Do I need an attorney?
Spouses who are not in high conflict, who remain friendly and who are reasonable and sincerely want to be fair do not need an attorney except for consultations to address specific concerns or questions. Each year I represent numerous individuals on an “as needed” basis. This is akin to a coach on the sidelines providing guidance to the players on the field. There are ways to access all of the legal documents couples need to file process and finalize a dissolution of marriage action. On many occasions I review for divorcing couples the paperwork that they have put together by using the forms available on line. From time to time some divorces are “walk aways”. Normally these are short marriages, with no children, no property has been acquired, both parties are in good health and have careers which are secure and provide each with a similar standard of living. These cases can be done in their entirety without significant involvement of an attorney. Call me and I can show you how.
The Colorado Supreme Court has authorized attorneys to provide legal services on a limited basis. If you want to control the amount of money you spend for an attorney in a divorce or other family law matter then you should seriously consider a relationship with a licensed family law attorney who will provide services on an “as needed” and limited basis. This can save you thousands of dollars.
Why don’t I provide free consultations?
I spent 7 years in college and have practiced family law since 1974. My words and advice are what I sell. I have always believed that nothing is free and, also, that you get what you pay for. It is nearly impossible for an attorney who practices quality family law to spend 15 or 20 minutes with someone and provide them with competent legal advice that relates to their particular circumstances. In order to provide competent legal advice an attorney must have substantial and significant information. To acquire this information takes a great deal of time.
If anyone wants to meet me and find out who I am, my experience and to just sort of “get a feel” that’s okay, that’s free and will only take 20 minutes or so. I have found, over the years, that most people are desperately in need of “wanting to know what will happen”. This is the kind of information that I like to provide but for which a fee will be charged.
What does a divorce cost?
The answer to these questions is problematic. If you and your spouse are in high conflict, have children, have complex property issues (stock options, retirement accounts, self employed business owners) it will cost thousands of dollars if you both retain attorneys to act as your gladiator and fight it out to the bitter end. It is not unusual for these cases to cost in the many tens of thousands of dollars (which could be better spent in paying for a college education for your children!).
It was not too long ago that I testified as an expert witness regarding the attorney’s fees of one of the parties which were incurred throughout the divorce. At the time of the trial the attorney’s fees of the wife exceeded $125,000. With good legal counsel who is interested in finding a way to resolve differences and not interested in padding their own pocketbook and who litigates only as a last choice, you can avoid this out of the world cost.
Do I have to go to Court?
The clear and simple answer is no you don’t have to go to Court. But this can only happen if you are willing to work hard with your spouse and come to a resolution that is fair to both. There are situations which can be resolved before a petition to dissolve a marriage is filed. In those cases every document from start to finish can be filed with the Court at the time the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed.
In that instance and if you both are represented by attorneys and there are children no Court appearance is necessary. If there are no children and you do resolve the issues prior to filing you do not need attorneys and you will not need to appear in Court.
How do I find a good family law attorney?
I have spent much time considering this question. If I knew what I know now about attorneys and moved to a new location and knew no one in town I would be frightened to death to select an attorney based solely upon advertising. For many years I spent little or nothing in advertising believing that those attorneys who advertised the most and biggest needed business the most. If they are in such need one must question how good they are! The best way to select an attorney is to talk to numerous people who have been represented, get a referral. Even this is not a fool proof method. It is my estimate that 90% of the people that call me, do so because I did a good job for someone they know or because they were referred by an attorney who knows me.
You could also consult the Martindale legal directory, which rates attorneys as to their competence and ethics. This directory may list an attorneys’ associations and areas of practice. Make sure that the attorney that you may select is rated by Martindale-Hubbell as “av” or “bv”. If you are looking for a family law attorney, make sure he or she is a member of the family law section of that states’ bar association. That membership indicates a high interest in family law.
I would also urge you to select an attorney who has been practicing family law for at least 10 years. The area of family law is highly complex. This is because a good competent family law attorney must have a range of knowledge from business valuations to stock options to pension plans to child psychology and family dynamics to income taxation (I could go on and on). There is virtually no area of law about which a family attorney need not have some knowledge. At the very least an experienced family law attorney will have many contacts and if he or she does not have the answer, has a person or persons that can be called to get the answer. Experience counts. Attorneys are educated to be able to express themselves and communicate at a high level. They are also good “bullshitters.” Be careful.
Should I listen to my friend who was recently divorced?
This is a simple one. The answer is absolutely not. There is no single dissolution which is exactly like someone else’s. There are always differences. The experiences of your friend who lives in Douglas County is based upon the advice they were given, the Judge they had, the total value of the marital estate, the education and health condition of each of the spouses, the age, health and development needs of each of the children, the relative incomes and earning capacity of each of the spouses, the complexity and nature of the marital assets etc. etc. Your case is different and needs individualized attention suited to you. What happened to him or her does not mean it will happen to you.
Should I move out?
The answer is not simple, and it’s particularly true if there are children involved. However, individuals are often concerned that if they move out they are deserting or abandoning their spouse and children, which simply is not true. Colorado eliminated fault as a basis for dissolution of marriage in 1971 when the Colorado Legislature adopted the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act. You may move out without a claim of desertion, abandonment and the like; however, you may remain obligated to continue to provide support to the spouse and other family members who may remain in the home.
It is important to get legal advice before you move even when you want to. It is particularly true when you as a parent have provided significant child care for children who may be remaining in the home. In those situations I frequently recommend that you negotiate a parenting time plan before establishing a separate residence. It is also important to consider the needs of the children when moving particularly when deciding where to move. Seek the advice of a good and competent family law attorney before moving.
Do I have to pay her (his) attorney?
It depends. If one spouse has a significant income and the other is a homemaker it is likely the homemaker spouse will be awarded some (but not usually all) attorneys fees. If I am asked these questions under those circumstances my answer is that you have the exposure of contributing to the attorneys fees of the homemaker spouse.
Generally, if both spouses have careers and have earnings and incomes which are similar and neither has significant separate property there will be little exposure to contributing to the attorneys of the other. However, an award of fees while usually based upon a comparison of their relative financial circumstances of each of the parties can also be based upon one of the parties asserting positions that are later deemed to be frivolous, groundless and without substantial justification. In those cases attorneys fees may be awarded based upon this conduct.