Denver Divorce Laywers


Denver Office

Denver Office

5990 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard

Suite 130, Building 2

Greenwood Village, CO 80111

Family legal issues can be emotionally distressing and financially costly. The sooner these issues can be resolved, the sooner you and your loved ones can start the next chapter of your lives.

The Denver divorce and family lawyers at Burnham Law understand the seriousness and importance of resolving family legal issues in the best possible way. That is why we are committed to representing clients in a range of family law matters, from divorce, support payment cases, to child custody and post-decree matters.

The guidance of a good lawyer can help secure the best possible outcome for your case. Our attorneys, with more than a decade of experience practicing family law, have the skills and experience to represent you effectively in any legal family matter.

Need Advice Regarding Your Family Law Case? Call (303) 993-0051 or

Email Us For a Free Consultation

We can provide you with priceless advice regarding your rights and options during a free, no obligations consultation. We invite your calls and emails whenever you are ready for answers about your family legal matter(s). In the meantime, please explore the following for additional information regarding our family law practice.

Child Custody

The family court in Denver will generally not get involved in custody cases if parents can agree on division of custody on their own. In these cases, the court will usually review the agreed-upon custody arrangement and issue a final custody order to formalize that agreement.

It is important to understand that dividing child custody involves splitting both parenting time (i.e., physical custody) and decision-making authority (i.e., legal custody) of the child(ren) involved. It can also entail one parent being ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent.

When parents are not able to agree on one (or more) issue(s) of a child custody case, the family court will take a more central role in the case by:

  • Allowing both sides to present their request(s), argument(s) and/or allegation(s) regarding child custody
  • Reviewing the facts of the case, as well as the best interest factors
  • Issuing a final decree regarding how parenting time and decision-making authority are to be divided between the parents.

Child Support

Child support matters are closely tied to child custody cases. In Arapahoe County, family courts generally see both parents as being financially obligated to support their child(ren). Consequently:

  • Prenuptial and/or post-nuptial agreements cannot dictate (or preclude) child support payments.
  • The division of parenting time between the parents may not necessarily be mirrored by the child support orders. For example, a joint division of parenting time does not necessarily mean that no child support will be ordered or awarded.

When child support is a point of dispute between parents, the court will generally use a complex (and fairly comprehensive) formula to determine if child support should be ordered – and, if so, the amount of child support to be awarded. Some factors in this formula include:

  • The number of children and how parenting time is divided
  • Each parent’s earnings
  • The costs related to caring for and raising the children.

With child support orders, it is important to be aware that modifications can be pursued in the future (if or when certain circumstances for either parent change).

Division of Property

Splitting marital property between divorcing parties is commonly a contentious issue in contested divorce cases, particularly when complex and high-value assets are on the line. When dealing with this aspect of divorce, determining the following matters will typically be a priority:

  • Whether (or not) a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is in place – Pre- and post-nuptial agreements can define what property remains separate and/or precisely how the marital property should be divided in the event of divorce.
  • The scope of the marital property – If a valid pre- or post-nup is not in place, figuring out the scope of the marital property will be necessary. This can involve inventorying and appraising the marital assets and/or determining the scope of the marital debt.
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse – The family court will be focused on making an “equitable” division of the marital property. While this doesn’t necessarily mean an exactly equal split, it does mean that the financial status of each party (on his or her own) can be considered when the court is deciding who should get what as part of the divorce process.
  • Either spouse’s separate property was depleted to support the marriage – if, for instance, one party drained his or her separate resources to buy the marital home, this may also be considered when determining who gets the home (or other marital assets).

Alimony/Spousal Maintenance

Also referred to as spousal support, alimony or spousal maintenance payments can be awarded temporarily (while a divorce case is pending) and permanently (when the final divorce decree is issued).

When it comes to spousal maintenance, it’s important to be aware that:

  • A valid pre- or post-nuptial agreement can dictate the amount and duration of these payments. These agreements (when valid) can also stipulate that neither party is entitled to alimony.
  • In the absence of a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, the court will step in to resolve disputes over alimony. Factors like the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s earnings and the standard of living during the marriage will generally be considered by the court in these disputes.
  • Like child support, spousal support can be modified in the future when certain circumstances (for either party or both parties) change. For instance, job loss or remarriage may be grounds for seeking a modification (or termination) of spousal maintenance.

A divorce attorney in Denver, CO can explain whether you may be entitled to receive or obligated to pay spousal support. Contact us for more information about this area of family law.

Grandparent Rights

It is important to protect the grandparent-grandchild relationship via formal court orders when either parent is (or both parents are) not in the picture. For example, if either parent is incarcerated, deployed, or deceased, it is essential for grandparents to seek visitation, guardianship, or custody of a child.

When you need to protect and assert your grandparent rights in Denver, you can rely on the skills and guidance of a Denver divorce lawyer at Burnham Law.

A Denver divorce and family lawyer at Burnham Law is ready to help you formulate the right legal game plan for bringing your family legal issue(s) to the best possible resolution. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Top 5 Mistakes People Make in a Custody Battle

Authored by Todd Burnham

5. Emotion

People are too emotional in custody battles and emotional reactions hurt cases.  I understand that this is very personal, and emotional, and scary.  I get all that.  My mother was a social worker and helped people daily.  We help people by achieving their goals with them… not by being their soundboards to life’s unfairness.

Mature, intelligent and responsible people don’t get reckless and emotional.  Mature, intelligent and responsible people get into therapy, and that helps them to win custody battles.

Yes, we are dealing with custody of your child, but it doesn’t give you a license to go off the rails.  People have to keep it together, especially when there is so much at stake.  Our clients are counseled about the importance of presenting as your best self.  There is a balance between being emotionally engaged and mature, and bring a rageful, scorned parent.  Judges are judging throughout the case.  Don’t send emails to your co-parent outlining how much they are failing as a parent and how superior you are in every category compared to them.


4.  No Strategy

There has to be a winning strategy or else you are going in a canoe downstream without any oars.  Who is the judge?  Who is opposing counsel?  What are our good/bad facts?  What experts are needed?  Do we have the financial resources to hire experts?  Do we have enough money to handle the case the right way?

You need a plan of action.  


3.  Mirror

A mistake people make in custody battles is their inability to look in their mirror and be honest with themselves.  It’s okay if you haven’t been the best version of yourself as a parent.  It’s possibly catastrophic  to your case if you cannot accept responsibility for your own decisions, actions and behaviors.


2.  Best Interests of the Child

Stating repeatedly how this situation impacts you, or how sad you feel, or how you aren’t sleeping, are facts that we don’t need to share with an expert or the court.  This is all about your child and her development, health, safety and welfare.  This isn’t about you getting more child support so you can buy that new car (unless it’s for the child).  Get your mind right.  Focus on the best interest factors.  Clean up your side of the street.  Focus on your child.


1.  Your Lawyer

The biggest mistake people make in custody battles is choosing, or staying with, a weak lawyer.  You are going to know within the first month if your lawyer is good.  You will know if she is strong and effective and has what it takes to win your custody battle.  

You have to invest in your case with your time and attention.  Choose the best lawyer within your budget, and ask questions, provide input, be an asset to your case.  Don’t stay with a lawyer who is angry, wants to fight everything or doesn’t communicate.  

If you hire the right lawyer, most if not all of the mistakes mentioned above are preventable.  If you hire the wrong lawyer or law firm, most if not all of the mistakes mentioned above will likely be made.

Relocating with Your Children When There are Existing Child Custody Orders

If you have existing child custody orders in Colorado and are the primary residential custodian, it would be natural that when you want to move out of Colorado, you expect the child(ren) to move with you. However, if the children’s other parent does not agree with the move, you may have to ask the Colorado courts for permission to move with the children. C.R.S. 14-10-129 governs modifications to parenting time, and you need to plan ahead in order to show the courts that despite removing the children from the geographic location of the other parent, the move is still in the child(ren)’s best interest.

            If the other parent agrees to you moving out of Colorado with the child(ren), then you should turn that agreement into a written document, or stipulation, have both parents sign the stipulation, and file the stipulation with the court. However, if the other parent does not agree with the move, you may still seek to move out of Colorado with the child(ren) despite her or his objection to the move. If you must seek the court’s approval, it is important to note that the court will presume that it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to be near both parents, and to have a strong bond with each parent. This presumption can be difficult to overcome, but it is not impossible.

            In addition to the best interest of the children, for which the determining factors are set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124, the court will also look at the standards set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-129(2)(c) and (d), which can include: 

  • The reasons why the party wishes to relocate with the child;
  • The reasons why the opposing party is objecting to the proposed relocation;
  • The history and quality of each party’s relationship with the child since any previous parenting time order;
  • The educational opportunities for the child at the existing and at the proposed new location;
  • The presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
  • The advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver;
  • The anticipated impact of the move on the child;
  • Whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable parenting time schedule if the change requested is permitted; and;
  • Any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child; or
  • The child’s present environment endangers the child’s physical health or significantly impairs the child’s emotional development and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child.

If you are the parent looking to relocate out of Colorado, make sure to do your research about where you are hoping to move well in advance. You should communicate in writing to the other parent as soon as possible your intent to relocate, the location where you intend to move, the reason for the relocation, and the proposed revised parenting plan.  Once that information is given, you can determine if they are opposed to the move. If they are opposed, you will need to seek permission from the court through a motion and the necessary procedures that accompany motions to the court.

If you are the parent who is opposed to the move and are hoping to stop the child(ren) from being moved out of Colorado, you should begin by communicating your objection to the other parent in a calm manner, and also in writing. Do not threaten, harass, or be inappropriate either by text, phone calls, or in-person, as this will only have a negative impact on your case. You should then begin preparing to respond to the other parent’s motion to relocate and show that it is in the children’s best interest to stay in Colorado. You may also seek a modification of parenting time to make yourself the primary parent in the children’s best interest.

The success of your motion to relocate, or your objection to the motion, relies on your ability to adequately show to the court that what you are asking for is in the children’s best interests. Therefore, it is wise to hire experienced legal counsel. The exceptional attorneys at Burnham Law have years of experience with relocations, both during the initial divorce proceeding as well as after the divorce when a parenting plan is already in effect. We can help put you in a position to succeed and achieve your goals.

Common Law Marriage in Colorado

Authored by Todd Burnham

Colorado is but one of a handful of US states that recognize Common Law Marriage – you are considered married despite not having had a ceremony or official marriage certificate.  Common-law marriage is more than mere cohabitation. “A common law marriage is established by the mutual consent or agreement of the parties to be husband and wife, followed by a mutual and open assumption of a marital relationship.” People v. Lucero, 747 P.2d 660, 663 (Colo.1987).

How does Common Law Marriage occur? 

Sometimes people don’t get married, but intend to commit to a life-long partnership and they express this mutual intention through actions.  Typically, this would involve evidence such as filing joint tax returns as a married couple, joint health insurance coverage, having the same last name, introducing the other partner as your spouse, etc.  Or, sometimes you are simply dating and the other party alleges common law marriage without any basis in fact.

Parties in these situations aren’t ignorant.  They are aware that common law marriage is recognized in Colorado, and they typically don’t behave in a manner reflective of common law marriage.  So, what do you do when one party says they are married and the other party says they aren’t?  You prepare well, you dig into their relationship, you leave no stone unturned, and you build a case, often including a parade of witnesses for each side.  These cases usually come down to mistakes

Below is an example.

Disputed Common Law Marriage

We represented a mother of two who was married to a successful businessman who had multiple contemporaneous relationships unbeknownst to our client.  They had three children, all of whom had father’s last name.  Father was very careful, and deceitful, in that he allowed mother to introduce him as her husband to neighbors and other community members but would later, in private, tell people that they weren’t married.  This is the “parade of witnesses” characteristic of a common law marriage hearing.

We won this case because we relentlessly investigated their history.  We discovered family holiday cards, sent by mother with the return address being “the Smith Family” and not “the Smith family and Ms. Jones.”  That win resulted in our client receiving an order for over $500,000 in maintenance.  The details matter.

What happens if you lose a Common Law Marriage hearing?

Most people erroneously believe that losing a common law marriage hearing means you are done.  You’ve spent 10 years with someone you believe is your spouse; you’ve invested your life with this person only to be left with nothing.  It doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t. You still have a cause of action for unjust enrichment, and other possible remedies, based on fairness.  See, e.g., Salzman v. Bachrach, 996 P.2d 1263, 1265 (Colo. 2000).


The key to being successful in any case involving common law marriage allegations is… strategic planning.  Every aspect, every fact, and every allegation matters.  Common Law Marriage, and unjust enrichment claims to a certain extent, involve seeing the case from the 30,000 foot view as well as mastering the nuances and details.  Not many law firms have the depth and sophistication that we do to see the case from the outset.

Colorado Child Custody

Authored by Anthony Doss and Benjamin Hirshfield

For a long time in Colorado, following a divorce, the mother would typically receive full custody. This was in large part because of the stereotypical gender roles of the mother being the stay-at-home parent while the father went to work. However, times have changed and the courts have made efforts to change with them.

The Colorado family courts recognize that absent extenuating circumstances, a strong relationship with both parents is usually in the best interest of the children. Therefore, assuming both parents pose no danger to the child(ren), it is very unlikely that the courts will deny either parent parenting time.

“Parenting time” is defined by Colorado courts as how physical custody of the child(ren) is split between the parents. In Colorado, the term “Parental Responsibilities” has replaced the concept of “custody”. “Parental Responsibilities” encompass where the child(ren) reside (i.e. who the primary parent is), who makes the major decisions for the child(ren), and what parenting time the non-primary parent is entitled to.

 

Children’s Rights and Parenting Time

The intent of Colorado Statute 14-10-123 is to place the needs of the child(ren) above all else.  Children have the right to be emotionally, mentally,and physically safe when in the care of either parent. The statute understands that co-parenting is not appropriate in all circumstances, but “when appropriate” parents should share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing and encourage the love, affection, and contact between the children and each parent.

The court will look at each unique situation and determine the parenting schedule that is in the best interests of the child(ren). The court will consider many factors,including but not limited to:

  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The wishes of the child (if she/he is sufficiently mature);
  • The interrelationship of the child with his parents, siblings, and others;
  • The mental and physical health of the individuals involved; and
  • The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

By considering the best interest of the child(ren) above all else, fathers have as much opportunity for an award of primary responsibility as mother. Primary responsibility, often thought of as “sole custody”, is when the non-primary parent has fewer than 90 overnights a year with the children. Just because one parent has primary responsibility that  does not mean that parent makes all of the decisions. The courts separate the decision-making authority from the parenting time allocation.

 

Decision-Making

The Colorado Courts may split decision-making responsibilities between parents, or they may assign all decision-making responsibility to one parent.  Courts may also allocate individual issues one by one to a specific parent.  Every family is unique, so courts in Colorado attempt to tailor each individual plan to the family, with the ultimate goal being the best interest of the child(ren).

In deciding how to apportion decision-making responsibility the court considers the same factors as when deciding parenting time, but additionally consider:

  • The parties’ ability to cooperate and make decisions jointly;
  • Past patterns of involvement with the child which may indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child; and
  • Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties.

 

Child Custody and Child Support

Colorado Statute 14-10-115 establishes that both parents owe a duty to support their child(ren) financially to the best of their ability. The courts consider each partys’ circumstances and order one or both parents to make child support payments for the benefit of the child(ren). It is important for both parents to recognize that these payments are intended to provide the child with items such as food, housing, clothing, and education.

In determining how much child support is appropriate, the court will look at the financial resources of both the custodial and non-custodial parent, as well as the child(ren), the standard of living the child(ren) would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended, the physical and emotional condition of the child, and his/her educational needs. The parenting schedule can further affect the calculation of the order, but it is important to note that even if the parties split parenting time 50/50, there may still be an order to pay child support.

A Colorado Child Support calculator can be used to provide an estimate of how much child support may be ordered. The calculation is dependent upon several factors, including the incomes of each party, child related costs, maintenance received or paid, who provides health insurance, and the number of children.  Given the complexity of the calculation it may be difficult to determine with 100% accuracy, but it can be helpful in estimating payments.

The Colorado Court’s website provides a link to a free online version of the Colorado Child Support Calculator.

The experienced family law attorneys at Burnham Law can assist you with protecting your parental responsibility rights, decision making, and establishing the proper child support for your child(ren).

What are the Most Common Divorce Mistakes?

Top Five Mistakes People Make in a Divorce

Authored by Todd Burnham

1. They don’t hire an effective law firm.

It is a critical mistake to hire an ineffective attorney. Close to 50% of our current clients are people who didn’t use an attorney during their initial divorce, or if they did hire an attorney, they didn’t receive the result they were hoping for. In my opinion, it is only appropriate to proceed with a divorce pro se (without representation) if and only if your case is straightforward and there aren’t significant assets.

Attorneys are like physicians. There are general practitioners and there are specialists. Domestic relations (divorce/custody) is a highly complex area of law, and it gets more complex if there are escalators: children, complex finances, high assets, relocation, parenting time and maintenance modifications, common law marriage, etc. The more complex the case and the more that is at stake, the more specialized the representation needs to be. Not all law firms are created equally. Effective lawyers change the outcomes of cases. Interview several before choosing the best one.

2. They don’t demand an effective attorney.

Too often, law firms market that their expertise extends throughout the firm when, in fact, maybe one or two lawyers are specialized and the others in the same firm are learning on the job. It is extremely rare to see a law firm comprised of exceptional talent from top to bottom. And many Colorado family law attorneys are new and inexperienced. As well, many firms don’t have a mentorship protocol.

If your attorney isn’t getting the job done – complain! I regularly see lawyers blow off financial analysis in cases, likely because it isn’t their strength. Demand better representation. You are paying for a service. This is a service-based business. Never settle for less than you and your children deserve. It is a mistake to stay with an ineffective lawyer or law firm.

3. They let their emotions drive the case.

It’s a mistake to let your emotions dictate your divorce. It’s up to your lawyer to keep you thinking rationally, and speak on your behalf. This is the most vulnerable time in your life and you absolutely need to be seeking high ground in all communications. Mistakes are made when people don’t control their emotions. Catastrophic mistakes are made when lawyers become emotionally enmeshed in their client’s case. When this happens, the lawyer is absolutely ineffective.

4. They don’t have a comprehensive strategy.

Mistakes uncovered at the end of a case (errors/oversights/missed opportunities) usually relate back to decisions made early in the representation. Strategic planning is everything. You and your attorney need to have a gameplan early on, especially when it comes to effectively using experts.

5. They have unrealistic expectations.

You and your lawyer should have clearly communicated expectations before the case begins. Develop your strategy. Discuss all possible scenarios. I am fond of the saying, “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” Don’t go into a case thinking it’s reasonable to expect that you will get everything. If your lawyer is pushing for that, find another lawyer. You should expect effective representation, fair rates, transparent billing, and a commitment to helping you achieve your goals.

How Fathers Can Win Custody

Authored by Todd Burnham

How can a father get full custody of his child?

The key to a successful Colorado child custody case is strategically applying the law to the set of facts.  This is especially true when we are dealing with custody for fathers.  The analysis is the same, regardless of whether the parent is the mother or father, and it begins and ends with the best interests of the child or children.

Colorado courts will consider many factors when determining what custody order is in the child’s best interests.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The requests of each parent.
  • The child’s custody preferences (if the child is mature enough to express them).
  • The mental and physical health of each parent.
  • Each parent’s ability and/or willingness to encourage the child to continue having a positive, loving relationship with the other parent.
  • The distance between each parent’s home and whether the child would need to adjust to a new community.
  • Whether either parent has a history of domestic violence, abuse, criminal activity or addiction.

Many fathers believe that the system is set up against them, but that generally isn’t the case provided they have strategic-thinking advocates who aren’t afraid of the courtroom.  It’s also important to realize that the initial custody order is the baseline, and that orders are modifiable.  Typically, the primary parent is going to have initial leverage over the other parent based simply on the child’s needs.

Fathers regularly gain majority (or even sole) custody if, and only if, they are fearless and thorough from the start.  Nobody, especially a lawyer, is going to know your child better than you.  Tapping into that knowledge is essential, especially when it comes to parental responsibilities investigations.

It’s easy to dismiss fathers’ rights if they aren’t the primary parent, but it cuts both ways.  In many Colorado custody cases, fathers provide the financial support for their families and aren’t necessarily ever-present because they are working providing for their families.

That commitment doesn’t go unnoticed by the courts if presented the right way and in a manner that reflects the truth.  Fathers love their children no less than mothers and they have equal rights to both enjoy their parenting time and make decisions that affect the health and development of their children.

The top five (5) ways fathers can win custody of their children in Colorado are as follows:

  1. Choose the right law firm.  There is no better way to both set the tone and achieve your goals than to align yourself with reputable, higher-level attorneys.  Strategic planning is everything.
  2. Stay focused.  Don’t get distracted and emotional.  Stay focused on both the long-term and short-term goals.  Everything that is written between parents will eventually be seen by other people.
  3. Stay engaged.  Just because your child’s mother is making things difficult or challenging for you does not mean you disappear.  You must show up even more.  Your children see it…as does the judge.  Your focus is on your children and your lawyer’s focus is on the case.
  4. Be their role model.  Advocate for them, protect them, and provide for them.  They will emulate you in their lives.  If you leave when things get hard, they will likely do the same in their lives.  And if you handle adversity with strength, confidence and love, this will translate to them.  Take the high road when it comes to addressing their mother’s anger or resentment towards you.  It pays dividends down the line.
  5. See the big picture.  Especially with babies and very young children, there is a bigger picture involved:  your child’s development. Sometimes it takes a bit longer for the court to “get it.”  Fathers win custody of their children when they stay focused and remain the best versions of themselves while going through a very challenging time in their lives.  This is a new beginning – with opportunities to connect with your child on a deeper level – for those who can see the bigger picture and follow the strategy to the end.