In the course of many divorce cases sometimes one spouse develops issues that affect their psychological functioning. The causes can range from prior undiagnosed mental health issues to sudden changes in mental health due to illness, substance abuse, or injury, such as head trauma. In these kinds of divorce cases, the complexity involved in trying to resolve the contested issues increases significantly. Determinations must be made about the spouse who suffered a change in their mental health status to assess their ability to understand the divorce process and to make decisions that are rational and appropriate. If this is not the case, attorneys need to first recognize that this is an issue, and then address the need to involve additional parties, such as a guardian ad litem to assist the afflicted spouse in helping to make decisions in their case, even if they have hired their own divorce attorney. The court is going to give heightened scrutiny to any and all agreements if there is the slightest suggestion that the mental health of a party is in question, and my hold up proceedings to assess whether the problem is serious enough to put the case on hold. Having an attorney who understands these kinds of issues in cases is critical so that unnecessary delays don’t cause additional financial harm and/or a waste of marital assets before addressing these kinds of problems. Thomas Law Group is experienced in handling these issues in a way that helps protects clients, whether they are the afflicted spouse or not.
In the course of many custody cases, the initial determination of the issues resolving children, especially younger children, who aren’t yet in school, may seem complete, but in few years, problems can arise when it comes to school registration. In Colorado, you can designate the parent whose address will be used for school registration and attendance for school. However, even if such an agreement is made at the time of the initial determination of parental responsibilities, the passing of time can create many unexpected changes and considerations regarding school attendance issues. What if one parent moves and it changes the geographical ties with the other parent in such a way that the non-moving parent is no longer able to transport children to and from school? What if the move by the parent whose address is used for school registration is now in a school district that is not as highly rated as the one which the parties intended for the children? What if both parents move and the parent whose address isn’t used for school registration is now in a better school district than the parent whose address was designated for school registration? These are questions that must be thought of at the early stages of a case, during the planning and setting of strategic objectives. Thomas Law Group P.C. stands ready to use foresight and planning to avoid the possibility that over time, agreements regarding school registration won’t become points of litigation between the parties.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people suddenly found themselves under stay-at-home orders. For many people that meant that in marriages which had relationship tensions prior to the pandemic, found themselves being pushed further to make decisions about the course of those marriages. Where attempts to resolve marital problems have failed, man people found themselves unable or unwilling to see a future for their marriage. The decision to end a marriage during this pandemic means that there are financial considerations that will weigh heavily on the outcome of the divorce. The stock market and the value of retirement accounts have all suffered in the wake of the impact of Covid-19. If there are minor children involved, it also means taking into account new issues concerning the educational processes put into place as a result of the pandemic. Parental involvement in the learning at home programs that have been utilized by schools may now impact parenting time schedules. All of these issues need careful consideration and planning as part of the divorce process. Thomas Law Group is prepared to assist each divorce client is creating a strategic plan to create the best outcomes for our clients.
The divorce process is difficult and can be lengthy under normal circumstances. The process of divorce has had to address new pressures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The courts were closed for weeks and the cases that had been scheduled have been rescheduled. The courts are operating with reduced staff and currently, in-person hearings are conducted in limited circumstances. Some non-evidentiary hearings, conference calls by phone are now being utilized. The evidentiary hearings which have been held are being done by a video conferencing services such as Webex which requires access to computers with internet services capable of managing the required bandwidth necessary for those programs to operate correctly. It is important to understand that at Thomas Law Group, we have the ability to manage these kinds of hearings, even when clients may not have the technology personally. We can conduct consultations by phone or by Zoom Meeting. We understand that there are significant health risks to many people in our community and we have the technology to help protect their health while helping them address divorce, child custody or other family law matters.
Please contact us so that we can assist you in planning your case and utilize the technology to move your case through the new reality of case management in the court system.
In most divorce cases or cases involving the allocation of parental responsibilities, there is usually a child support order issued by the court. Those obligations, as orders of the court, are not modifiable except with another order from the Court. However, many people find themselves in circumstances where the circumstances of their co-parenting relationship change, sometimes the initial parenting schedule which was ordered by the court, gets changed for various reasons. Perhaps one or more of the children want to spend more time with one parent over the other. It could be that one parent moves so that it makes it harder for the same parenting schedule to be reasonably exercised. When parties reach agreements to change parenting time, it is understandable that they don’t want to create conflict by going back to court, and they simply come to a verbal agreement to change the terms of court orders without ever presenting those changes to the court for the court’s approval.
The risks in not involving the court in changes to parenting time or child support, can be significant. When parties change a parenting plan, it will likely also change the child support that would be paid if the parenting time is changed. Sometimes in modifying child the parenting plan, the parties will also agree to modify the child support to what they think is fair. They aren’t using the child support worksheet calculations that the court would use and they may even agree to forego future payment of child support when that parenting plan is verbally changed between them. The risk for the person who was ordered to pay child support comes about because if you fail to pay the amount of child support that was ordered by the court, and you pay less or pay nothing at all based on your agreement with the other parent, the amount of support, there is an automatic judgment on any amounts which are less than the court ordered child support amount. That judgment accrues interest at 12% and is compounded monthly. Additionally, a party receiving child support can file a verified entry of support judgment to collect any unpaid child support, even after agreeing to change the court ordered amount of child support. Because a parent who is ordered to pay child support is assumed to understand that any unpaid child support is subject to an automatic judgment, no notice of the verified entry of support judgment need be sent to the parent ordered to pay child support. The failure to pay even a couple of hundred dollars of child support per month, can result in additional interest of thousands of dollars over the span of several years. Bank accounts and wages can be garnished with the verified entry of support judgment and liens can be put on real property.
Anytime that there is a change in parenting time that parties agree to, or that parties allow to happen, it is important to speak to a family law attorney as soon as possible after any change in that parenting time to protect the party who has been ordered to pay child support so that they aren’t served with a support judgment which exceeds the original child support order by hundreds or thousands of dollars. Thomas Law Group has the experience to help avoid problems that a party ordered to pay child support, may not understand when a parenting plan is changed.
There are times when those in intimate relationships or marriages when abusive and violent behavior is exhibited by one of the parties to the relationship. Understandably, this conduct has significant psychological, financial. and emotional effects on it’s victims. Those victims can be men or women of any age or socio-economic status. When acts of domestic abuse occurs, including emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and technological abuse (for example, using texting or using social media to harass, stalk or intimidate), a victim of this behavior can seek a civil protection order from the court to prevent contact with the abuser if there is evidence that there is an imminent risk of harm to that victim. A temporary protection order can be issued which can give the victim a right to the parties’ residence, and temporary decision making authority over children. That order can be obtained in the absence of the abuser. The Temporary Protection Order also sets the course of the case to allow the victim to pursue a permanent protection order against the abuser.
The evidence required to support a protection order is a consideration to be evaluated carefully and thoughtfully because once the abuser is served with the temporary protection order, it is very likely that they will fight the issuance of a permanent protection order. Evidence of threats are a matter of one person’s word against the other. If there is a recording of these threats, that proof is very persuasive to prove that there has been an act of domestic which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. For other acts of domestic abuse, physical violence can be proven by taking pictures or by being examined by a doctor. Stalking can be proven by having photographic evidence. For all acts of domestic violence, the abuser’s own statements can be used as evidence against them should they admit to the acts which support a request for a protection order. Emails, text messages and recorded phone conversations (where consent to do the recording is legal with only one party’s consent) can all be used to prove acts in support of other evidence or as evidence of the commission of an act of domestic violence standing without other evidence.
Before filing any civil protection order, it is important to act in a timely manner and speak to an attorney who has experience in handling protection orders to make sure you have the strongest case possible to obtain an order of protection. Sergei Thomas has had over two decades of litigation experience, and has handled many civil protection orders. If you are at risk of abuse, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Many times, when client initially meet with an attorney, they reveal that in the relationship that is headed for a divorce, legal separation, or an allocation of parental responsibilities, that there have been incidents of domestic abuse, domestic violence. This abuse can be physical or emotional, and victims are not just women, but men are victims of abuse as well.
One of the initial concerns for an attorney about to begin a family law case which is sure to create emotional tension and anxiety is how to move forward and allow the client to feel safe in doing so. While no attorney can guarantee the safety of a client or other family members, there are steps that can be taken legally to help client’s feel secure in making the decision to leave a relationship or to take on child custody issues.
Civil protection orders are one way to obtain court orders to prevent contact between the retrained party and the protected party, and to temporarily give sole decision-making authority to the protected party if children are involved. Obtaining a civil protection order begins with the filing of a motion requesting the protection order from an imminent risk of harm based upon a party committing an act of harm, making a threat to do harm, or commit an act of violence. If the court finds sufficient grounds exist to believe that an imminent risk of harm exists, a temporary protection order is issued, and then later the restrained party needs to be served and a hearing on the permanency of the protection order is made. Judges are more likely to grant temporary protection orders rather than risk the safety of someone seeking a protection order. Whether than protection order will become permanent will be a matter of showing the unless the order is made permanent, the behavior giving rise to the protection order will continue.
No one can guarantee that protection orders will keep an angry spouse away, however, it is one step that can be taken to provide some sense of security as the process to dissolve a relationship or decide custody issues begins. Asking police to extra patrols near a protected party’s home is another option to help provide a greater sense of protection.
Having the ability to listen to clients and discuss some of the issues that may lead to a request for a protection order is essential. Also being able to make observations of clients who may be victims of abuse is also extremely important. Fear and shame make many people unable or unwilling to act to protect themselves. As a former prosecutor, Sergei Thomas is well versed in recognizing issues of domestic violence and abuse and has the courtroom experience to seek protection of clients to help free them from these unhealthy relationships.