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Legal Research and Standards

Legal Research

One mistake that some pro se litigants make is thinking that all they have to do is go into court and explain their situation and the court will see things their way. However, Judges have to follow the law. Without a knowledge of the law, you have no way of knowing if the Judge can even grant your request. You have to learn the legal standards that apply to your legal situation and ask for remedies that are consistent with the law. Learning the law can be time-consuming and understanding it may not be easy.

The law is set forth in statutes as well as cases. Statutes are embodied in the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.). There are also procedural rules that must be followed and are set forth in the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure (C.R.C.P.). Statutes set forth the basic law as created by the legislature, however are not always clear on how the law might apply to a particular situation. Appellate cases interpret the law and are also a part of the body of law because appellate cases have precedential value. The decisions that the appellate courts make are binding on future cases with similar factual circumstances unless or until a subsequent decision that changes the earlier decision is made.

It is possible to locate statutes, rules and cases online for free. Additionally, some public libraries have legal resources in hardcopy and online forms. The Colorado General Assembly posts the Colorado Revised Statutes here. Colorado cases can be found on the Justia website. The Colorado Rules of Procedure can be found at the Casetext website.

Colorado Revised Statutes

Common domestic relations statutes:

Civil Protection Orders. If you fear imminent harm, you can apply for protection through the courts to request a protection order that protects you and perhaps your children against another person. To obtain a Temporary Protection Order you must show that you are in imminent danger of harm committed by another. C.R.S. § 13-14-104.5, 105.

Dissolution of Marriage Jurisdiction. At least one of the Parties must have been domiciled in Colorado for at least 91 days prior to filing for dissolution of marriage. C.R.S. § 14-10-106.

The Mandatory Injunction. The mandatory injunction prohibits Parties from taking certain actions after filing for dissolution or allocation of parental responsibilities. Chapter 1 covers the injunctions and what actions are prohibited during the pendency of the proceedings. C.R.S. § 14-10-107.

Temporary Orders Hearings. Although the court process is not fast, there is a process to request an expedited hearing for certain matters that may be more urgent than others, such as child and spousal maintenance support and parenting time. A temporary orders hearing may be held in a pre-decree case. C.R.S. § 14-10-108.

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. These statutes cover child custody, called Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR) in Colorado. APR encompasses parenting time, decision-making and many other parenting aspects. If parents are able to enter into a Parenting Plan, they can request that the Court issue it in an uncontested hearing. C.R.S. § 14-10-123, 14-10-124, 14-13-201.

Adoption. This governs adoption of non-biological children. C.R.S. § 19-05-203.

Restriction of Parenting Time. In cases where a child is endangered by the actions of a parent, the other parent can request a restriction of parenting time. C.R.S. § 14-10-129(4).

Temporary Emergency Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Jurisdiction. There are times where a parent desires Colorado to take jurisdiction over children when Colorado is not the home state of the child. For example, a parent may flee a state with a child due to domestic violence and come to Colorado. The parent may then request that the Colorado court take emergency jurisdiction to address allocation of parental responsibilities. C.R.S. § 14-10-204.

Separation Agreements and Property Division. In any dissolution of marriage, marital assets and debt must be identified and equitably divided and spousal maintenance has to be either set or waived. The document that specifies division of assets and debt and spousal maintenance elections is a Separation Agreement. C.R.S. § 14-10-112, 14-10-113.

Child and Family Investigator Appointments. A Child and Family Investigator (CFI) is appointed by the Court as a third-party neutral to make parenting recommendations. Either parent can request a CFI. C.R.S. § 14-10-116.5.

Child Support. This statute discusses child support calculations to include what income is counted for support, consideration of unemployment and underemployment, and support deviations. C.R.S. § 14-10-115.

Modification of Child Support and Spousal Maintenance. Various standards govern the modification of support. C.R.S. § 14-10-122.

Modification of Parenting Time and Relocation with Children. After an initial order is issued, a parent under certain circumstances, may request modification. Additionally, certain standards govern relocation of children with a parent. C.R.S. § 14-10-129.

Modification of Decision-Making Responsibility. There are times where a parent may wish to request a change in parental decision-making responsibility. There are many reasons for a request, however sometimes one parent believes that another parent is not actively involved in decision-making or makes decisions that are not in the best interests of the child. C.R.S. § 14-10-131.

Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure

There are procedural rules governing how court actions are handled. The rules govern the form of requests to the court, when and how documents are filed, and deadlines, among many other aspects.

Common Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure:

Service of Process. These rules address how an opposing party must be served with notice of proceedings. C.R.C.P. 4 & 5.

Financial Disclosure and Discovery In Domestic Relations Cases. Parties disclose assets, debt and income in domestic relations cases and there are specific rules governing how to obtain information. C.R.C.P. 16.2.

Motion To Compel Production of Disclosures and Discovery. There are times where a party may not fully disclose financial or other information and there is a legal process to request assistance from the court to obtain them. C.R.C.P. 37.

Reopening of Property Settlement. Generally property settlements are final and can not be modified. However, there are certain circumstances that allow reopening and reallocation for up to five years after issuance of a decree, such as fraud and material nondisclosure of assets. C.R.C.P. 16.2(e)(10).

Contempt of Court. There are times where a party does not obey a court order and there is a process to request assistance from the court to require compliance. C.R.C.P. 107.

Requesting Continuance of a Hearing. There may be times where it may be necessary or desirable to request a continuance of a court hearing. One common reason is for an unrepresented party to obtain the assistance of counsel. The going tends to get tougher when approaching evidentiary hearings as there are many more procedural requirements and deadlines in short succession. C.R.C.P. 121.

Legal Standards

Although courts have discretion in many matters, the law sets forth legal standards that a court has to follow when deciding certain issues. It is essential to understand the relevant legal standard so you can organize your case and evidence around it. Following are generally some common legal standards:

Initial Establishment of Parenting Time - the best interests of the children.

Initial Establishment of Child Support - child support is calculated based on the incomes of the parties and the number of overnights with the children of each parent. The guidelines amount is presumptively the correct amount, however can be rebutted in individual cases.

Establishment of Spousal Maintenance - spousal maintenance guidelines are advisory to the court. Maintenance is based on the incomes of the parties and the years of marriage. There are also a number of other factors that the court will consider to determine the financial need of the lower-income party and the ability to pay of the higher-earning party. Property division is determined first as allocation of property is a factor in need and ability to pay.

Modification of Parenting Time - depending on the situation and the desired change in time, the legal standard will either be the best interests of the children or endangerment.

Modification of Child Support - there must be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that would change the child support amount by plus or minus ten%.

Modification of Spousal Maintenance - there must be a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that makes the original maintenance award unfair.

Relocation With Children - there are a number of specified relocation factors that a court must consider if a parent would like to move to a location with the children that substantially changes the geographical ties with the other parent and the children.

Turning Change Into Opportunity in Colorado Springs

A knowledgeable and experienced divorce and family law attorney can guide you through Colorado Springs divorce and family law matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. Give yourself the benefit of hiring one. This allows you to focus on moving on to a better future instead of spending your time attempting to navigate complex legal rules and procedures.

Sabra Janko from Janko Family Law Solutions has more than 20 years of legal experience and protects your best interests. She ensures that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 for a free 30-minute informational consultation or complete our online form.

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