Legal Advice Consultation

Need help an don’t know where to turn? The Legal Quill offers Consultations with our highly experienced attorney.

Mary L. Athey is the lead attorney and company founder. Mary earned her Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando Florida in 2012. She earned her Bachelors in Political Science from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2009. Mary has served on the Weld County Legal Services board since 2013 and has participated in the United Way Homeless Coalition and the Access to Justice Committee. Mary loves spending time with her family, traveling, and reading.

Mary is knowledgeable, compassionate, and always ensures that the client’s best interest is at the heart of her work. Call today to make an appointment or request an appointment at thelegalquill.com

I’m a Stepparent & would like to Adopt my Stepchild. Now what?

In Colorado, as a Stepparent, you may be able to adopt your stepchild. There are certain requirements you must meet and a lengthy court process as well. The termination of the non-custodial biological parent’s rights will also need to take place. Of all the adoptions, the Stepparent adoption is somewhat simplified and common in Colorado.

Before you can adopt, you must meet 3 requirements:

  • Be a Colorado resident for at least six months
  • Be over the age of 21 years
  • Be able to successfully pass several background checks

4 steps to Stepparent Adoption:

  • Filing a petition for adoption with Colorado courts.
  • Filing by the adoptive stepparent’s spouse (custodial parent) showing approval of the adoption.
  • Gaining the consent of the child if he or she is over the age of 12 years.
  • Filing the non-custodial parent’s consent to the adoption.

Typically, the one area where problems arise is Step 4: gaining the consent of the non-custodial parent. Even for the most unsupportive biological parent, giving consent for the adoption of a child can be difficult. If a biological parent won’t give consent, the custodial parent and stepparent can file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the noncustodial parent. In this case, the stepparent and spouse will have to prove either abandonment or failure to provide support for a period of at least a year. If a biological parent has visited even occasionally or provided minimal support during that time, it can derail the adoption. Colorado courts require parents to pay some level of support even if they are unemployed, disabled, or incarcerated.

Once the stepparent adoption is finalized, the child will receive a new birth certificate listing the stepparent as a parent. At that time, the adoptive parent will assume all the legal rights of parenthood and the child will have the same inheritance rights as the stepparent’s natural heirs.

Thinking about filing for a Stepparent Adoption, but don’t want to go at it alone? Contact us today to set up an appointment: (970) 888-3093.

Did you know: The Clerk can Transfer Title of Property?

The divorce is finalized, and the house/car/camper/boat is yours! Having a Court Order, i.e. a piece of paper, that says you get the property is just the first step. Ideally the other party in your case will sign the title over to you and you will be on your way. But what if they don’t?

You can ask that the Clerk transfer the title of property over to you pursuant to C.R.C.P. 70. First step is to file a motion with the court. Once you receive an order from the court, the clerk will sign the title, transferring the property to you. 

This option is available when the following has occurred:

  • The court ordered you to have the right to ownership of certain property, such as real estate, car, etc.
  • The court ordered the other party to take a specific legal action, such as signing a document.
  • The other party refuses to sign documents giving you legal title to property that you were awarded in your court order.
  • The other party refuses to do an act required by court order.

Think this sound like something you need, but not sure how to file the motion? Contact us today to set up an appointment: (970) 888-3093

The Court Ordered Me Support. Now What?

Having a Court Order, i.e. a piece of paper, that says you get child support or spousal support (referred to as maintenance in Colorado) is just the first step. Ideally the other party in your case will pay you as ordered with no hiccups. But what if they don’t?

There are several options available to you to enforce a support order:

Option 1: Income Assignment

What is it: An income assignment is issued to the other party’s employer to deduct the support directly from their wages.

This option is available if:

  • You have a current support order.
  • You know where the obligor works.

How is it helpful: The employer will issue the payment directly to the court or Family Support Registry, who will then forward it on to you.

Option 2: Verified Entry of Support Judgement

What is it: The verified entry of support judgment is a motion stating the amount of money owed and requesting the court enter a corresponding judgment.

This option is available if:

  • Support has been ordered and not paid.
  • You know what payments have been ordered, what payments have not been made, and what is now owed.
  • You can attach current payment records as supporting documentation.

How is it helpful: A judgment stays on a person’s credit report until paid in full and then 7 years after. You can garnish their wages and bank accounts and put liens on property. You are also entitled to interest of 12% per annum compounded monthly on child support, and 8% per annum on spousal support/maintenance. Interest continues to accrue until the debt is satisfied.

Option 3: Contempt of Court

What is it: Contempt of Court is willful failure to obey an order of the court. This can include failure to pay support. The court’s power to punish for contempt includes fines and/or jail time.

This option is available if:

  • You have a support order.
  • The other party has the present ability to comply with the order.
  • The other party willfully refused to comply with the order.

How is it helpful: Once the motion is filed, the court will issue a Citation to Show Cause, which sets a date for an initial hearing. You must have the other party served with notice of that hearing at least 21 days in advance. At the hearing, the other party will be advised of the contempt charges. Because contempt charges are quasi-criminal in nature, the other party will also be advised of the right to an attorney. Depending on the nature of the charges and the punishment requested, the judge may hold the contempt hearing at that time. However, it is most likely that the judge will set a future date for the contempt hearing.

Not sure what option is best for you? Have more questions? Contact us today to set up an appointment: (970) 888-3093

Do I Need a Will?

Do you have a will? That is, do you have a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and other important considerations? Between 1/2 to 2/3 of American adults don’t have a will. But do you need one?

The answer is a resounding yes, if you answer yes to any of the questions below: 1. Do you care who gets your property if you die? 2. Do you care who gets your money if you die? 3. Do you care who is appointed the guardian of your minor children if you die?

There’s a lot of debate among professionals about who needs a will. And while you can make the argument that it’s always better to have a will, here are the specific categories of people who need (and who don’t need) a will:

Are you married? You need a will.

If you are married, then you need a will because your spouse is someone who is so closely tied to you that it’s important for you to put in writing whether she or he gets your assets upon your death.

Traditionally, your spouse would likely inherit your things even if you die without a will, but you shouldn’t leave that up to chance. Additionally, if you want anyone other than your spouse to receive any of your assets, you would need to include that in your will because that isn’t the default.

Do you have kids? You need a will.

If you have kids, you need a will because your kids are likely to inherit your things if you die intestate, after your spouse, but not necessarily. This means that if you want your kids to inherit after your spouse, then you need to put that in writing so there is no room for error or interpretation by the courts. Additionally, if you don’t want one of (or all of) your kids to inherit, then that needs to be in writing.

Another reason why a will is important if you have kids is because you name a personal representative of your estate and a guardian of your children. The personal representative is responsible for distributing your assets, and the guardian is responsible for raising your children. Who you name as personal representative and as guardian is critically important to how your children inherit and how they are raised.

You can (and should) change your will over time. For example, if you have two kids, create a will, then ten years later, have another kid, you will need to update your will to include your third child.

Do you have a positive net worth? You need a will.

If you are single and don’t have kids, but you do have a positive net worth, then you should have a will. Because you have assets that need to be distributed when you die, it’s easier on your family and anyone else involved if you put it in writing (in a will) how you want your assets to be distributed.

But what does a will really do?

If you pass away and have a will: Your property and assets will be distributed according to your wishes.

If you pass away and don’t have a will: State law governs who gets your property and assets. Usually, your spouse and/or children will take priority and inherit your stuff, but that’s not necessarily true. If you don’t have a spouse or kids, then it’s more complicated.

Would you like more information on wills, the process of starting one, and the cost of having an attorney draft your will? Contact us today to set up an appointment: (970) 888-3093

How Does the Colorado Court Determine Custody?

Ending a relationship is not an easy task. It becomes even more complex when there are child(ren) involved. You may decide the best thing for your child(ren) is to file for custody. This can be stressful and emotionally draining. Going to court, especially over a child, is hard. As a parent going through a custody case, you must be mindful of what life will look like for your child(ren), moving forward. You need to take the right steps to protect their well-being as well as well as your parental rights.

The term “custody” has been phased out over the years and replaced with the term “allocation of parental responsibilities” (APR). As you go through your court case, you should be aware of some issues the Court will take into consideration with determining the allocation of parental responsibilities.

In allocation of parental responsibilities in Colorado, the Court considers several factors, including:

1. The wishes of the parents.

The court will consider the wishes of each parent with regards to physical custody of the child(ren) as well as decision-making responsibilities. The parents may agree to a parenting plan that calls for the child to stay primarily with one of them, or the parents may share physical custody equally. Likewise, if the parents are effectively able to co-parent, they may agree to share decision making authority.

2. Relationship between the child(ren) and the parents, siblings, and other people involved in their life.

The Court also considers the relationship that a child might have with his/her parents, siblings and other family members. This may be crucial, especially if there is likely to be a separation of siblings by the separating parents.

3. The children’s ability to adjust to his/her normal social life.

The Court will consider how the child(ren) will adjust to a new home, school, and community as applicable.

Other factors that the Court considers include the physical and mental health of the parties involved, the ability of the parents to interact and stay in contact especially where there has been domestic violence or physical abuse, as well as previous behaviors of the involvement of the parents with the child(ren). The Court may also consider the proximity of the homes of each parent to the other and will consider the ability of each parent to put the interest of the children before their own.

When the Colorado Court is deciding the allocation of parental responsibilities, it must do so while considering, first and foremost, the best interest of the child(ren).  Additionally, the court will encourage effective co-parenting by the parents with the goal of keeping them both actively involved in their child’s life, which will ultimately be the best benefit to the child(ren).

Feeling lost? Don’t know where to start? Let us help you! Contact The Legal Quill today to meet with our intake specialist.

Colorado Divorce and Custody

Are you thinking about filing for divorce or custody? But the idea of going to court has you feeling nervous or scared? Going to family court can be a stressful process. However, breaking down the process in easy to follow steps and having an experienced person by your side can make it much easier.

Here are the basic steps for getting divorce or custody orders in Colorado.

Step 1: Draft your initial court forms and file

In order to start any civil or domestic case in Colorado you will need to fill out the initial forms required by the court. Depending on what you are filing these will vary.  It can be difficult determining which forms you need, as every case is unique. Additionally, each county courthouse will have different rules on what is required. Once you have your forms completed, you will take them to the clerk’s window in the courthouse that is in the county you live, or the county the child lives, depending on your situation. Each case type has a different filing fee that will be required when you turn in your forms. For example, a divorce case in Colorado cost $230, a custody case in Colorado (referred to as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities) cost $222.

Step 2: First Court Appearance

Depending on the county you are filing in, your first court appearance will be with the Family Court Facilitator for an Initial Status Conference or with the Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator for an Orientation. At this appearance you may be required to complete or turn-in the rest of your required court forms, therefore you will want to make sure you have them prepared.

Step 3: Mediation

If, at your Initial Status Conference, you and the other party in your case (spouse/parent) are not in agreement on your joint court forms, the court will order you to mediate. Mediation is a structured and interactive process where a neutral third party assists disputing parties in resolving conflict using specialized communication and negotiation techniques. Mediation is at the expense of the parties and the cost varies depending on what mediator you hire.

Step 4: Additional Court Appearances

After your first court appearance and mediation your case will begin to follow its own track, depending on your unique situation. The Family Court Facilitator and/or court staff will explain the process to you and what, if any, additional forms the court may require you to file.

Other things to keep in mind: These steps are meant to be very general to the State of Colorado. Each county will have their own process and procedures that may vary from these steps.

Feeling lost? Don’t know where to start? Let us help you! Contact The Legal Quill today to meet with our intake specialist.

How is Child Support Calculated in Colorado?

Each state has its own statutory guidelines that judges use to determine the amount of monthly child support paid. In Colorado, the two main factors in the calculation of child support are the income of both parents and the overnight schedule each parent has with the child.

If you are not working or make less than minimum wage the court may use minimum wage as your income when running the calculation. The current Colorado monthly minimum wage amount is $1,924. If your youngest child is under 30 months (2.5 years old) the court normally will not impede this wage against you.

Another thing to keep in mind, if one parent has 92 overnights or more with the child, this is considered joint custody for the purposes of calculating child support. If one parent has less than 92 overnights, this is considered sole custody for the purposes of calculating child support.

Other items that affect the child support amount:

  • Daycare Cost
  • Health Insurance Premiums
  • Extraordinary Medical Expenses for your child
  • Other Children You Financially Support (from a different relationship)
  • Payment of Maintenance (Alimony/Spousal Support)

Things that do not affect the child support amount:

  • The Income of a New Spouse or Significant Other
  • Your Gender
  • Bills and Expenses
  • Debts

The Colorado State Courts website provides free software you can download to your computer to calculate the child support (and maintenance) amount. Follow this link to download the Family Law Software for free:

https://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=94

The amount of child support a court will order for any particular case may be different from the amount estimated by the calculator. This is called a deviation. You can request the court to deviate from the software’s calculation as well. However, you must have compelling reasons for the judge to accept your deviation.

Still have questions? Contact The Legal Quill for a consultation or to have us run the calculator for you!

4 Ways to Lower the Cost of a Divorce in Colorado

Getting divorced in Colorado can be very expensive. Sometimes the cost of the divorce can be as much as the wedding was. Attorney fees can cost thousands of dollars. Plus, there’s the court fees and orders that must be complied with. What can you do if you can’t afford to get a divorce?

Here are a few cost savings tips:

1. The Colorado court fee to file a Petition for Divorce is $230. Plus, an additional $116 for your spouse to respond to your Petition. You can save the response fee together by signing the Petition as Co-Petitioners. If you are low income asked the court about a fee waiver, you may qualify to have your filing fee waived or for a payment plan.

2. You can save thousands of dollars by choosing to represent yourself instead of hiring an attorney to represent you. A Family Law Attorney retainer fee will, on average, start around $3,000-5,000. In leu of full representation, you can pay an attorney to help you with pieces of your case, but still represent yourself in court. This is called unbundled services or limited legal representation. Both are allowed in the state of Colorado.

3. Try to reach agreements regarding the division of the property and debts of the marriage as well as the custody of the children. The Colorado Court will order you to mediation if you and your souse cannot agree. Mediation with private attorneys can be expensive, and both parties will have to pay. If you cannot reach agreements, shop around for a low-cost mediator. The Office of Dispute Resolution and The Legal Quill only charge $150 per party.

4. It may not be wise to spend money on online legal services. There are many online sites that offer to draft your court forms for you at a low cost. If the site is national, and not a local Colorado law firm, you may end up with documents the court will not accept, and wasted money spent. The Colorado Court provides standard forms they require you to use if you are representing yourself. Often, these national websites do not use the most updated forms.

Feeling lost? Don’t know where to start? Let us help you! Contact The Legal Quill today to meet with our intake specialist.