kind of a divorce or legal separation, and you want to make sure that you have a qualified lawyer to discuss that with you.

What Is A Pro Se Client?

The legal term for a party, a parent or a spouse, that’s going through a divorce, that represents themselves and does not have a lawyer, is called a pro se litigant. A pro se litigant is going to be treated the same way as a party who has a lawyer. So what does that mean? That means that if you don’t have a lawyer, and you’re pro se, you’re representing yourself, the court is going to assume that you’re going to know the Colorado rules of civil procedure, the rules of evidence, the initial status conference and case management orders, and all those specific rules that apply to domestic relations cases is going to apply to you, even though you don’t have an attorney. And a lot of clients who are moms and dads, who are going through these kinds of cases, have their own jobs. They work. They’re raising a family.

A Paralegal’s Role In Family Law

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 minefield 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. And 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.

What is Evidence?

In all family law cases, one of the most important jobs that a lawyer does with a client is make an assessment of the evidence. The stronger the evidence in one party’s favor, the more likely that the outcome is going to go the way that the client wants.

Evidence can be in different forms. Evidence can be through testimony of witnesses like the parties who come to court and present their version of the facts. Or it can come in the form of documentation. Those are records, those are reports.

It’s important to understand that it is not the volume of evidence. It’s the quality of the evidence that the law will take into consideration in making rulings in the family court. Let me give you a couple of examples.

If there are a lot of police reports in a case … Let’s say that there’s children and that there’s a history of domestic violence or domestic abuse. It’s important for the lawyer to have a real good understanding of what has gone on in the in the past with domestic abuse, and to acquire those police reports so that the client and the lawyer can determine what witnesses need to be called, are there any photographs, are there any other witnesses to the domestic abuse?

That same principle would hold true where a parent has a history of alcoholism, and the parent may have gone to rehab a couple of times, and may have gone to the criminal court for DUIs. All those kinds of events by a parent would affect prior activities by that parent, misconduct by the parent. The stronger the evidence in presenting your case, the greater likelihood that there can be success later on. Assessing the evidence is a very important role for an attorney and the client.

If someone doesn’t have an attorney, either party, but particularly where one party doesn’t have a lawyer and doesn’t know what the role is of the rules of evidence, how to admit records into evidence, what is going to be acceptable evidence, such as what is hearsay and what isn’t hearsay, obviously the person that doesn’t have a lawyer is going to be at a disadvantage.

Having a very good background in knowing what evidence gets admitted and how it gets admitted, and what are the foundations that need to be laid in order to get evidence before a court is critical to you in your ability to present a favorable case.

Colorado Step Parent Adoption Process

imagesA very common type of adoption process in Colorado is called a Step Parent Adoption. A Step Parent Adoption occurs when usually one of the parents, after a divorce or a type of custody case, has now remarried. You can have the primary parent, such as Mom, who is now remarried, and her new spouse has taken a significant role in raising the children, and wants to adopt the children as his own.

Let me discuss a little bit about how a step parent adoption works. There are two phases to a step parent adoption. The first phase is called a Termination of Parental Rights, and in that scenario what the court has to determine is whether or not the biological parent has done something, or not done something, that would result in that parent losing all parental responsibilities. If you have a parent who was ordered to pay child support, or was requested by a court and orders to be financially responsible for children, and that parent has abandoned the children, and not provided the children with support. A step parent can come in a provide that support. The court may grant a request for a step parent adoption, and terminate the biological parent’s parental rights, thereby making the children the responsibility of that step parent.

It’s a very rewarding process for a court to see that children are going to be taken care of by a step parent.

Remembering Pearl Harbor Day

Today, December 7th is “pearl harbor day.” On this day, i think back to that fateful day. A day which FDR said was to live in “infamy.” A nation with a third rate armed forces that was bombed into oblivion on the island Oahu.

My father said, that as a boy, he and his family gathered around the radio at his grandmother’s house that Sunday afternoon, wondering where this place they were hearing about, was. Was it on the mainland. Was it on the west coast somewhere. Where the heck was this place, “pearl harbor.”

And then my mind goes back to that Sunday morning, just after sunrise. Soldiers and sailors doing what they do on Sunday mornings: raise the colors, go to church, write their mothers a letter, clean their quarters, report for duty. . . .

I think about the young men, many my son’s age now, or younger, boys really, stationed aboard the USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma, who died that day, “may they rest in peace.” They never had a chance as many of them, literally went down with the ship, pounding out morse code on the vessel’s hull to let rescuer’s know that they were still there, and many still remain.

But that was 75 years ago .. .

They loved their country, had parents, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, back home. They were serving their county, when a hail of Japanese bullets and bombs prematurely ended their lives. I am sure many of them did not know or recognize the horror that engulfed them. Some fought back, many could not. Some died trying. They were the most brave among us, the valiant, the dedicated, those with spirit in their hearts doing what they were trained to do.

It was a “sun filled Sunday morning.” The seas in the harbor were calm, the wind was a gentle breeze. Then the skies opened up with the sound that no one could have imagined.

It lasted a little over an hour.

What this day means to me, is a reflection on the value of human life. That human life can end so abruptly for reasons that we can not understand. That a young man can leave his family with only the gunny sack on his shoulders and end up coming back in a box. This is what war is.

We must all reflect on that day and give our thanks in quiet resolution and meditation. I pray for the souls of those who did not make it that day. Not because of who they were, but because of where they were.

Today, most of those who survived, are now gone. But, we must not forget them and what they endured that day.

Dec. 7th will always be a day i will remember and a day that will cause me to have, pause. I give pause to reflect in my own way.

So, when you go about your day, on December 7th, please think about those young men, young adults who were lost that day and what that means to you.

How Do Charges and Fees Work at the Law Offices of Gordon Shayne?

How do charges and fees work when you hire me as your lawyer, or the Law Offices of Gordon Shayne? We take a lot of pride in the fact that we sit down with clients who come in and hire us, and go over a very extensive fee agreement that is a written contract between the client and me.


Are you preparing to file for divorce? Looking for answers on how the divorce process works? Visit www.ShayneLaw.com to find your answers. Get in touch with us today for any of your Colorado Springs family law needs.

 

How do charges and fees work when you hire me as your lawyer or the Law Offices of Gordon Shayne? We take a lot of pride in the fact that we sit down with clients who come in and hire us and go over a very extensive fee agreement, that is a written contract between the client and me. That fee agreement explains all of the fees, that is expenses, that will be charged to a client in the client’s representation, as well as professional services.

Professional services are broken down to include my fees as the attorney, and paralegal fees and administrative fees, that is the law firm’s administrator. Lawyers in Colorado are governed by the Colorado Bar and the fee agreement itself that is in writing says what the hourly rate is. Most lawyers charge an hourly rate that is consistent with their level of experience.

I’ve been an attorney, practicing for 35 years, and during the course of my career, I have specific training in trial work. That means I go to court and have gone to court extensively in the past. That’s part of my qualifications and my experience in representing you.

When we represent a new client, each month a client will receive a bill, a statement that would show who worked on their file and what work did they perform. Let me give you an example. If during a 30 day billing cycle … let’s just take a certain month of the year … let’s just say in December, the lawyer did 15 minutes worth of work in the course of December for the client and the paralegals answered phone calls and emails and had interactions with the other attorney, then you would see 15 minutes worth of billing for the attorney and all of the paralegal time broken down by date and an explanation of the activity.

The total amount of professional services is then deducted from the retainer that the client provides that goes into a special trust account so that we can bill against the retainer for the services that we provided.

Expenses and fees are those that are generally part of what the court does when they bill the attorney once we represent a client. As an example, in a motion to modify parental responsibilities or parenting time or in a new custody case or a new divorce or legal separation case, once we have entered our appearance on behalf of the client, the clerk at the court is going to bill us for the legal fees that the state law requires in the filing of those kinds of cases. Other kinds of fees that you can anticipate getting billed would be transaction fees for electronic filing of documents, postage, and photocopying of exhibits and other financial documents that are essential in your case.

In our office, you always have the right, any time you wish, to discuss your fees and your billings with our law firm manager who would be happy to set up a conference either in person or by phone to discuss your bill with you, and I’m always available to discuss your bill with you whenever you wish, as well.

How Do I Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

For the most part, I believe that the selection of a divorce attorney is going to be the second biggest decision you make after your decision to terminate or dissolve your marriage. What you should be looking for is a level of comfort with the attorney and the attorney’s staff.


Are you preparing to file for divorce? Looking for answers on how the divorce process works? Visit www.ShayneLaw.com to find your answers. Get in touch with us today for any of your Colorado Springs family law needs.

 

How do I find the right divorce attorney? For the most part, I believe that the selection of a divorce attorney is going to be the second biggest decision you make after your decision to terminate or dissolve your marriage. What you should be looking for is a level of comfort with the attorney and the attorney’s staff. You should be asking yourself, “Is this a person that I’m going to entrust my life and the future of my children with, as I move through this very difficult process?”

There’s going to have to be thousands of decisions that are going to have to be made in the course of your case. Developing that intimate relationship should be a very important decision that you make. You should sit down and talk about the structure of the attorney’s office. How do they return phone calls? How do they return emails? Are they available on holidays or weekends? Do they have a 24 hour number you can call, like we do, where clients can call in and say, “I’m in the middle of a crisis.” Or people call in who we do not have as clients, who are calling after hours, sometimes like a case we received three weeks ago, it was from a nurse who worked the grave yard shift. She had a very limited amount of time to call to talk to a lawyer, and we were accessible to her. What are the paralegals like that you’re going to be working with? Are they friendly? Are they nice? Do you need an appointment every time you want to talk to an attorney? Or can you send an email and get responses quickly to some of the pressing questions that you have? What are your expectations for an attorney?

The attorney should be someone who has the most impeccable qualifications not only in the courtroom, but out of the courtroom, and know what the family laws say. They should be able to direct you in the proper and appropriate way so that there is a trust relationship between you as the client and the lawyer. That’s the expectation that you deserve, and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect throughout the entire process.

How Does Child Custody Work in Colorado Springs?

colorado-springs-child-custodyChild custody in Colorado Springs is determined by the law which governs what they call the best interest of the minor children. Colorado Springs here in El Paso County. The court is going to apply the best interest statute to determining custody. Although custody has been removed from the language in the law and the appropriate language that you’re going to hear is parenting time, parental responsibilities, and decision making, which are all part of the law. When a court goes through an analysis of determining the best interest of children, what the court has to take into account are all the factors in the law. Sometimes those factors include the adjustment of the child or children to the specific community, that is school, relatives, whether or not either party has any mental or physical disability, what are the wishes of the child, if the child is sufficiently mature enough to express those wishes, and all the other factors in the law. Oftentimes I get the question how does domestic violence play into parenting time? We have a specific statute that deals with not only domestic violence, but domestic abuse. That’s a very big issue in Colorado because a court is allowed to take into consideration whether or not one of the parents has been a perpetrator of domestic abuse and whether or not one of the parties has been victimized of domestic abuse in entering parenting time orders.

The most important feature of Colorado’s law is that recent changes to the law says that a court has to enter specific findings of fact if the parenting agreements, that is parenting time agreements, which parent has what parenting time compared to the other parent. If those are not substantially equal, a judge, in the absence of parties agreements, is going to need to give an explanation as to why the parenting time is not equal. You can tell that the direction of the law, the direction of society [on a whole 02:49], favors both parents. Another really important issue and a question I get asked all the time is does Colorado’s law favor a mother over a father? The absolute answer to that is no. A court in the law absolutely cannot favor a mother over a father or a father over a mother. The gender or sex of a parent is not a determining factor as to parenting time or physical care, custody, and control of a child.

How Can I Make Modifications to Child Support?

One of the features of the law which allows for modification is found in Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-122. That part of the law says that if there’s been a change in your financial circumstances, or that of the other party, either party can file a motion to modify child support.


Are you filing for divorce? Do you need help understanding the law and preparing for filing? Contact a Colorado Springs divorce attorney today. Call 719-442-6649 to Schedule Your Immediate Free Consultation!

 

How can I make modifications for child support? Well, one of the features of the law which allows for modification is found in Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-2022. That part of the law says that, if there’s been a change in your financial circumstances, or that of the other party, either party can file a motion to modify child support.

Somebody gets a new job. Somebody’s been laid off for an extended period of time. Somebody’s going back to college, back to school. Those are all kinds of critical facts that may lead to the modification of child support.

Child support also is modified where a child has been emancipated. An example of emancipation can be that a son or daughter has entered military service. Or, a case that I had just recently, a 18 year old moved out before turning age 19 when child support would normally terminate. And this 18 year old said, “I’m going to go live with my buddies up in Fort Collins and mom and dad, see you later, I’m out of here.” That is called emancipation. The same as entering military service. It would mean that child support cuts off at that moment and that gives you the right to file a motion to modify child support.