Divorce

Stephen Vertucci Listed as Top 3 Divorce Lawyers by Three Best Rated® for 2019

Posted in Divorce,Family Law on March 19, 2019

Stephen Vertucci was recently ranked as the top divorce attorney in Fort Collins, CO by Three Best Rated®. Qualifications for ranking as a top 3 divorce lawyer in Fort Collins included a rigorous 50-Point inspection ranging from checking reputation, history, complaints, ratings, satisfaction, nearness, trust, cost and general excellence.

Three Best Rated® was created to rank top businesses in all cities across the US. They are “focused on best, not the most” when it comes to hand-selecting local businesses. It is truly an honor to be acknowledged as one of Fort Collins best. Our law office strives to make every client happy, everyday. We hope to continue giving our clients the best possible services for all family law needs. We specialize in divorce, child custody cases, child support cases, and more.

Stephen began practicing law in Colorado since 2007 and has focused his practice primarily on family law in Northern Colorado since that time. Stephen is a fan of the local art scene in Fort Collins and on his free time enjoys weekend road trips with his family. To learn more about Mr. Vertuccis hobbies and career path, read his bio here.


We know our clients deserve the best and we strive everyday to be the representation you need in order to protect your family. For more information about our mission, call today or visit the links below:

Best Divorce lawyers in Fort Collins

Who Gets Pet Custody in a Colorado Divorce?

Posted in Divorce,Separation on March 15, 2019

Studies show that pet ownership has increased in the last few decades. Since the first National Pet Owners Survey in 1988, pet ownership has gone up by 12%, from 56% of U.S. households to 68% in 2018. Studies also show the increase in pet ownership correlates to a decrease in younger generations having children. The outcome? Many couples getting divorced today treat their pets like their children – creating intense pet custody battles during Colorado divorce cases.

Deciding Your Own Pet Custody Arrangement

Pet custody is like many other aspects of a divorce case in that it does not have to fall to the decision of the courts. Couples will have the option to arrange their own pet custody agreement before a judge intervenes. This is almost always preferable than taking a pet custody case to trial. Trials can be unpredictable, and you may end up losing custody of your pet altogether, rather than settling on a compromise with your ex-spouse.

First, try to work out an agreeable arrangement between you and the other pet parent. Create a plan for the pet as part of how you and your spouse will separate property. The courts will always try to approve divorce arrangements a family creates before intervening. If you and your ex-spouse cannot work it out alone, consider hiring a mediator to help with negotiations. Mediation is not a trial. It is a meeting between you, your spouse, and an unbiased third-party mediator to act as a judge. You may also have attorneys present, if desired.

Mediation can help you resolve a pet custody battle without needing to take your case to court. You and your spouse can both present your cases, and the mediator will make a final suggestion as to how the issue should be resolved. You and your ex-spouse may either accept the suggestion and make it your official divorce contract, or reject the solution and proceed to the next step – a court trial. If your pet custody case does go before a judge, know that the courts will see your cat or dog like personal property, not like a child.

Pets as Property in Colorado

You may not see your pet as just another piece of owned property, but that is how the Colorado legal system views it. Your pet may be like a beloved family member, but in the eyes of the law, he or she is just another asset of the marriage. Thus, Colorado’s property division laws will preside over your pet custody case, not child custody laws. Here is a breakdown of how property division works in Colorado.

  • Separate vs. community property. Separate property is any and all assets either spouse possessed prior to the date of marriage. Community property, on the other hand, is assets the couple obtained during the course of the marriage – or assets the couple legally decided to share, such as joining two separate bank accounts.
  • Equitable distribution rules. Colorado is an equitable distribution, or common law, state. The courts will not split community property down the middle, in a 50/50 division. Instead, the courts will typically allot a greater portion of shared assets to the higher-earning spouse in the relationship.
  • How the court makes marital property decisions. In general, the courts cannot touch separate property. Each spouse will maintain ownership of his or her own separate properties. The state’s equitable division rule will only apply to community, or marital, properties and assets.
  • Fault vs. no-fault divorce. Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. Your spouse cannot use your fault for the split against you during property division or child custody disputes. In other words, even if you are at fault for causing your divorce, this will not automatically bar you from pet custody. Instead, the courts will split property in an equitable manner.

If you owned your pet prior to the marriage, odds are the courts will view the pet as your own separate property. Custody of the pet will likely go to you and not your spouse. If, however, you and your spouse purchased or adopted the pet after marriage (or obtained the pet jointly prior to marriage), the courts will determine custody as it would any other piece of property, in most cases.

The Answer Depends on the Court

Colorado does not have any specific pet custody laws. This makes the matter somewhat unclear and unpredictable. The courts will determine pet custody on a case-by-case basis. Some judges may look at a pet purely as property, and divide it along with other pieces of property, such as a residence or income. Other judges, however, may consider some of the child custody rules when determining a pet custody dispute.

Your judge, for example, may examine what is in the best interests of the pet to determine whether you or your spouse should have custody. The judge may listen to both sides of the argument, assess what would be best for the pet in question, and determine a sole or joint custody arrangement based on the facts of your case. How the courts treat your particular situation depends entirely on the judge, since no legal governance exists for such situations.

Can You Improve Your Chances of Securing Pet Custody?

It may be difficult to predict how a pet custody battle will go, but you can improve your chances of a satisfactory outcome by hiring a lawyer. Hiring an attorney because of your pet may seem unnecessary, until you realize the chance of your pet going to neither you nor your spouse exists. It is in the court’s power to order that the pet goes to a third party if you and your spouse cannot work out an agreement between yourselves. A judge may choose not to intervene in these situations, and decide to send the pet to a separate home instead of assigning custody.

If custody of your pet post-divorce is important to you, hire a divorce attorney to represent you during mediation or a divorce trial. A lawyer during your mediation can improve the odds of you and your spouse coming to a satisfactory compromise on pet custody and visitation rights, without needing to go to court. If your case does proceed to trial, a lawyer can state your claim to the pet through property division and/or custody laws. Your lawyer may be able to prove to a judge that you are the owner that will do what is best for the animal.

Proof of your position as the right choice may include demonstrating that you were the one who took primary care of the animal during the marriage. If you were the one who spent more money on the pet’s healthcare, more time walking or feeding the pet, and more attention on the pet, you could win primary custody – even if your spouse was the one who initially purchased the animal. Your attorney can set up witnesses to testify to your care of the pet, as well as collect evidence such as vet bills.

If you are currently facing a potential pet custody battle with your spouse during a divorce case, focus on what is best for your pet. Try to come to an agreement together, with help from lawyers and mediators. Neither spouse should use a pet to hurt or manipulate the other spouse.

If you need help getting custody of a pet you believe should be yours, trust an experienced attorney to make your case for you during mediation or a trial in Colorado.

 

Top 5 Most Common Reasons for a Divorce

Posted in Divorce on January 28, 2019

The divorce rate across the United States has decreased by 18% over the last 10 years. In Colorado, the trend is similar; the state divorce rate is the lowest it has been in a decade. Despite lower numbers, however, the divorce rate in Colorado is still over 20,000 couples per year. While every couple has unique reasons for splitting up, studies show marked similarities in the top causes of divorce.

1) Extramarital Affairs

Infidelity is a major cause of divorce in the U.S. Extramarital affairs often lead to breakdowns of marriages, increasing discord between spouses — resulting in anger and resentment. Having an affair could stem from issues already within the marriage, such as lack of emotional or physical intimacy. However, the actual act of infidelity is more likely to drive a couple apart and lead to divorce or separation.

Instead of resolving issues or differences, an affair exacerbates existing issues and adds new, bigger ones. The strain of a physical or emotional affair can be too much for most relationships to withstand. Many individuals agree the affair of one spouse is something they find difficult to forgive or forget in a marriage.

2) Money Matters

If two spouses’ stances on money matters are at odds with one another, it increases the odds of fights and tension in the marriage. Disputes over spending, budgeting, and earning money can drive a wedge between a couple. Different financial goals or spending habits within a marriage could be enough to lead to a major power struggle and marriage breaking point. The stress of trying to juggle finances together may be too much for some couples, especially those with lower incomes. Statistics show a higher divorce rate among low-income couples.

3) Lack of Proper Communication

Thousands of couples name lack of communication as the cause of their divorces. Communication is key to a healthy and happy relationship. Open and honest communication with a spouse can show trust, respect, and deference to what the other spouse thinks and believes. Great communication can see a relationship through difficulties, while lack thereof could cause a simple argument to escalate into grounds for a divorce. Being able to talk about a sore subject and come to an agreement together could save a marriage.

Sometimes, love alone is not enough to save a marriage. A couple must learn how to sit down, express their feelings, and communicate effectively with one another. Communication problems are why many struggling couples turn to therapy as a last step before divorce. A therapist may be able to facilitate conversations that the couple cannot have unaided, probably from a history of poor communication.

4) Unrealistic Expectations

Some couples are destined for divorce from the very beginning. Too many people marry with unrealistic or lofty expectations of what marriage will be like. They do not anticipate the challenges or struggles they may encounter along the way. When problems do happen, these couples may not have the tools to effectively deal with them. Instead, they end up in front of a judge, asking for divorce. Unrealistic expectations of money, residence, careers, or a spouse could doom a marriage before it starts.

5) Lost Intimacy

Almost every relationship undergoes intimacy changes over time, but a total depletion of physical or emotional intimacy could result in a permanent split. Healthy relationships maintain intimacy as best they can, with both partners communicating their needs. While intimacy may change shape as a couple goes through life’s challenges, if it comes to a point where one or both people feel unappreciated or unloved, it may be time for divorce. Communication during a relationship about each spouse’s intimacy needs can help prevent this common cause of divorce.

Does Adultery Affect Alimony in Colorado?

Posted in Divorce on January 20, 2019

Alimony, called spousal maintenance in Colorado, is a court-ordered payment one spouse gives the other as part of a divorce or separation agreement. Typically, the spouse earning less income will receive the payments, while the one with greater income becomes the payer. Alimony is a guarantee in Colorado divorce cases where the combined gross annual income of the couple is under $75,000.

The point of alimony is to bridge the gap between two spouses with an income disparity, to ensure both enjoy the same standard of living they enjoyed while married. In Colorado, it is not to punish one spouse or the other. Furthermore, Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. This means it will not consider any evidence of one spouse’s fault for the divorce in determining settlement arrangements. An extramarital affair, for instance, will not affect alimony in Colorado.

Rules of Alimony in Colorado

Colorado has stricter alimony laws than in most other states. It is one of only a few states to make alimony decrees mandatory in certain divorce cases. In other states, alimony is never a guarantee, but rather contingent on the couple’s unique situation. Colorado has a presumption that most marriages involve an intermingling of both spouse’s economic lives. The Colorado General Assembly has concluded it is often impossible to separate the individual debts and contributions of each during a divorce case.

This presumption has led to the legislative declaration found in Section 14-10-114 of the Colorado Revised Statutes: if the combined income of a couple is less than $75,000, the courts must order temporary alimony. If over $75,000, it is up to the judge whether to make this order. Colorado’s unique alimony statute ensures a divorce proceeding does not leave one spouse impoverished. Once the temporary alimony order expires, the judge may decide to make it permanent.

Temporary alimony orders generally award spousal support equal to 40% of the higher earner’s income, minus 50% of the lower earner’s income. It is possible to receive a different order if evidence shows need for another amount. The temporary order will last as long as the judge commands, at which point a hearing will take place to determine the need for a permanent alimony order. Alimony typically lasts until the lower-earning spouse can acquire sufficient education or training for employment, or until that spouse remarries.

Colorado’s No-Fault Divorce Laws

In some states, each spouse’s actions during a marriage can determine the provisions of a divorce decree. If one spouse has an affair, for example, he or she could be at fault for the divorce and receive less than his or her spouse during property distribution. In Colorado, however, the courts do not care who is or is not at fault for the divorce. Section 14-10-113 of the law is clear: the courts will take many factors into account during property division decisions, but fault for the divorce is not one of them.

It does not matter if one spouse had an affair, or if this was the reason for the divorce. Adultery will not affect an alimony agreement in any way in Colorado. However, an affair could impact property division if the affair breached a prenuptial agreement or added debts to the marriage. If, for example, one spouse spent co-mingled money purchasing a hotel room during the affair, the cheating spouse could receive fewer assets because of the debt incurred.

Like alimony, having an affair also will not impact child custody or child support agreements in Colorado, unless the affair led to child neglect or abuse. If your spouse had an affair that ended your marriage, speak to a qualified local attorney about the possibility of it working in your favor during a divorce case. Although it will not have an impact on alimony, it could affect other aspects of your divorce case.


 

Colorado Military Divorce Laws

Posted in Divorce on December 17, 2018

Even when both parties agree a divorce is their best interests, it can still be a challenging time. For couples in which one or both spouses are active duty military, divorce can be even more complicated. The way each state handles military divorce is different, and federal laws are also a consideration when a military marriage dissolves. The military lifestyle influences nearly every aspect of a divorce, from spousal support to custody.

In Colorado alone, over 47,000 men and women are active duty military. The rate of divorce among military personnel is about the same as the national average, though if the spouse in the military is female, rates are usually higher. Unfortunately, the stress of military life can put a strain on marriage. Long deployments, the emotional strain of solo parenting, and the effects of PTSD can all make married life difficult. When divorce is inevitable, military couples should discuss their situation with a firm that is experienced in divorce law for Colorado. 


Quick Resources:


How Does Military Divorce Differ From Civilian Divorce?

Military divorce differs from civilian divorce in a few important ways. While the process for divorcing is essentially the same, military couples must consider a few other factors that civilian couples do not have to consider.

  • Certain laws dictate the handling of military divorce that include more federal regulations.
  • Many courts consider military benefits and retirement to be a divisible asset, so judges must take this into consideration.
  • Military personnel often claim residency in a state other than the one where they reside. A couple may live in Colorado, but residency is in Florida or New York.
  • Custody arrangements may not be traditional due to deployments.

Pensions and the 10/10 Rule

Couples married for at least 10 years during a period of active service benefit from the 10/10 rule. It is a statute that dictates the automatic payment to military spouses of their share of the military retirement pension. However, couples who are married less than 10 years during a period where one or both of them experienced active duty can also get shares of military retirement benefits; it just does not happen automatically. In that case, it may come from the spouse directly as spousal support.

Hunt/Gallo Formula for Retirement 

The Hunt/Gallo formula determines the share of retirement pension the law entitles a former military spouse to have after a divorce. The courts determine this by taking the number of months of military service that occurred during marriage and dividing them by the total months that the military spouse served. The former spouse receives one-half of the marital portion calculated by the formula.

How to Determine Filing State

The first step in military-related divorce court is determining the correct court for hearing the case. Divorcing couples must prove they are residents of the state where they filed divorce. In Colorado, the law dictates that one or both of the spouses are a resident of the state for no less than 90 days. The couple proves residency in a few ways; a driver’s license, LES (Leave and Earnings) statements, a voter registration card, or proof of property all prove residency. It is legal to apply for residency with the sole purpose of filing for divorce, as long as one or both people achieve resident status at least 90 days before officially filing.

Spousal Maintenance

Extra allowances make up a large portion of military pay. Base pay is usually adequate for day-to-day expenses, partially because of additional allowances. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) covers housing, and Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) covers many daily necessities. All these streams of financial support make up a military person’s true income. For that reason, the entirety of monthly allowances makes up divisible income in a divorce. The laws include VA benefits as income, as well, but do not regard them as marital assets.

Obligations of Military Members to Spousal Maintenance

In Colorado, the court has the authority to order missed spousal support or child support payments out of a service member’s paycheck, sending it directly to the spouse. Additionally, the military branches themselves have regulations in place that require personnel to support their families after a separation. While this seems like enough to ensure he or she makes payments, it is still best practice to have a formal court order that clearly defines spousal and child support.

The Complications of Custody

In traditional divorces, a stereotype still survives that suggests the courts favor mothers – and this stereotype is made worse in military divorces since mothers tend to receive primary custody more often than fathers. Colorado does not favor mothers or fathers more often in custody cases, though military divorces may make it seem like they do. In military divorces, the overwhelming custody tends to fall to mothers; rather than due to gender or parenting bias, this is most likely because they are less likely to be the parent on active duty.

Every child custody case in Colorado is different, but the court statistically awards the stateside or non-military parent more custody, and this parent is usually the mother. The reasoning behind such decisions is that it is in the best interests of children to keep them in the same school with the same social and familial network. However, the court makes exceptions and modifications to custody agreements to allocate times of year where the active duty parent has primary custody. The courts base these agreements on the active duty spouse’s military schedule, as well as the children’s school schedule and location.

You can read more about relocation and the Service members civil relief act here.

Dual Military Divorce

One of the most complex types of martial dissolution is a divorce between two active military members with children. If both parents want primary custody and are having trouble agreeing on how it would work, the law requires a third party to mediate and make a parenting plan. In most cases, the resulting parenting plan allows both parents time to be the primary parent, depending on deployments. In some cases, two military parents can resolve custody disputes and create such a plan without a third party. Dual military divorce often requires more in the way of custody collaboration.

 

 

 

Pros and Cons of a Prenuptial Agreement

Posted in Divorce on November 9, 2018

The idea of a “prenuptial agreement” inherently bothers many people because it can feel like preparing for a marriage to fail before it ever really starts. A prenuptial agreement essentially stipulates each spouse’s rights and obligations in a marriage, particularly when it comes to financial assets. Despite the fact that many people have traditionally found the idea of prenuptial agreements distasteful, the reality is that people with significant financial assets want security in the face of the unknown. It may be a good idea to write up a prenuptial agreement if you and your future spouse both have significant financial assets or one of you owns significantly more than the other.

Quick Resources:

What Does a Prenuptial Agreement Cover?

A prenuptial agreement establishes financial rights and ownership over the property and assets that a marrying couple brings into a marriage. Although it may feel awkward for a marrying couple to start planning for a divorce, the reality is that more than half of marriages in the United States result in divorce. More millennial couples are making prenuptial agreements than previous generations because, today, more people are waiting to marry later than their parents and grandparents.

Having a prenuptial agreement does not mean the couple intends to divorce. It is simply a “just in case” plan in the event the couple does decide to divorce. Instead of dealing with messy and time-consuming litigation to divide all of the couple’s property and assets, the divorcing couple can simply follow the prenuptial agreement and conclude the divorce quickly and simply.

Benefits of a Prenup

Although the idea of discussing what you and your future spouse will do in case of a divorce may sound strange, the reality is that the couple can enjoy peace of mind knowing that they have already covered the financial issues that may come up in a divorce. Married couples need to manage many financial issues together, and a prenuptial agreement can be the bedrock of a healthy and stable financial relationship between spouses.

A prenuptial agreement can also help preserve inheritances, family heirlooms, and family ties. For example, a soon-to-be groom decides to give his new wife his grandmother’s wedding ring that has passed through many generations of the family. If the couple develops a prenuptial agreement, the groom could stipulate that the wedding band returns to him in the event of a divorce. Without a prenuptial agreement, it’s possible that a judge could rule that the wedding band was a gift to the wife and is therefore her property. If there is any bad blood between the divorcing spouses, he may never see the ring again and lose a precious family heirloom.

Prenuptial agreements can also protect children from previous marriages. A parent can include specific protections that prevent the other spouse from taking property or money that essentially belongs to the parent’s children. A prenuptial agreement can also clearly lay out financial expectations before the wedding day so both spouses know exactly what to expect after marriage in terms of finances and personal property rights. Additionally, a prenuptial agreement is able to protect one spouse from the other’s previously accumulated debts and financial obligations.

What is quite possibly the biggest benefit of a prenuptial agreement is that if a divorce does happen it will proceed much more quickly than it would without a prenuptial agreement. Without such an agreement, a divorce can take months or even years to resolve, costing both parties significant legal fees and stress.

Potential Drawbacks and Disadvantages of Prenuptial Agreements

Despite the fact that a prenuptial agreement can be a great way to establish peace of mind and expectations before a marriage, it is still possible for a spouse to take grave offense at the suggestion of a prenuptial agreement. Many people unfortunately automatically assume that the suggestion of a prenuptial agreement indicates a lack of faith that the marriage will work.

Suggesting a prenuptial agreement isn’t exactly a romantic notion and may cause serious problems in the relationship. It’s also possible for one spouse to take such extreme offense that he or she calls off the marriage or ends the relationship entirely. If a person views a prenuptial agreement as planning the divorce before the wedding it can result in serious problems for the couple.

Another area of concern is potential interference with a prenuptial agreement. If one spouse hides assets from the other, coerces an agreement or forces the other spouse to agree to the prenuptial agreement under duress, the offending spouse could face significant legal penalties in addition to criminal fraud charges. Each spouse should have his or her own attorney for handling the prenuptial agreement to ensure things like this do not happen.

Changing or Altering a Prenuptial Agreement

Another benefit to prenuptial agreements is that they are essentially future-proof in several ways. They not only stipulate what each spouse’s financial rights and obligations are during and after the marriage, but the couple can also amend or alter their prenuptial agreement after marriage to account for changing circumstances.

For example, one spouse receives a major promotion that entails stock options. The couple’s prenuptial agreement never referenced anything about stock options because neither spouse owned any when they drew up the original agreement. After the promotion, the spouses and their attorneys can meet to amend the prenuptial agreement to account for this new development.

It’s also possible for certain life events to void a prenuptial agreement, such as the birth of children. In such an event, the couple can alter the effective dates of the prenuptial agreement and include new clauses that pertain to the couple’s children or other relevant changes.

Although a couple investigating a prenuptial agreement is going to marry, they are still drawing up an agreement that protects each of them individually. This means each spouse needs his or her own attorney to ensure the prenuptial agreement is as fair as possible to both parties. If there is any concern over elements of a prenuptial agreement, an experienced family law attorney is one of the best possible resources. Attorneys will also ensure that both spouses accurately disclose their required financial documents and proof of assets.

Ultimately, a prenuptial agreement is only advisable for couples who enter a marriage with significant financial assets, or in a marriage in which one has significantly more financial assets than the other. Such an agreement also enforces transparency between marrying spouses and can help build a foundation of trust in a new marriage.

 

How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

Posted in Divorce on September 15, 2018

Divorce is never an easy subject to broach with children. Depending on the ages of your children, they may not fully understand what is happening until the living situation changes. It’s essential for divorcing parents to take time to talk about an impending divorce with their children and answer their questions. Taking the time to prepare your kids for a divorce can greatly decrease the chances of common coping behaviors like acting out, declining school performance, or destructive behaviors.

Stay Neutral

Every divorce is different. Perhaps you and your spouse simply no longer believe there is a reason to stay married, or your relationship strained to a breaking point and neither of you is willing to try and fix it. Regardless of whether any bad blood plays a role in your divorce, it is crucial for both parents to remain neutral in regard to their feelings about each other. This means you should never speak poorly about your ex in front of your children or attempt to manipulate your children’s relationships with your ex-spouse. Doing so will never work out positively for anyone involved and may actually lead to rifts between you and your children once they discover your interference.

If there are legitimate issues with your ex, such as addiction or criminal activity, you should be honest in your answers but refrain from giving your personal opinions. Older children will be able to make sense of these issues in their own way, but you should make it clear to your kids that they can come to you with their questions.

Be Open to Questions

Children, especially younger children, will have many questions about divorce. They will want to know why their parents are splitting up, whether they will need to move, when they will see their other parent, and may have seemingly endless questions and concerns. Remember, while you may know the intimate details about your divorce, your children do not, and they may not have any context to make sense of the situation. On the other hand, if your children have seen you and your spouse fighting constantly for a long time, they may actually feel relieved that you’re settling your differences so everyone can move on more happily.

Regardless of your personal feelings about your ex and the divorce, don’t neglect your children’s questions or allow them to frustrate you. Your children simply want to make sense of a situation that to them may feel like the end of the world. The more encouragement and support you can offer your kids through this time, the better things will work out for everyone involved.

Expect Some Pushback

Your kids may scream, cry, become angry, or start acting out once they learn about the impending divorce. Taking time to prepare for this conversation and being open to your children’s questions is the best way to smooth over these responses. It is common for younger children to display regressive behaviors like thumb sucking and bedwetting. Older children and teens may start acting out in school to vent their frustration or may get into trouble outside of school.

It’s best to approach these situations compassionately. Instead of punishing a child for wetting the bed after years of clean sheets, talk to him or her about what happened and see if your child is expressing his or her confusion about the divorce in other ways.

Consider Counseling

A family counselor can act as a great mediator and help facilitate discussions between you, your ex, and your children. If you’re having trouble explaining your divorce to your kids, a counselor may be able to offer guidance and tips for addressing the subject or may even suggest a family session to talk on neutral ground. Individual counseling may be beneficial if your children suffered any abuse from your ex or if they struggle with learning difficulties or other special needs.

Reasons You Should Hire a Divorce Attorney

Posted in Divorce on July 18, 2018

We increasingly live in a do-it-yourself society, which is great for things such as home improvement projects and crafting. You should leave some things, like legal matters, to the professionals, however. Plenty of research regarding DIY divorces exists, but you need an attorney to protect your rights and help you through the difficult process. The following are reasons you should hire an Fort Collins divorce attorney for your divorce, rather than taking a DIY approach.

Attorneys Are Familiar With Applicable State Law

The first reasoning behind hiring a divorce attorney is simple: They understand Colorado divorce law and how it may affect your situation. When you and your spouse decide to end a marriage, you must decide how to split your property, assets, and more. The issues of dissolving your marriage may be further complicated if you have children, significant assets, or own a business. Many people believe property is subject to equal division following a divorce, but the truth is much more complicated. In fact, one spouse may receive a significant amount of the marital property, depending on what the court views as equitable.

An attorney can help with the issues surrounding divorce, including equitable property division and child custody. For example, a lawyer can help you determine if you’re entitled to your spouse’s pension or retirement, as well as what is and what is not marital property. In many instances, a lack of legal knowledge can lead to an unfair outcome for one spouse.

A divorce attorney can help you understand both your rights and responsibilities when it comes to divorce. He or she can help you discover your claim to marital assets, insulate your personal assets from division if possible, and protect your business.

An Attorney Can Level the Playing Field

The scales are rarely even when it comes to dissolution of a marriage. One spouse often has a greater amount of power than another does when a marriage comes to an end. You can level the playing field and help ensure you’re doing everything to protect your rights in a divorce proceeding with a divorce attorney by your side.

You’ll be at a distinct disadvantage if your spouse has an attorney and you don’t. A family law attorney in your corner will help promote positions of equal power in a divorce proceeding. Some examples in which a family law attorney can provide valuable assistance include:

  • If you’re a battered spouse, you can seek protection for yourself and your children.
  • If your spouse has been hiding marital assets, an attorney can help uncover them and subject them to fair division.
  • If you’re seeking physical custody, an attorney can help make your case.

You Can Prevent Serious Mistakes

The terms of a final divorce decree are legally binding. Many people, unfortunately, do not realize they’ve made a mistake or concession until a judge signs off on the divorce order. In this sense, you may be stuck with a provision of a divorce settlement that’s unfair or unrealistic.

You have the same rights and responsibilities under Colorado law as an attorney if you choose to represent yourself in a legal proceeding. Most of us wouldn’t practice medicine or perform surgery on ourselves, so why would we attempt to handle our own divorce? This significantly increases the likelihood of making serious mistakes that could affect your livelihood for years to come.

You need a divorce attorney for several reasons, including to leverage his or her knowledge of Colorado law; to protect your rights; and to assure the best possible outcome in your case. Rather than trying the DIY approach for your divorce, seek help from a Colorado divorce attorney.

How Can I Protect My Business During a Divorce?

Posted in Divorce on July 2, 2018

A divorce brings several considerations and points of contention for couples, such as division of assets and child custody arrangements. Couples may face additional complications when one spouse owns a business, or both parties own an enterprise jointly. If you’re a business owner facing divorce in Colorado, it’s essential to take certain steps to protect your business. Observe these tips to protect your investment and always consult a Fort Collins divorce attorney during a divorce to best protect your assets.

1. Arrange for a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is one of the simplest ways to protect your business before you enter into a marriage. The terms of a prenuptial agreement are enforceable, so you can effectively insulate your business from any asset division, should you file for divorce later. If you’re already married, a postnuptial agreement may be another viable option. Using either of these agreements will allow you to designate your business as separate property, which means your spouse won’t have access it to it in the event of a divorce.

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can have a bad reputation, because some people view them as “planning for divorce.” However, this is not the case. By taking care of important financial matters before you marry, you can eliminate some of the financial factors that put stress on a marriage in the first place. Having a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement provides an important source of insulation for business owners.

2. Put Your Business in a Trust

If you do not have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, consider putting your business in a trust. It serves the same essential function as the former, effectively turning your business into a separate asset. Should you ever face a divorce, your business will not be a marital asset subject to the Colorado laws of property division.

3. Maintain Full Control of Your Business Whenever Possible

When a divorce sneaks up on you or is otherwise unplanned, you stand to lose a portion of your business if you don’t know how to react. If maintaining 100% ownership of your business is a top priority, you may have to make sacrifices in order to achieve it. This means you may have to provide your spouse with other assets, such as the houses, cars, or other joint assets in order to maintain a 100% share.

Mediation can prove to be an effective method of dispute resolution when your spouse does not want to relinquish control of a business. With the help of both your attorneys and a neutral third party you can reach an agreement that will appeal to both of you – or at least, something you can live with, in exchange for full control of your business.

4. Avoid Litigation Whenever Possible

If dividing the business still proves to be a source of contention, take whatever steps are necessary to avoid taking the matter to court. Even if you started a business before you got married, the asset could become marital property if it experienced “commingling” – in other words, if your joint assets went into the business itself. If the courts discover any evidence of commingling, it will likely declare your business a joint asset and it will be subject to equitable and fair division. For this reason, it’s best to work these things out through other means, increasing the likelihood of keeping a 100% share of your business.

Maintaining full ownership of your business can be difficult, especially if joint assets went into the enterprise. On the other hand, if you plan ahead or you’re willing to make sacrifices, you can effectively insulate your business from your divorce proceeding. Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are the best line of defense, but otherwise consider alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation.

Division of Assets in a Military Divorce

Posted in Divorce on June 26, 2018

The end of a military marriage is very likely to be more complex than a typical divorce between civilians for a number of reasons. Many U.S. service members face lengthy deployment times, frequent relocation, and deal with a very complicated system of pay and benefits from the military. Regardless of what branch of the military you or your spouse serve, a military divorce is going to work very differently than a civilian one.

BAH Settlements

One unique aspect of military divorces is the division of BAH, or the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing. This is a unique benefit of serving in the military that covers the majority of a service member’s housing and utility costs when they reside outside of military housing. Each service member receives a different amount of BAH depending on their rank, post location, and how many dependents they have. Child custody is one of the most important factors determining BAH settlements in military divorces.

It’s important to remember that the government pays BAH to service members, not their spouses. After a divorce, the spouse who does not serve in the military will not receive BAH payments. However, if the non-serving spouse receives child support as a term of the divorce, BAH may partially fund the child support.

Speak to a child custody lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Vertucci today for more information.

BAH in Military Divorces

If an active duty service member does not have primary custody, he or she will likely need to pay child support. However, this can be very problematic for lower-paid service members. Once a service member no longer has any dependents and moves back into military housing, he or she will no longer receive BAH. However, the military uses a calculation method called BAH-DIFF to authorize BAH payments if the service member’s child support obligations are more than his or her BAH-DIFF rate.

An active duty service member with primary custody will receive BAH at the “with-dependent” rate unless he or she receives family-style military quarters. If two former spouses are both active duty service members, they cannot both receive BAH for the same dependent. If the former spouses share legal and physical custody of a child, each will receive BAH at the “with-dependent” rate as long as the child remains in the parent’s physical custody. Each parent may not receive housing allowances for children during that time.

Other Assets and Benefits Subject to Division in Divorce

Since the creation of the Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) in 1982, all 50 states have since decreed that a military pension is communal or marital property in a marriage, and as such is subject to division in divorce. The Department of Defense will not make direct payments of retirement benefits to a military member’s ex-spouse unless they were married for at least ten years, with overlap with the service member’s time in service creditable to his or her retirement.

If the service member served for at least 20 years, the marriage lasted at least 20 years, and there was at least 20 years of overlap between the two, the ex-spouse of the service member will receive all military benefits and privileges. This extends to medical benefits, commissary access, and Base Exchange or Post Exchange access.

It’s important to remember that a state court can only pursue a ruling under the USFSPA if the service member’s primary residence is within the court’s jurisdiction. If not, the service member will need to give their consent to the court to pursue the ruling. If the service member does not consent, the other spouse will need to file in the court that has jurisdiction over the service member’s primary residence.

Survivor benefit plans, TRICARE, VA service and disability benefits, and other issues all come into play with military divorces, and it’s essential for service members facing divorce to connect with experienced military divorce attorneys to settle these affairs. See our Divorce FAQ’s for more information.