Common Family Law Questions And Answers
When your family is preparing for a big change, having the right knowledge and advice is important. At Fletcher Family Law, LLC, we focus on informing our clients fully so that they are ready to make crucial decisions.
What’s the difference between collaboration and mediation?
In collaboration, both parties and their respective attorneys will negotiate directly to reach a conclusion. On the other hand, mediation adds a neutral third party who can facilitate the discussion. Both options offer benefits and potential drawbacks, so what works for one family might not work for your family. Your lawyer can help you decide which method suits your case.
What’s the difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce?
A contested divorce means that the parties disagree on one or more key matters such as child custody or division of property. If the parties cannot reach agreement, a judge will have to rule on those disputed issues. Uncontested divorce means that the parties have worked out all disputes and just need the marriage to be legally dissolved. A contested divorce typically takes longer and is more expensive. Even in an uncontested divorce, it is prudent to have an attorney draft or review your proposed divorce settlement to make sure your interests are protected.
I am a parent and victim of domestic violence. What steps should I take to protect myself and my children while going through divorce?
It is important to start with immediate physical protection. If possible, leave the home and temporarily stay with someone you trust. Contact the local police to file a report about the abuse.
Then, you can speak with an attorney to review your options. Protective orders can keep you and your children safe at work, school, your home and elsewhere. Your lawyer can help you file for divorce in a way that prioritizes your security.
Do I need to do anything in Colorado in order to enforce a court order from another state?
If you or the other party has recently moved to Colorado, you might have an existing court order from a different state that still applies. However, Colorado cannot enforce the order until you take the proper steps.
Because enforcing property orders, child custody, child support and other orders between states can get complicated, it is important to consult with your family law attorney. The process depends on the type of out-of-state order and the urgency of the situation.
To see more questions related to Colorado divorce procedures, please see our Divorce FAQ page.
Child Custody And Support-Related Questions
What options for child custody are there in Colorado?
Parents may have legal custody, physical custody, a combination of both or neither of the ones. Custody is different from visitation rights.
Legal custody gives parents the power to make decisions for the child regarding matters such as their health care, education and religious upbringing. Physical custody allows the parent to live with the child, providing food, shelter and care.
It is common for one parent to be granted sole physical custody while the other parent to have visitation rights to minimize the frequency of relocating between homes for the child. If you have concerns about protecting your child or your parenting rights, discuss them with a knowledgeable child custody lawyer.
How is child support calculated in Colorado?
Under the Colorado child support guidelines, the presumptive level of child support is approximately 20% of the combined gross income of both parents, plus 10% for each additional child. The support obligation is split between the parents, based on several factors. The court considers the financial resources of the custodial parent (and any resources of the child), the financial resources of the noncustodial parent, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the parents stayed together, and any special needs of the child. The role of an attorney is to make sure the court has accurate information about all sources of income, or to advocate for a deviation from the statutory child support formula.
My circumstances have changed, and I need to modify a court order. Is that possible in Colorado?
Yes. If you can demonstrate a significant change in your circumstances, the court may grant a modification to child support, child custody or visitation. This change might involve loss of a job, parental relocation or the safety of your child.
Parental Rights And Grandparents’ Rights Questions
What is a dependency and neglect case (D&N)?
A dependency and neglect case is a civil action by the county social services department when child abuse, neglect or abandonment is reported or suspected. The court appoints a guardian ad litem (attorney) to oversee the best interests of the child. If the county’s investigation concludes that the child’s well-being is endangered, the child can be removed from the home to be placed with relatives or in foster care.
Am I entitled to a lawyer in a dependency and neglect case?
Yes. The parents are investigated in D&N case, and you have a right to have a lawyer present for the interview and to advocate for you in all legal proceedings. If your child or children have been taken away, an attorney can also help you take the steps to be reunited with your kids. In extreme cases when a parent is deemed unfit and/or unwilling to comply with a treatment plan, the court can terminate the parental rights.
Learn more about juvenile law and the common questions associated with this area of law on our Juvenile Law FAQ page.
Are there laws in Colorado concerning grandparents’ rights?
State and federal laws prioritize the rights of parents in most cases. However, there may be cases in which grandparents seek custody or visitation rights for a grandchild.
The Children’s Code and the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act both play a role in shaping grandparents’ custodial opportunities. Colorado values the bond that grandchildren share with their grandparents, so your lawyer can help you take the steps toward protecting that bond.
Surrogacy/Reproduction-Related And Adoption Questions
What is a surrogacy agreement?
A surrogacy agreement is a contract between the gestational carrier (the woman carrying the baby) and the intended parents. A properly drafted agreement protects both parties by outlining expectations and responsibilities at every stage of the process. The agreement spells out financial aspects such as paying for medical care, living expenses and monetary compensation to the carrier. It covers medical issues ranging from prohibited activities to prenatal care and choice of hospital. It should also address how disputes will be resolved and remedies if either party breaches the contract. It is critical for the document to be drafted or reviewed by an attorney who is well-versed in reproductive law and potential pitfalls.
Are there any additional steps that LGBTQ parents need to take after a surrogacy birth?
Colorado is one of the most progressive states for LGBTQ parents who are growing their families through surrogacy. The intended parents can petition the court for a pre-birth order (PBO) that legally recognizes both partners as parents and lists both on the birth certificate when the baby is born. It is not necessary in Colorado to obtain a post-birth order or to pursue a formal adoption. The intended parents should start the PBO process about halfway through the pregnancy.
Can a surrogate retain and enforce parental rights after birth?
While there are no specific laws in Colorado that outline parentage orders, particularly related to surrogates, pre-birth and post-birth arrangements made in the surrogacy agreement are enforceable. Additionally, in compliance with Colorado’s Uniform Parentage Act, courts can grant pre-birth and post-birth parentage orders.
Any fears or concerns that a surrogate may not relinquish parental rights upon birth should be discussed with your attorney so you can ensure protection of your rights.
What types of adoption are available in Colorado?
In Colorado, there are three types of adoptions available:
- Private domestic adoption – This process uses a licensed child placement agency to place children in the custody of adoptive families. Biological parents relinquish their parental rights and the child placement agency, in coordination with a private adoption attorney (if applicable), will ensure placement of the child follows all state laws as well as any out-of-state laws (if applicable).
- International adoption – This process involves the placement of a child from another country into the home of a family in the United States. These types of adoptions are also handled by a licensed child placement agency that handles all aspects of the adoption, including securing the correct visa for the child.
- Adoption from foster care – This type of adoption allows adults who are already foster parents to adopt a child within their care or another child within the foster care system. If the foster child cannot return to one or both of his or her biological parents, and the foster parent has met all other state requirements, then adoption from foster care is possible.
Do I need a lawyer in order to go through the adoption process?
To answer this question, it’s important to understand that the unique laws and processes surrounding each type of adoption can be incredibly complex. International adoptions for example require families to speak with domestic and foreign government agencies, both of which may have vastly different adoption laws. As such, it’s always considered a good idea to speak with an attorney about your plans for adoption to get a better understanding of your rights, the laws at play and the process ahead so you can make an informed decision about whether you need legal representation or not.
Guardianship And Conservatorship Questions
What is the difference between guardianship and conservatorship?
Guardianship refers to the person; the guardian makes decisions relating to the ward’s health and well-being. Conservatorship refers to the estate; a conservator is charged with managing the ward’s finances, business and legal affairs. The guardian and conservator can be the same person or two separate appointees. Some families hire a professional fiduciary or a trustee service as conservator.
Do I need to designate a guardian or conservator in my will?
You can better protect your interests by creating powers of attorney in your will. Power of attorney designates a person of your choosing to act in your stead, and can specify any or all powers to that person. Guardianship or conservatorship typically arises when there is no will or power of attorney and court intervention is urgently needed.
If you would like to learn more about guardianships and conservatorships, check out our FAQ page with more questions and answers.