THE REPRESENTATION YOU NEED IN ORDER TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY
You may not think something as trivial as social media could make an impact on a legal process such as a divorce claim. In law, however, social media activity can become evidence. What you post on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook could be used against you during a divorce case. It can be critical to the success of your case, therefore, to stay off social media until your divorce has been finalized.
What Content On Social Media Could Hurt Your Divorce Claim?
What you believe is harmless social media activity may be anything but. During a divorce case, your spouse’s defense counsel can search through all of your social media accounts – including those with strict privacy settings – for evidence to use against you. An attorney can twist almost anything you say or post against you during a divorce case.
It is wise to keep any new developments in your love life quiet until the completion of your divorce case. Updating your status to “In a Relationship” with another person could negatively affect your ongoing divorce. For example, your ex-spouse may be able to argue against giving you custody by showing that you are already introducing your child to a new person.
Photos of New (Expensive) Purchases
Don’t post any photos, videos or information about new purchases you made while going through a divorce case. This could be portrayed as you trying to reduce your financial assets in preparation for a divorce. Frivolous spending – such as on a new TV, car or boat – could also work against you if you wish to file a claim for spousal support.
Jokes or Threats About Hiding Assets
Never make light about hiding assets on social media (or off of social media). This is a serious crime during a divorce case. Even if you were only making a joke and weren’t actually going to hide assets from your ex, the courts will take it as a reason to investigate your financial status further. Whether or not the courts find any hidden assets, indulging in these jokes can position the courts against you.
Badmouthing Your Spouse Online
The courts will look at many factors when deciding something as important as child custody – including your social media activity. If you have several posts or comments badmouthing or threatening your spouse, this could impact your claim to custody if a judge thinks your behaviors or attitude could have a negative effect on your child.
Photos of You Enjoying Yourself
If part of your divorce involves allegations of domestic violence or abuse, photographs posted on social media where you are partying or celebrating could hurt your case. Your goal will be to prove that your spouse caused you emotional distress – something that will be harder to do with photos posted online of you enjoying yourself.
How to Use Social Media Wisely During Your Divorce
Your spouse’s attorney will be able to use almost anything you post online to hurt your case. Even if you think you’re being careful online, it can surprise you what a lawyer can twist around and use to portray you as an unfaithful, dishonest, unreliable or even violent person. The best way to keep yourself safe is by staying off social media entirely.
If you must use social media during an ongoing divorce case, remain discreet. Do not post any direct status updates or comments, especially about your divorce or your activities. Do not check-in to different locations or let your whereabouts be known. Do not post any images or videos online that reveal anything about your life. Tell your friends not to tag you in these types of posts, either. Never discuss your divorce with anyone online, even in private messages.
Before you delete old social media content during a divorce proceeding, consult with a divorce attorney. Even deleting things could make you look suspicious to a judge. Work with an experienced attorney to understand what to do and what not to do on social media during a divorce case in Colorado to fully protect your rights. A lawyer can help you avoid common mistakes.
Posted in Child Custody on December 14, 2020
Child custody was already a complicated matter before the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic made it dangerous for some parents to divide time spent with a child. The coronavirus has changed the landscape of parenting time and visitation orders with safety measures such as lockdowns and stay-at-home rules. Families now have to consider new challenges when dividing custody between households in a divorce case.
Greater Collaboration Between Parents
Divorced parents have had to come together more than ever for the sake of their children during the coronavirus pandemic. For many families, it has not been a viable option to continue following a judge’s child custody arrangement without communicating new concerns and issues. Many families have had to change the way they do things to protect the safety of their children, such as limiting the number of transitions between two households. Transparent communication between spouses has been integral.
If you are a divorced co-parent during the pandemic, do your best to communicate openly and effectively with both your ex and your child. Voice your concerns if you have fears or anxieties about your child’s safety. Do not, however, take custody into your own hands. You do not have the legal right to change a custody agreement. You and your spouse must agree to an alteration together or you must obtain a court order from a judge. Open communication is key to maintaining a child custody and visitation agreement that works for everyone in these unprecedented times.
Use of Technology to Bridge the Gap
Families with the greatest concerns about the coronavirus and child custody are often dealing with issues such as one parent being an essential worker who is at an increased risk of contracting the virus, or a parent who is vulnerable to the virus not being able to risk in-person visits with a child. If your circumstances prevent you and your ex-spouse from sharing in-person time with your child the way you used to with your custody agreement, turn to technology to bridge the gap.
Many families are using videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime to allow parents to see their children while social distancing. Consider whether digital visitation is the right option for your family if you are worried about the risk of contracting the virus with in-person parenting time. Communicate with your ex-spouse to make sure he or she is on the same page. If you refuse to let your co-parent see your child without a court order, or vice versa, this can lead to being held in contempt of court, with consequences such as potential jail time.
What About a Pre-Existing Court Order?
If you fear for your child’s safety with COVID-19, you can file for an emergency modification to your custody agreement. You cannot modify custody without permission from a judge. The law in Colorado obligates you and your ex-spouse to follow the court-ordered child custody and visitation agreement already in place before COVID-19. If your family is concerned about sharing time between households, such as concerns about exposing a child with special needs or health conditions to the virus, you can file a new motion with the court to restrict your ex-spouses parenting time.
To change a custody agreement during the pandemic, you will need to prove that your co-parent has either tested positive to the coronavirus or that he or she poses a high risk of danger due to his or her occupation. Judges in Colorado decide on changes to custody agreements ordered pre-coronavirus on a case-by-case basis. If you need help protecting your child during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic by altering a child custody order or if you need assistance going up against a spouse who is withholding custody, contact an attorney in Fort Collins for advice.
Posted in Child Custody on October 23, 2020
Even in the best of circumstances, a custody hearing can be a difficult and emotional process. An emergency custody hearing can be even more overwhelming due to the grave nature of the complaint. Emergency hearings for child custody typically involve dangerous or time-sensitive issues, such as suspected child abuse or neglect. If you are part of an emergency custody hearing in Colorado, learn what to expect from the legal process.
Petition for an Emergency Custody Hearing
An emergency custody hearing can garner results and protect a child much faster than a traditional custody hearing. A judge will push an emergency hearing to the front of the schedule rather than making a petitioner wait for the next available court date. The first step of an emergency custody hearing is the filing of a petition by a parent who is concerned for the welfare of his or her child.
One parent must petition the courts for an emergency hearing with his or her reason and the type of relief sought. To justify the need for an emergency custody hearing in Colorado, the petitioner will need to claim circumstances such as abuse, neglect, a sex offender in the child’s home or substance abuse by the custodial parent. The parent will also list the type of relief sought, such as temporary custody or taking away the other parent’s visitation rights.
Preliminary Evidence Submitted and Reviewed
The parent filing the petition will need to submit evidence supporting his or her belief that the child is in danger. During an emergency hearing, a judge will only consider the evidence connected to the emergency. A judge will not look at future custody issues during an emergency hearing, such as more permanent custody arrangements. Instead, the judge may arrange a later court date if you wish to modify your custody agreement or make other changes that are not directly connected to the emergency.
If you are the person filing the petition, you will need to support it with evidence of why you believe your child is in danger. Common types of evidence used during an emergency custody hearing are police reports, domestic violence reports, child protective service documents, statements from people who witnessed the abuse or event, a child’s medical records, and reports from a child psychologist. A judge will not rule in your favor unless you can prove using evidence that the child is in danger where he or she currently resides.
A Judge’s Decision
Each district in Colorado has its own emergency custody hearing process. For the most part, a judge will assess the evidence submitted and make a decision the same day. At the end of an emergency custody hearing, a judge in Colorado will either grant the petitioner the relief sought or deny the claim. If a judge agrees that the child is in danger, the judge may issue a temporary order that grants custody to the filing parent based on the evidence presented. A judge will always rule according to what he or she believes is in the best interest of the child.
A judge’s decision during an emergency custody hearing is often not the end of a case. In many situations, a judge will follow up by appointing a child psychologist or welfare agent to continue investigating the family and the child endangerment allegation. A judge may also order the parent who was in the wrong to attend mandatory anger management, substance abuse or parenting classes, depending on the situation.
Follow Up With a Full Trial
Temporary orders won during an emergency custody hearing may not be enough to protect your child in the long term. You may need to follow up with a full custody trial. A judge may or may not agree to reinstate the abusive parent’s custody or visitation rights at a full custody hearing based on the results of an investigation. Hire a child custody lawyer in Colorado for assistance with a full custody trial. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence of child abuse or endangerment to submit to a judge during an emergency hearing. Then, your attorney can help you follow up with a full custody hearing for a more permanent solution.
Posted in Child Custody on June 2, 2020
It is an unprecedented time for parents as they cope with the novel COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic. Canceled school, closed-down day cares and shelter-in-place orders have led to a lot of confusion and frustration for parents with small children. If you and your ex-spouse have a custody agreement from a divorce or separation in Colorado, you could be at a loss as to how to accommodate your order without jeopardizing the safety of your child. Here is what you need to know about handling custody and visitation safely and legally during COVID-19.
COVID-19 and Social Distancing Rules
As of mid-May 2020, the COVID-19 virus has taken close to 100,000 lives in the US alone. Colorado has reported more than 23,000 cases and 1,300 deaths. The virus appears to spread fastest through face-to-face contact. Federal and state governments are taking steps to try to curb the spread of the virus, such as issuing shelter-in-place orders and social distancing rules. Social distancing refers to staying at least six feet away from people whom you are not in isolation with. It also refers to avoiding group gatherings and crowded places. Anyone who does not live in your household should stay away under social distancing guidelines.
How Do Social Distancing Rules Affect Custody Arrangements?
Social distancing becomes more complicated when a family has a child that usually divides his or her time between both parents. Shelter-in-place and social distancing measures do not easily accommodate a child going back and forth between two different households. The coronavirus does not, however, give a parent the right to breach a custody agreement. Your spouse cannot lawfully withhold custody or visitation for fear of your child contracting COVID-19.
If your ex-spouse is refusing custody or visitation, take the matter to the family courts in Fort Collins using alternate filing procedures requesting a judge’s intervention. You can file electronically, through the mail or using a drop-box location. Many judges in Colorado are making rulings virtually. Make it clear to your co-parent that the courts are not tolerating custody violations during COVID-19 and that he or she could be held in contempt of court for refusing to let you see your child. This could be enough to force your ex-spouse to obey your custody order.
The coronavirus may not change things from a legal perspective, but parents may still have valid concerns over the health and safety of their children. If you worry about your child’s risk of exposure – especially if your ex-spouse works in health care, is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or your child is high-risk – discuss the issue with your spouse. Hopefully, your spouse will be reasonable and work with you to minimize the risks to your child. Both households can take extra precautions and sanitary measures, for example, as well as limit who visits each home.
How Will the Response to COVID-19 Affect My Case in the Courts?
If you and your ex-spouse just filed for divorce or were in the middle of a divorce case when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the rest of your case will look different than it did before. The Colorado courts currently remain closed to in-person visits. Most divorce lawyers, however, are continuing their work on cases like usual. They have transitioned to virtual and telecommunication technologies to avoid face-to-face contact with their clients but are still processing claims. You and your ex-spouse may still be able to achieve a divorce settlement or alter a custody plan during COVID-19 using web-based technologies.
Speak to a Family Lawyer
During COVID-19, it may be in your child’s best interests for you and your ex-spouse to agree on temporary custody changes, such as making up missed in-person visits later. Try to work together with your co-parent to create the best temporary parenting plan for your family. Then, have a judge sign off on the changes to cover your legal bases. If your family needs assistance handling a custody matter during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact a child custody attorney. An attorney can help you draft agreements, file petitions, protect your rights and more during this uncertain time.
The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching implications. It has affected most aspects of life…including marriage and divorce. Couples quarantining together have given rise to speculation of divorce rates increasing, while couples in the middle of divorces are wondering how the virus will affect their cases. Take a look at how the coronavirus has affected divorce for an idea of what to expect.
Is COVID-19 Leading to Higher Divorce Rates?
Several news reports from around the world have confirmed what many divorce lawyers have suspected: lockdowns, self-isolation and quarantine have strained marriages past the point of reconciliation for thousands of couples. One article from the New York Post quotes lawyers from NYC confirming an uptick in the number of divorce cases related to COVID-19, while another from Business Insider reports a spike in divorce cases filed in Xi’an, China upon the lift of its mandatory lockdown.
Divorce lawyers and relationship experts speculate that the rise in divorce petitions has a few different reasons. Couples that might normally have spent more time apart are now stuck with each other for weeks, leading to an increase in stress, frustration and fights. Co-parenting while the family is quarantined may also present new challenges or issues that parents may be unable to overcome. Some couples were already on the brink of divorce, only to have issues related to the coronavirus finally push them past the breaking point. Financial problems connected to job losses are also adding to marital stress and an increase in divorce rates.
How Has the Coronavirus Changed the Divorce Process?
On top of increasing the number of divorces, the coronavirus has also altered the legal process. Most courtrooms in Colorado have temporarily closed or significantly reduced the number of cases accepted, leading to longer wait times than usual for a couple to have a judge hear a divorce case. If your divorce requires a trial, you will most likely have to wait until your county lifts its social distancing requirements and the courts are back in regular session to complete your divorce case.
If you can work out a divorce settlement agreement with your spouse, however, it might be possible to get a divorce without going to court. Some courts have implemented technologies to allow couples to file documents electronically and attend court sessions via videoconferencing. Most divorce lawyers in Colorado are also offering telephone consultations, online document collection and e-signatures on legal documents to help initiate and/or complete divorce proceedings virtually. Many judges are ruling on petitions remotely to finalize them. Ask an attorney if it will be possible to file for divorce or continue a case you filed before COVID-19.
Can I Start Divorce Mediation Now?
The pandemic might have a significant impact on your divorce timeline depending on the circumstances. Many couples trying to divorce during the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving notices from their lawyers explaining that they will have to wait until the country lifts its social distancing regulations to file or continue a case. Others, however, are having good luck with telecommunications and virtual proceedings. Each case and county are unique. Call a lawyer in your county to find out if you and your spouse can start divorce mediation now.
How Will This Affect My Children?
The coronavirus might impact child custody by making it impossible or unsafe for co-parents to take turns with the kids according to their custody agreements. It might be necessary for you and your spouse to work out a temporary custody modification to accommodate social distancing or quarantine requirements. Make sure you do this with help from a lawyer rather than making a verbal agreement. The same is true if you need to modify a child support agreement. If you lost your job because of COVID-19 and can no longer pay child support, contact a lawyer to submit an official modification request. Working closely with a lawyer during this unprecedented and uncertain time can help you get trusted answers to your questions.
Posted in Child Custody on March 11, 2020
Child custody is one of the most complex aspects of divorce. It is a highly emotional matter deciding who will be physically and legally responsible for your child. The courts of Colorado do not take custody decisions lightly. They analyze many factors and will hear from both sides of the case before determining what custody arrangement is best for the child. Learning what to expect from a custody battle in Colorado can help you prepare for what is to come.
What Are Parental Responsibilities?
Parental responsibility is the term Colorado now uses for child custody. Colorado has two types of parental responsibility: physical (parenting time) and legal (parenting responsibilities). Parenting time describes the physical care of the child at a parent’s home. Legal parental responsibility is the right to make important decisions as to the child’s religion, education and health care. Most custody cases will involve both parents sharing both types of responsibilities. It is possible, though rare, for the courts to assign one parent only one type of custody and not the other.
Factors Involved in Custody Decisions
As is the case in all states, Colorado bases custody decisions during a divorce case on one main priority: the child’s best interest. During your fight for custody of your child after a divorce, you or your child custody lawyer will have the opportunity to present arguments and evidence as to why your desired custody arrangement is best for your child. The courts will assess many factors to understand what will benefit the child the most.
- The fitness of each parent. The courts will analyze each parent’s background and history, including any history of drug or alcohol abuse, criminal convictions, domestic violence charges (even if not convicted), and mental health disorders.
- The relationships between the child and each parent. A judge will assess the child’s relationship with each parent, as well as with his or her siblings and grandparents, to determine what would be in the child’s best interest.
- The child’s establishment in a location. A judge will look at how established the child is in his or her community, including school, church and after-school activities, as well as how well the child might adapt to a new environment.
- The child’s wishes. If the child is old and mature enough to have an independent opinion (unbiased by a parent’s), a judge may consider the child’s own wishes in terms of where he or she wants to live.
You can improve your odds of attaining the child custody arrangement you desire by hiring a lawyer. A divorce lawyer will know what to say and do to position your case in its best light. A lawyer knows what a judge is looking for when assessing each parent in terms of fitness. You can trust your attorney to do and say what is right for your case while you focus on building a better future for you and your family after divorce.
Common Custody Arrangements
While the courts recognize co-parenting is not appropriate in all situations, they also believe that, in most circumstances, frequent and continuing contact between the child and each parent is in the best interest of all parties (Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-124). An exception is if the case involves physical, sexual or emotional abuse by one parent, in which case the courts may decide the child is better off 100% in the care of the other parent.
Joint custody is more common than sole custody in Colorado. Joint custody is a split arrangement that gives both parents physical custody some of the time. Some joint custody arrangements are 50/50, but most use another type of division for practical reasons. One parent may have the child every weekend, for example. Sole custody gives one parent 100% of physical custody (and often legal responsibility). The other parent may or may not have visitation rights in a sole custody agreement.
Cheating is the driving factor behind many divorce cases. Cheating could be the reason one or both parties come to the courts with a divorce petition. Whether cheating will play a role in divorce proceedings, however, depends on the state. Most states permit petitioners to bring fault-based divorce claims on the grounds of adultery. In these states, cheating could influence a judge’s decisions, such as child custody or alimony. In Colorado, however, no-fault laws mean cheating generally will not affect a divorce.
Colorado Is a No-Fault Divorce State
Colorado is one of 17 true no-fault divorce states in the U.S. True no-fault states do not allow residents to file for fault-based divorces. In Colorado, therefore, a petition cannot list adultery as a reason for the dissolution of marriage. The only acceptable grounds for divorce in Colorado is an irretrievably broken marriage. Even if cheating is what broke your marriage, the state courts do not need to know the specifics. The courts only ask that either both parties agree the marriage is irretrievably broken or the respondent does not deny it.
Cheating will not impact any of a judge’s decisions during most divorce cases in Colorado. Since a petitioner cannot assert adultery as a reason for the dissolution, the judge will not consider it during child custody, property division or alimony decisions. In a fault-based state, on the other hand, a judge may use cheating as a determining factor in these important decisions. In general, the spouse that did not cheat could receive a greater portion of marital property and alimony in a fault-based divorce state.
Exceptions to the Rule
Although cheating will not play a factor in most no-fault divorce cases in Colorado, some exceptions to the rule exist. In extreme situations, adultery could impact a judge’s decisions. A judge in Colorado will not look at a spouse’s moral or ethical fitness, but he or she could assess how adultery might impact material aspects of the case. If you are curious as to whether cheating might affect your divorce, consult a lawyer.
- Marital waste. Colorado is an equitable distribution state, meaning a judge will divide marital property based on what is fair and equal for the couple. Many factors could influence a judge’s decision, including marital waste. This is a legal issue in which one spouse spends an excessive amount of money; for example, if a spouse spends an exorbitant amount on travel or hotel rooms while having an affair. In cases involving marital waste, a judge could award greater marital assets to the other spouse.
- A child’s best interests. In some adultery situations, a judge may see one parent’s romantic relationship as something that could potentially go against the child’s best interests. If the parent’s new spouse has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, for example, the judge may not feel comfortable awarding that parent primary custody of the child. The child’s best interests will be the main standard in making this decision, however, not the fact that one parent cheated on the other.
- A prenuptial agreement. Some couples in Colorado sign prenuptial agreements before getting married. A prenuptial agreement could have an infidelity clause, in which case cheating would affect the divorce. An infidelity clause could state that if one spouse cheats on the other, the cheating spouse must face the consequences listed in the prenup, such as getting to keep fewer marital assets.
In most cases, it will not matter if your spouse cheated on you in Colorado. If your relationship fulfills one of the exceptions, however, you may need a lawyer’s assistance in navigating how adultery might impact your divorce. A lawyer could help you use your spouse’s adultery to your advantage, if possible, or defend you against such actions if you are the one guilty of infidelity. Regardless of your situation, a divorce attorney could help you work through a complicated divorce case in Colorado.
Posted in Child Custody on October 14, 2019
During a divorce case, it is normal to feel anxious, depressed or overwhelmed. For many people, the stressors that come with divorce are enough to lead to a prescription for antidepressants. If you are on antidepressants, however, your spouse could try to use this against you during a custody battle. While this may seem like a lose-lose situation, you may be able to avoid negative repercussions if you know what to expect during your custody case – and how to strengthen your position as a parent.
How Does Colorado Decide Child Custody?
Before the courts intervene in child custody in any divorce case, they will give the couple the opportunity to create their own parenting plan. If the parents can agree on parenting time and responsibilities, a judge will most likely sign off on the custody plan the parents create, as long as the decision is in the child’s best interest. If, however, parents go to court to determine custody, a judge will decide the parenting plan for them based on several factors.
- Relationship between the child and each parent
- Child’s establishment in the community
- History of abuse or domestic violence
- Parental conduct, including substance abuse
- Stability of each household and parent
- Child’s wishes, if old enough to decide
Overall, a judge will make a custody decision based on one main concern: the child’s well being. The judge will rule according to what he or she believes is best for the child’s health, safety, welfare and happiness after hearing both sides of the case. The courts generally try to keep both parents in a child’s life unless there is sufficient reason to keep a parent away. Co-parenting skills could help you achieve full or joint custody during a divorce case in Colorado.
Can Antidepressants Work Against You?
It is an unfortunate reality that seeking help for your mental health during a divorce could negatively impact your custody case. That could be the situation, however, if your spouse decides to use your depression or the fact that you are on medications against you. Your ex-spouse may bring these issues to a judge’s attention during his or her arguments. A judge may see this as a sign of potential instability and rule in your ex-spouse’s favor.
However, taking antidepressants could also be proof that you are responsible enough as a parent to get your depression under control. If you hire an attorney to advocate your side of the custody case, your lawyer could help you shed a positive light on your situation. Your child custody lawyer can explain to a judge that you are suffering from situational depression because of the divorce and that you do not have a history of needing antidepressants, or that you are stable and consistent even while on antidepressants.
If a judge believes your depression or taking antidepressants could affect your mental state, he or she will want to learn more. Your lawyer can take this opportunity to illustrate your character and explain to the judge that you are a responsible, even-tempered parent who is taking medications to strengthen your mental health. Your lawyer can show the judge you are taking a medication prescribed by a doctor, according to the doctor’s directions, and that you are not abusing the drugs. Your lawyer could also establish that your depression does not interfere with your ability to take care of your child.
Do not let your ex-spouse intimidate or bully you into trying to handle your mental health without professional help. See a doctor and do not be afraid to take antidepressants, if prescribed. Do your best to restore your mental health. Then, hire a lawyer from the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci to represent your side of the case during a custody trial in Colorado. If your lawyer can prove you are handling your situational or clinical depression in a healthy way, it should not interfere with your claim to child custody.
Dealing with a divorce can be difficult for any family. As a stay-at-home mom, however, you may worry more than most about what your life might look like post-divorce. You may have forfeited an education or career to care for children, relying on your spouse for financial support. Now, you may lose this support, on top of dealing with expensive divorce fees and court costs. Luckily, Colorado law looks out for stay-at-home moms and other divorcees in financial binds.
The Right to Hire an Attorney
If you have a complicated divorce, hire an attorney to help you work through your case. As a stay-at-home mom, your divorce case will most likely involve complicated matters that deserve legal attention, such as spousal support and child custody. A Fort Collins family lawyer can protect your rights from the beginning, taking over communications with your ex-spouse and his or her attorney. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, ask about including your legal fees as part of a divorce settlement. Many lawyers will work with you to arrange a payment plan that works for your family.
The Right to Fight for Primary Custody
The courts in Colorado will not automatically award you child custody, even as the stay-at-home parent. However, this fact will most likely work in your favor during custody negotiations. First, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to work together to create your own parenting plan. This plan will include custody, parenting time and parental responsibilities. If you can, work with your spouse during mediation to compromise on child custody matters. That way, you can both avoid surprises that may occur if your case goes to court.
If you and your spouse cannot work out a custody arrangement, use an attorney to help you fight for primary custody. An attorney can help you prove to a judge that you are the right choice with evidence such as your close relationship with the children, your role as the primary caregiver, their emotional bond to you and other factors. Your children will not have a say in custody unless they are old enough to give their opinion. In that case, a judge may consider what your children have to say. Ultimately, the judge will rule on a custody matter based on the best interests of your children.
The Right to Seek Child Support
As a stay-at-home mom, you will most likely be eligible for a child support order if the courts grant you primary custody. Colorado’s child support laws offer money in monthly installments or lump sums to help the primary parent pay for the care and support of children. Your spouse may owe you child support based on both parties’ incomes, education, jobs and parental rights. The courts may award child support if it is reasonably necessary to give children the same quality of life they had before the divorce. A child support order will typically last until the child turns 18 unless the child is still in high school or has a disability.
The Right to Request Spousal Support
Spousal support, or spousal maintenance, is a monetary award the courts may grant one spouse in circumstances of financial need. Spousal support is not a guarantee, even as a stay-at-home mom with little to no income. A judge in Colorado will only award spousal support if you exhibit financial need and if your ex-spouse has the means to pay the award. The amount and duration of the award, if any, will depend on your situation.
Colorado law uses the length of the marriage to determine how long spousal support will last. The law has a long list outlining how many months a spouse may receive support. For a marriage lasting 5 years, for example, the support order will last 21 months. The longer your marriage, the longer you could receive spousal support. You should use the months in which you receive spousal maintenance to get an education or job training that will help you find a position to support yourself and your children on your own. An experienced and local lawyer could maximize your odds of gaining spousal support during a divorce case.
A history of crime could impact your child custody case in Colorado. All child custody matters boil down to one main consideration: what is in the best interest of the child. If a criminal record demonstrates to a judge that you may put your children at risk in any way, it could impact his or her decision on custody matters. With criminal charges pending against you, a judge may rule in the other spouse’s favor. Should the criminal courts dismiss the charges against you, however, you may be able to file a request to modify the custody order.
Your Criminal Record Will Be Part of a Divorce Trial
It is impossible to conceal your criminal past from a judge during a child custody trial. Your record is public and an important piece of your past in the eyes of the family courts. The best you can do is to seal your criminal record, which may be an option if the courts convicted you of a petty offense, minor violation or crime involving certain drugs. A sealed or expunged record could help your custody case by showing a judge you did not commit a major offense or completed probation.
If the criminal charges against you are still pending, a judge may wait to make a custody decision until the resolution of your criminal case. It is possible that a criminal courtroom will drop the charges against you or find you not guilty. In these cases, you may not have to worry as much about a criminal history impacting your child custody case. If, however, the criminal courts do not rule in your favor, a judge will consider your propensity toward crime when determining custody. If a custody case must proceed while criminal charges are still pending, it could hurt your odds of a positive outcome.
How a Judge Decides Custody in Colorado
The Colorado courts refer to child custody as parental responsibilities. Parental responsibilities include physical custody of the children and the right to make important life decisions for them, such as education and health care. It can also refer to visitation rights for a noncustodial parent and/or grandparents. Parental responsibility court decisions center on the standard of a child’s best interest.
- Each parent’s relationship with the child
- Children’s connections to the community
- Parents’ wishes
- Children’s wishes (in some cases, if children are old enough)
- Both parents’ abilities to care for children
A judge will rule according to what would be best for the children. Each parent’s character and habits are relevant in this consideration. A judge will hear testimony from character witnesses and review things such as each parent’s criminal record, history of domestic violence and drug or alcohol dependencies. Pending criminal charges may or may not impact your custody case depending on the identity of the victim, nature of the offense and whether it was your first encounter with the law.
Modifying Your Custody Order in Colorado
A pending charge is not a criminal conviction. If a judge has already decided against you in a custody matter, but the criminal justice system in Fort Collins drops the charges against you, you may be able to fight for a better outcome. A judge may agree to modify your custody order if doing so suits the best interests of the children. Receiving an order modification will take proving that your situation has significantly changed since the date of the first order; for example, dropped charges, an expunged record or the completion of your sentence.
A judge will still take your criminal history into account when deciding child custody. If you or your lawyer can convince that different custody or visitation rights are in the child’s best interest, however, the judge may agree to modify the original order. Hiring an attorney and staying out of legal trouble can optimize your odds of a positive parental responsibilities agreement, as can proving you can provide a safe and stable environment for your children.