We provide a wide variety of services for your family.
Gutterman Griffiths is an award winning firm specializing exclusively in family law. Our only business is to serve your family; whether you need help with issues regarding children, a complex financial matter, or are looking for alternate options for resolution of your family law matter. Discover more information about the services we offer to assist you.
The Essential Elements.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
Parenting Time and Decision Making for Your Children.
Family Support and Tax Issues
Child Support, Spousal Maintenance and the IRS.
Modification and Enforcement
For Changing Circumstances in Your Family’s Needs.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Mediation, Arbitration, Collaboration and Staying Out of Court.
Solutions for LGBT Families, Step-Parents, Grandparents and Other Significant Family Relationships
Each divorce is unique and different. Depending on the specific facts and circumstances of your case, the divorce process can be quite complex—especially when emotions are running high. Gutterman Griffiths PC and our team of lawyers are here to be your advocate and navigate you through the unpredictable and emotional divorce process.
The divorce process is guided by Colorado law, and there are key strategic decisions at each step along the way that need to be thoroughly discussed with your attorney as the case unfolds and progresses. Below is a general overview of the timeline and critical components to be considered as part of the financial resolution of your case. For matters relating to children and the allocation of parental responsibilities, please click here.
Immediately after a Petition for divorce is filed, most jurisdictions require the parties to attend an initial status conference at the court. The court may enter interim orders, but generally these orders are based on the agreements of the parties. At that meeting with the court, the parties will set a temporary orders hearing if requested. The court may also impose additional deadlines (such as a deadline to complete mediation) to help ensure active case management.
One of the biggest components of a divorce is the information gathering phase. There are mandatory disclosures that both parties must exchange including a Sworn Financial Statement filed with the court. The mandatory disclosures are typically made by both parties 42 days from the date the Respondent is served with the Petition or signs a Waiver of Service acknowledging receipt of the Petition.
In most Colorado jurisdictions, the court will order that parties participate in mediation prior to any major hearing, such as temporary orders or permanent orders. Successful mediations put the power in the hands of the clients so that parties decide their own fate rather than having a Judge make decisions on their behalf. It is recommended that you attend mediation with your attorney because mediators are unable to give you legal advice. The mediator is a third-party neutral that helps facilitate the negotiation.
Once the divorce has been filed and mandatory disclosures exchanged, you may wish to have the court enter temporary orders that may cover the following areas:
- Temporary Financial Orders
- Temporary Parenting Time
- Exclusive use of the family home
- Temporary Maintenance and Child Support
- Attorney Fees
The purpose of temporary orders is to maintain the status quo of the marriage. This is often a financially very difficult time as both parties look to establish separate households, which greatly increases the overall monthly expenses. Temporary orders can be agreed upon by Stipulation of the parties or decided by the Judge after a formal hearing if the parties cannot agree.
If your case involves particularly complex assets or debts, you can expect the informational gathering phase of your divorce to be very thorough and invasive. Further discovery will be conducted to make sure that the parties have sufficient information to determine what an equitable division of the estate may look like. Discovery can include Requests for Production of Documents, Interrogatories, Subpoenas, and conducting depositions. Often, experts need to be retained to assist in determining the value of property and answering important questions of law for the court. The parties must comply with any requests for information by an expert.
When determining how property gets divided in a divorce, the court must have the necessary information to determine the following:
- Does either party have separate property (e.g. inheritance, gifts, property acquired prior to the marriage)?
- What is the value of each asset and each liability in this estate?
- Is there a valid Prenuptial or Postnuptial agreement that determines allocation of the assets and debts?
- What was the contribution of each spouse to the marital estate?
- Are there any external economic circumstances to be considered?
- Has either party unreasonably disposed of marital property (e.g. spent money on a significant other)?
Once you have determined the marital portion of the property, the division is made equitably between the parties. In most instances it will be a 50/50 division, but there are times that an uneven division of assets may be more appropriate.
Disclosure of assets and debts is key to your divorce. The most important factor to be considered in determining the division of property is to ensure that the parties have fully disclosed their assets and debts to the other party. Once a divorce has been finalized, a party may have the opportunity to reopen a divorce if they believe that the other party has misstated and/or failed to disclose an asset prior to the entry of the Decree.
Maintenance is financial support provided from one spouse to the other. It can be awarded in cases where one spouse assists the other in obtaining an education, where one spouse needs time or training to become employed, or where there is a significant difference between the respective incomes of the spouses. Maintenance can be temporary, lasting until the divorce is final, or permanent, continuing after the divorce (usually for a set amount of time). Colorado introduced advisory guidelines for maintenance effective for all cases filed after January 1, 2014. These guidelines help calculate the amount and duration of maintenance orders for marriages of three to twenty years in length where the combined income of the parties does not exceed $360,000.
The first question that is often asked during a consultation is whether or not the other party will be ordered to pay attorney fees. Each party is generally responsible for paying his/her own attorney fees, but the Court has the authority to order one of the spouses to pay attorney fees if there is a disparity of incomes and resources to pay attorney fees. Attorney fees can be awarded especially when the behavior of one of the parties causes investigations and expensive tracing of assets. A request must be made by a formal pleading with the court. Often, attorney fees are paid from marital property and the end result is that the parties end up splitting the attorney fees equally prior to distribution of assets.
The divorce can be finalized by agreement of the parties or by the Judge after a Permanent Orders hearing, provided that at least 91 days have passed since the filing of the Petition. While it is ideal to reach common ground and negotiate a Separation Agreement, it is not always possible when emotions are running high and the parties positions are too far apart. We understand the unique characteristics of each divorce and the unique characteristics of each client. Each lawyer on our team is an expert in this divorce process.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
Allocation of parental responsibilities, or “APR,” is all about kids. Whether in the context of a divorce, or unmarried parents, or same-sex parents, grandparents, psychological parents, or any other type of parenting relationship, the APR is the portion of the family law case that addresses the children’s best interests.
Each child—and each family system raising each child—is unique and deserves special attention.
That said, APR issues generally fall into three broad categories:
- Parenting Time
- Decision Making
Colorado has stopped using the word “custody” and abolished the terminology “legal custody” and “physical custody.” Many of you have heard these words though, and they loosely correspond to the concepts of parenting time (physical custody) and decision making (legal custody). This terminology change was implemented, in part, to shift the focus in parenting cases away from who “has” the kids, to a plan for continuing to parent children even when parents are no longer in an intimate relationship.
What is “parenting time” anyway?
It is the plan for when the children are with each parent. It’s really that simple.
Or is it?
Well, no. Often the primary battleground for two people who no longer wish to be in a relationship of any kind with each other is the kids. After all, the children force contact between two people who have irreconcilable differences otherwise. As a result, there are often VERY different perspectives between the parents about what is best for the children in terms of where they live, how much time they spend with each parent and how that time sharing arrangement is structured.
Further muddying the waters are a lot of legal, rights based theories and psychological theories about what is best for children, often competing and diametrically opposed (for example, Father’s Rights theories about equal parenting time versus psychological theories about attachments and young children’s specific needs for a primary parent). None of the credible theories of this nature are right or wrong, but they offer alternative approaches to the parenting time puzzle for parents in conflict, as well as solution-driven paradigms to assist parties to resolve a parenting time case.
Ultimately, the touchstone for what the parenting time should be is, as in all areas related to children, what is best for the children. The Colorado Legislature has set forth some factors to guide this analysis, but, ultimately, it is a decision that is unique to each family and each child. It’s important to note just how much discretion is inevitably involved in making a “best interests of the child” parenting time determination—particularly when parents are unable to reach an agreement and are about to put this crucial determination into the hands of a judge who has no background on the family.
Parenting plans can run the gamut from true equal parenting plans, such as:
- Alternative week plans, or week on/week off plans.
- “5225” plans, where each parent has the same two weekdays every week and the weekends are alternated.
- “3223” plans, where the parents alternate both weekends and week days to ensure the children do not go more than three days without seeing a parent;
to plans where there is a true primary parent and the other parent has alternating weekends and some sort of weekday contact, whether overnight or for dinner visits. There is no “right” or “wrong” parenting plan; there is only the parenting plan that works for your children and your family.
Now that you know the plan for the children’s time, what is decision making?
Decision making is the allocation of the legal authority to make important decisions for the children.
Generally, major decision making encompasses the areas of major medical/dental/mental health decisions, educational decisions, extracurricular activity decisions and religious decisions, but truly encompass any major decision and can extend to decisions about body modification (piercings and tattoos), dating and drivers’ licenses, for example.
There are also two basic kinds of decision making—joint and sole. In joint decision making, the parents are required to agree before a major decision is made, and, potentially, before changing an existing joint decision. Sole decision making allocates the entire power to make a category of major decisions to one parent or the other. This distinction tends to be more important for medical and educational decisions, as extracurricular decisions that affect both parents’ time must, practically speaking, usually be joint, and parents retain a constitutional right to appropriately expose their children to their religion of choice.
Again, the standard for allocating decision making is generally the best interests of the children, and the Colorado Legislature has also provided some statutory guidance for same. The existence of domestic violence or child abuse can also be a critical factor in allocating decision making. Further, third party resources to assist the parents to overcome major impasses on decisions are available.
Family Support and Tax Issues
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
When divorcing, the lower income earner may request what is called “spousal maintenance” (also known as alimony in other states) to assist in meeting his or her needs. Spousal maintenance is separate and distinct from child support. It is not necessarily intended as support for the children, but rather, it is a payment made by one spouse to the other to meet the spouse’s needs.
For divorce cases initiated prior to January 1, 2014, there was no formula to act as a guideline or starting point for the calculation of maintenance. This resulted in a wide variation of maintenance awards and difficulty predicting an appropriate maintenance amount.
For cases filed on or after January 1, 2014, the Colorado Legislature has enacted “advisory maintenance guidelines” to act as somewhat of a starting point for maintenance discussions. The law is clear that the “guidelines” are just that: guidelines. There is no guarantee that the guideline maintenance amount is what an individual will be awarded in Court.
Before the Court even considers the guideline maintenance amount, the Court must first make findings as to the parties’ standard of living and financial resources during the marriage. Then, the Court may award maintenance if the requesting spouse lacks sufficient property or the ability to meet his or her reasonable needs through appropriate employment, and the other party has the ability to pay.
Once the Court has determined that maintenance would be appropriate in a particular case, based on the process outlined above, the Court reviews the guideline maintenance calculation. The guideline maintenance calculation is 40% of the high earner’s gross income minus 50% of the low earner’s gross income. However, there are other factors that the Court must take into account when determining the maintenance award. As a result, the ultimate maintenance award may be higher or lower than the guideline amount.
The guideline length/duration of the maintenance is determined by the number of months that the marriage lasted.
Maintenance ordered by a court is always modifiable and may be modified upon a showing of substantial and continuing changed circumstances that render the terms of the existing maintenance award unfair.
However, the parties to a divorce or legal separation may agree that maintenance will be non-modifiable (also known as “contractual maintenance”). If the parties agree to contractual maintenance then the court does not have the ability to modify the maintenance award.
Colorado law provides for guideline child support as well. Child support is determined using a calculation that takes into account both parties’ incomes, the amount of maintenance being paid, the number overnights that each parent has with the children, the amount of work related child care expenses, cost of health insurance, and certain other statutorily-approved expenses.
A party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed may be “imputed” income. When a court imputes income to a party, it treats that party as if he or she is earning more than he or she is actually earning.
There is no imputation of income for the primary parent of a child who is less than 30 months old.
Child support may be modified when there is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that results in a more than 10% change in the bottom line child support payment.
It is important to remember that the State of Colorado views child support as the right of the child. For there to be no child support obligation, the parents will have to show the Court that the guideline formula amount is negligible or that the child’s needs are being met with other monies. In general, however, the Court does not allow parties to waive child support because it is viewed as the child’s right, rather than the parents’.
Child support will be owed even if a parent has no Court-Ordered parenting time with a child. Again, the State’s concern is ensuring that the child’s needs are met.
Unallocated support occurs when maintenance and child support are combined, and only one amount is due and owing each month, rather than one amount specified for child support and another amount specified for spousal maintenance.
The IRS may take issue with unallocated support. There are strict rules that must be followed in order to benefit from unallocated support. As a result, many practitioners are uncomfortable using unallocated support in settlement negotiations. It is exceptionally dangerous to consider unallocated support if you live in Colorado, as there is case law providing that unallocated support may not be considered taxable to the recipient and is therefore not deductible to the payer.
- Maintenance/Child Support. As noted above, maintenance is taxable income to the recipient and tax deductible to the payer. It is important that individuals receiving spousal maintenance remember that not necessarily all of the maintenance they receive in a given month is expendable – they should plan to save for tax season. Child support, on the other hand, is neither deductible to the payer nor taxable to the recipient.
- Transferring Property. Asset transfers between spouses made as part of a divorce or legal separation are generally tax-free provided that the transfers are “incident” to the divorce. Exceptions to this rule exist for transfers to nonresident aliens and transfers made after a reasonable period of time. Special attention must be paid when there are third-party transfers and where depreciated property will be transferred or sold.
- Transferring Real Property. For those who have lived in the marital residence for at least two of the last five years, the first $250,000 (if single) or $500,000 (if married) is excluded from capital gains tax. Understanding this, determining whether and when the marital residence is to be sold is therefore an issue of primary importance when negotiating the property settlement.
- Transferring Retirement Assets. Transfers of retirement assets between spouses in divorce or legal separation are not taxable provided that they are properly structured. Transfers in qualified pension plans or 401(k) plans must be made pursuant to a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Transfers from one IRA to another must be made in a trustee-to-trustee transfer. If a spouse cashes in a retirement asset, it will be subject to taxation, and possibly penalties if the recipient spouse is not of retirement age.
- Divorce-related legal expenses. It’s a question that every divorce attorney hears: Can I deduct the attorney fees I incurred during the divorce? For the most part, the answer is no. However, the Internal Revenue Code permits deductions for legal fees incurred in the production or collection of income. As a result, fees incurred for negotiating or collecting maintenance are deductible, subject to certain limitations. In addition, you can deduct your own legal fees incurred in obtaining tax advice during the divorce. Your attorney will need to provide you with itemized bills indicating how much of the advice given is allocable to deductible issues.
- Dependency Exemptions. Colorado law provides that the dependency exemption is allocated between the parents in proportion to each parent’s contributions to the cost of raising the children. If a parent is not current in paying his or her child support, Colorado law does not permit that parent to take the dependency exemption. The IRS requires that, in order for a noncustodial parent to take the dependency exemption, he or she must submit the Form 8332, along with his or her tax return. Certain other tax benefits, such as Head of Household status, the Child Care Credit, and the Earned Income Credit, are only available to the custodial parent (the parent who maintains a home for the child for over half the year and who pays over half the expenses for maintaining the child’s home).
- Net Operating Losses/Capital Losses/Loss Carry forwards. Certain losses and carry forwards can be extremely valuable and should be addressed in the property allocation. Certain losses can be allocated between the parties and certain losses can only be allocated to the person receiving the property that generated the losses. Your attorney can assist you in determining how these losses must be allocated.
There are many tax issues that arise in divorce. While your divorce attorney can assist you in negotiating these issues, it is imperative that you seek the advice of tax counsel prior finalizing your divorce.
Modification and Enforcement
Modification of Parenting Time and Decision Making
After the establishment of a Parenting Plan regarding the parenting time and decision-making arrangements for your children, you may, with time, realize that the provisions don’t exactly meet the needs of your family. Children’s needs change, parents move, and a variety of other circumstances may arise necessitating revisions to the original Plan. Colorado law establishes mechanisms to deal with these shifts so that your children’s needs are consistently met.
The first step to modifying a Parenting Plan is to reach out to the other parent and present your requested modification. This may be done between the parents or through counsel (certainly, these are tough conversations).
Should you be unable to reach an agreement regarding the necessary changes to the Parenting Plan, it is then time to file a Motion to Modify with the Court. A request to the Court may include a requested change in the overnight parenting time structure, a requested relocation to a different state, and/or a change regarding who makes certain decisions for your children.
There may be time limitations and/or specific heightened legal standards that must be met when filing your requested modification, so it is important to discuss these matters with an attorney.
If you remain unable to reach an agreement with your co-parent following the filing of your Motion, the Court will set the matter for an evidentiary hearing and ultimately make the decision it believes your children require.
Enforcement of Parenting Time
It may be that you already have a workable Parenting Plan, but that your co-parent is simply not following the provisions. Luckily, Colorado law also provides for mechanisms to address these serious concerns. After all, it is generally best for all children to have two active and involved parents – if your co-parent is an impediment to this, the matter should be addressed.
The first step, as always, is to reach out to the other parent and request, in a cordial and business-like manner, that the behavior change, to include make-up parenting time if time has been withheld. If this communication is not fruitful, you may file a Motion to Enforce Parenting Time with the Court.
A Motion to Enforce Parenting Time is a useful mechanism, as it allows for you to recoup parenting time that has unlawfully been withheld, and also allows you to be reimbursed for the attorney fees incurred to pursue the time rightfully allocated to you.
Certainly, there are emergency circumstances that don’t allow time for conferral with your co-parent. If your co-parent has absconded with the children, you should seek immediate legal counsel.
Should your co-parent violate provisions of the Parenting Plan that do not include the withholding of parenting time, such as decision-making protocols and the like, contempt proceedings may be the best solution. When filing a Motion for Contempt with the Court, you must outline the provisions of the Court Order your co-parent has violated, as well as the steps he or she must take to remedy the violation and the resolution your request from the Court. You may also be able to recoup the attorney fees incurred for pursuing your co-parents compliance with the Court Order.
Modification of Family Support
As time passes, it may also be necessary to modify child support or spousal maintenance (alimony). If you are able to reach an agreement with your co-parent/former spouse, you must sign and file this modification with the Court, and it must be made an Order of the Court to be enforceable.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with your co-parent/former spouse, you must file a Motion to Modify with the Court. It is important to file the Motion as soon as the change in child support or spousal maintenance is necessary, as – in most cases – the support amounts will only be modified back to the date of filing your Motion.
Child support may fluctuate based on the income of the parents, the number of overnights each parent exercises, the cost of work-related or education-related child care, the cost of the child’s health insurance premium, other extraordinary children’s expenses, and even changes to the support paid to other children/the birth of a new child. If any of these changes results in a 10% change to the underlying child support number, child support may be modified.
Colorado law allows for the yearly exchange financial information between parents so that child support may be adjusted if appropriate.
The modification of spousal maintenance is a bit more complicated. If there has been a change of circumstances that is substantial and continuing since the last spousal maintenance order, that causes the amount or duration of spousal maintenance to be unconscionable (i.e. really unfair), you may file a Motion to Modify. The modification of spousal maintenance is less common and more difficult, so you should discuss this matter with an attorney of your choosing.
Enforcement of Family Support
The non-payment of child support or spousal maintenance can be devastating to families. If your co-parent is not paying child support, it is important to contact Colorado’s Child Support Enforcement office (see our Legal Links page for more).
Child Support Enforcement is a free service offered by the State to ensure parents are receiving the required support for their children. If your former spouse is required to pay spousal maintenance as well, Child Support Enforcement will collect spousal maintenance payments along with the child support obligation.
Child Support Enforcement will first attempt to garnish an individual’s paycheck and bank account(s). Ultimately, non-payment may result in the loss of an individual’s business license, driver’s license or passport.
Unfortunately, Child Support Enforcement does not collect spousal maintenance payments when not in conjunction with child support, nor does it collect medical expenses, educational expenses, or extracurricular activity expenses owed for your children. Under these circumstances, a Motion for Judgment may be appropriate, where the Court enters an Order requiring the payment of a specific dollar amount.
If your co-parent/former spouse still refuses to pay the dollar amount as outlined in the Court’s Order on the Motion for Judgment, garnishment proceedings may be initiated. Payments may be garnished directly from an individual’s paycheck or from an individual’s bank account(s). You may also place liens on property, such as homes and vehicles.
It is always recommended that family support payments be paid through the Family Support Registry, a free service offered by the State, which acts as an accounting “middle man.” The Family Support Registry provides a clear record of the date and amount of family support payments made, simplifying disputes that may arise in future enforcement proceedings.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Gutterman Griffiths PC is committed to helping our clients use ADR to find solutions in their cases. We are familiar with the entire spectrum of alternative dispute resolution and can help clients formulate the approach and strategy to find success in the different modalities available in family law. Talk to your attorney about the approach that may be useful in your case.
What is the “ALTERNATIVE” in “ADR?”
The alternative in ADR speaks to a resolution of your family law matter outside of going to Court. Virtually all District Courts now require mediation before you can have a judge hear your case, but other options of ADR are also available and your case may be a good candidate for a different conflict resolution practice.
Can’t I just negotiate a settlement?
You can and many, many clients do. Determined and purposeful negotiation that results in full agreement regarding all issues in your case not only avoids a court hearing, but it makes ADR unnecessary. A large proportion of cases at Gutterman Griffiths are settled through careful strategic negotiation designed to protect your interests and to meet your needs and this can be done without any formal ADR process. The caution to any settlement is that you really need to make sure you have had sufficient disclosure so that in settling you know exactly what is or should be “on the table” and to ensure that any agreements are not subject to future challenge.
What is a Private Judge?
Colorado law permits parties to ask that a retired, private judge be appointed to hear their case. The process involves appointment under an Order of the Colorado Supreme Court, but is quite simple. Strictly speaking, a private judge appointment is not an ADR process, as the private judge becomes the District Court Judge in your case. Decisions of the private judge have the same appellate processes as are available on decisions of the District Court. There are several reasons your attorney may suggest a private judge, amongst them privacy, accessibility in terms of not having to wait months for a hearing and being assured that your case will get the length of hearing necessary to ensure fairness, and ensuring that the judicial officer hearing the case has the experience to fully understand the issues in your case. The drawback to a private judge is that you have to pay for their time, but frequently this is outweighed by the many, many advantages of choosing a private judge.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a confidential process in which the parties negotiate in an attempt to settle all outstanding issues in a case by using a facilitator who is a trained mediator. Most mediators either have years of experience in family law and/or have done extensive training in dispute resolution techniques. They may be attorneys, mental health professionals, or financial professionals. Mediators cannot dictate the terms of settlement, but they are very good at suggesting solutions that may have not occurred to litigants and in assisting parties overcome their differences to reach fair agreements.
Mediators have no power to decide things for you and they not only cannot tell you what to do, they cannot talk to anyone about what has been discussed in mediation. Some evaluative mediators may make recommendations, and can be useful in persuading another side that their position is unlikely to be successful in court. Many of our clients resolve some or all the issues in their cases in mediation.
Mediation can occur with or without your attorney actually attending with you. Sometimes, we work with you to be prepared for mediation, but outlining what possible solutions would look like and by advising you where you might want to draw your “bottom line” so that you don’t get talked into a solution you may later regret. In cases where one or the other side is afraid that mediating together will be a bad idea (either because of intimidation or potential conflict), mediation can be conducted as “shuttle” mediation with the parties in two separate rooms and the mediator going between them. Mediation can also occur with the parties in the same room.
Several attorneys at Gutterman Griffiths PC are trained mediators and offer mediation services from a simple mediation sessions to full “turn-key service” mediation which can involve several sessions and compilation of client documents. All Gutterman Griffiths attorneys participate in mediation as part of their representation of clients.
What is Early Neutral Assessment?
Early Neutral Assessment (sometimes referred to as ENA or ENE) is a process whereby a trained ENA team meets with both parties at an early stage in the case to hear the parties’ views and to make recommendations regarding settlement. In most cases, the ENA team includes an attorney experienced in family law cases and a mental health professional experienced in parental responsibility evaluations. ENA works best for families where the adults are all very well-informed about the facts necessary for appropriate decisions, even if their perspectives may vary considerably.
What is Arbitration?
Arbitration is the binding determination of some or all issues in a case by an arbitrator who generally is either a retired judge, an attorney, or a mental health practitioner. Agreement of both parties is required to commence arbitration, but once that agreement has been entered into it will be enforced by the Court—sometimes years later in changed circumstances. We are cautious as a result about using arbitration and will discuss it carefully with you before recommending it.
The decision of an arbitrator is subject to limited judicial review, but generally will not be subject to the same appellate process as a Court order in District Court.
Often, arbitrators have substantial judicial and arbitration experience, and may be former District Judges experienced in family law matters. An advantage of arbitration is that access to arbitration can often be achieved more quickly than access to District Court and can save considerable time and expense if you are involved in a case that has the potential to be subject to endless re-litigation. Further, the experience of the arbitrator enables attorneys for both parties to advise their clients with more confidence that they know the scope of likely outcomes with the arbitration process.
What is Med/Arb?
Mediation/Arbitration involves mediation until a point when the mediator determines that resolution by agreement is unlikely, at which time the mediator becomes the arbitrator. Although the arbitrator in med/arb cannot truly forget what the arbitrator learned while mediating, the agreement for med/arb should specify whether or not the arbitrator can consider information learned in the mediation that preceded the arbitration.
What is Collaborative Law?
The Collaborative law process is a resolution process that commits both parties to resolving all matters through negotiation with a commitment to fairness for all. Although it is characterized by a contract to stay out of Court, collaboration is really a commitment to finding mutual solutions and one of the many benefits of collaboration is that parties often learn new ways of working out old problems. The goal of collaboration is to develop solutions to issues in their case that meet the needs and interests of everyone – parents and any children. In the process, instead of the usual letters back and forth through attorneys, the parties agree to sit down across the table from each other to work out the issues that need to be resolved in their case. Although each party hires their own attorney, many collaborative sessions will be with the collaborative divorce process facilitator, financial or other neutral expert.
Gutterman Griffiths has a number of attorneys who offer collaborative law services. If you have further interest in collaboration, we ask that you please refer to the Collaborative Law materials elsewhere on the Gutterman Griffiths PC website, by clicking here.
What is a Special Master?
Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure allow a Court to appoint a Special Master. Generally these appointments are by consent of the parties although the court may, on its own initiative, appoint a Special Master. Generally, Special Masters are employed to conduct time consuming, technical investigations. In family law cases, a Special Master can be appointed by the parties in their Separation Agreement, for example, to oversee post-decree sale of an asset.
What is a Discovery Master?
A discovery master is a special purpose Special Master (see discussion above) who is charged to sort out discovery disputes and make sure that each party complies with Court-ordered discovery. A discovery master is used most often in highly complex cases involving large quantities of documents.
What is a Parenting Coordinator?
A parenting coordinator (PC) is appointed by Court Order pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-128.3, usually at the joint request of the parents, to help parents with co-parenting communication and decision-making. Unless appointed as a Parenting Coordinator/Decision-Maker (see below), the parenting coordinator has no power to make decisions on which both parents do not agree. In essence, the PC is a facilitator, even though the mission of the PC is highly specialized to address common co-parenting concerns.
What is a Decision-Maker?
A decision-maker (DM) is appointed by Court Order pursuant to C.R.C. 14-10-128.5, but can only be appointed if both parties agree to the appointment. A DM has court authority to make decisions that follow the existing court order, and they can be quite helpful in helping parents make decisions when they cannot agree because of substantial differences in perspective regarding the child or children’s needs.
Families come in all sizes and shapes and increasingly, from grandparents raising grandchildren to same sex relationship-based families, our society is changing. At Gutterman, Griffiths we are pushing the law to keep up with the ever changing face of our clients.
Many statutes which were penned for more traditional situations can be used to establish legal parental relationships even when the parent-child relationship is not based in biology. The first case ever in Colorado to use Title 19 (the Children’s code) to establish a parent’s legal relationship with her child, when the parent was in a same sex relationship, was a Gutterman Griffiths case and we are proud that one of our partners was co-counsel on the case that brought marriage equality to Colorado. We have also successfully established legal parenting relationships for step parents who stepped in when a biological parent was not present – even when the other biological parent refused to allow a stepparent adoption.
Children know their parents based upon their relationship with them and it can be disconcerting to realize that the actual relationship a parent has with their child can be less legally significant under the law than that of a biological parent the child has never met. At Gutterman Griffiths, we understand both sides of this equation, and we work to help committed adults protect the best interests of the children they love.
We have been involved in same-sex relationship law going back before the advent of the Civil Union Bill through the Windsor and now Obergefell cases. We understand that this area of law is continuing to evolve and that even recent legal advances are not sufficient to protect all families. We continue to work to expand the envelope to include everyone.
We are also very familiar with protecting grandparents and other relatives who have stepped in to raise children only to find their relationships in jeopardy years later when parents re-surface. There are simply no “one-size-fits-all” solutions to these complex family situations, but our attorneys understand the complex and competing psychological issues, and we have years of experience and training we put to use to ensure our clients find solutions that work for them. Although we resort to litigation only as a last resort, be comforted that when you need someone to fight for your family we have the knowledge and track record to safeguard your family.
Our attorneys have been involved in a significant number of the cutting-edge decisions that are changing the legal landscape in this state for all families.