By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every client, former and current, for entrusting your case to us. Being involved in a legal proceeding is one of the most difficult times through which people will go. We are honored to assist our clients through the process, and help them to move forward. We have been blessed by such wonderful clients over the years, and do not take them for granted.

I also want to thank our staff. Office Manager Pamela Osse is a key player behind the scenes, keeping the office running. My paralegal, Emily Ploch, is the first professional that has been able to keep up with me. Additionally, her organization and attention to detail are part of why our cases run so smoothly. Our new addition this year, Associate Attorney Sahar Safi, has added an excellent option for quality representation at an incredibly affordable price.

We wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and hope you all know we appreciate you.

A Confession, or Two, and an Epiphany

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

I am a closet pageant queen.  There, I said it.  From the age of 16 until I turned 21, I coveted a sash and crown.  Then, when I entered law school at the age of 22, until now, at the age of 50, I hoped no one would know of my pageant past.  I mean, how can a beauty queen lawyer be taken seriously?!?

But, after practicing law for 25 years, and hitting the big 5-0 milestone earlier this year, I have come to embrace this past.  I realize that this is actually something about which I should be proud, not ashamed.  So, why do we as humans do this?

Plain and simple, people are mean, and people are judgmental, and people are hurtful.   It is a natural protective mechanism to try to avoid exposure to anything that could harm us.  And while I was able to keep hidden my pageant queen past, I have not been able to avoid other areas of emotional challenges.   Like everyone, my life can be tough and there is no escaping that.

I absolutely love what I do for a living.   I revel in helping others, and leaving them better than I found them.   However, divorce law is difficult.   It is extremely difficult.  In addition to all the areas of law we must know, and the Rules, this is a highly emotionally charged arena.  Opposing parties can get very angry at their spouse’s lawyer.  The clients can  reach their breaking point, and end up taking it out on their lawyer as a safe haven.   The worst part of this area of  law, though, is immature, ego-driven opposing counsels who use personal attacks.   I did not go to law school and incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans to be personally attacked.  Yet, it happens.

I am one tough cookie.   I can handle whatever is throw at me.  I am also very protective.  I do not want my staff impacted and I will not allow them to worry.   That is my job.   So, I try to stay two steps ahead and strive to be the smartest in the room, as I brandish my tough exterior to the world.

However, a country song that I heard on the radio really resonated with me.  It in fact led to an epiphany for me.   It made me realize that the world will not end if I start showing what is under my skin.   And if I continue to try to keep up this strong façade, my health will suffer.

Homecoming Queen?

Sung by Kelsea Ballerini

Hey homecoming Queen
Why do you lie?
When somebody’s mean
Where do you hide?
Do people assume
You’re always alright?
Been so good at smiling
Most of your life

Look damn good in the dress
Zipping up the mess
Dancing with your best foot forward
Does it get hard
To have to play the part?
Nobody’s feeling sorry for ya

But what if I told you the world wouldn’t end
If you started showing what’s under your skin
What if you let ’em all in on the lie?
Even the homecoming Queen cries

Hey homecoming Queen
How’s things at home?
Still walking on eggshells
When that curtains closed
Did your Daddy teach you
How to act tough?
Or more like your Mama?
Sweep it under the rug

Look damn good in the dress
Zipping up the mess
Dancing with your best foot forward
Did you want the crown?
Or does it weigh you down
Nobody’s feeling sorry for ya

What if I told you the world wouldn’t end
If you started showing what’s under your skin?
What if you let ’em all in on the lie?
Even the homecoming Queen cries

Yeah, what if I told you the sky wouldn’t fall?
If you lost your composure, said to hell with it all
Not everything pretty sparkles and shines
And even the homecoming Queen cries (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Oh yeah
Even the homecoming Queen cries (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

Hey homecoming Queen
Why do you lie?
When somebody’s mean
Where do you hide?

So here is another confession.  I was my high school homecoming queen.  And I was the state homecoming queen – that’s right, Miss Colorado Homecoming Queen.   And I am now admitting that even this homecoming queen cries.  When somebody is mean to me, I am no longer going to  hide.  I am not going to just let people assume that I am always alright.  I am not going to just play the part.   The world is not going to end if I start showing what is under my skin.  In fact, I will be happier and healthier.  So, yes, world, even this homecoming queen cries!

I do hope that any of you who are reading this will look inside yourselves, as well, and see, that it is okay to show your vulnerability.  It is okay to ask for help.   It is okay to cry.   We can cry together.

A Name Change Post-Decree?

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

Outside the divorce arena, a name change requires background checks, jumping through hoops and red tape.  The country music group Pistol Annies has a catchy song about changing a party’s name as a result of a divorce.  They are really right on, as it does take a judge to get a divorce, and it does take a judge to get a name changed back as a result of that divorce. Here are the lyrics:

It takes a judge to get married, takes a judge to get divorced
Well the last couple years, spent a lotta time in court
Got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
Well I wanted somethin’ new, then I wanted what I had
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)

Well I’ve got me an ex that I adored
But he got along good with a couple road whores
Got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
I don’t wanna be a Missus on paper no more
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)

(Here we go)

I don’t let a man get the best of me
Spent an afternoon at the DMV
Got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
Now who I was ain’t who I be
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)

(That’s right)

Well, how to win when you play the fool
That’s somethin’ they don’t teach in school
I played to win, lookin’ back is funny
I broke his heart and I took his money
Got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)
Well I don’t wanna be a Missus on paper no more
I got my name changed back (yeah yeah)

I got my name changed back
I got my name changed back
I got my name changed back
I got my name changed back
I got my name changed back
I got my name changed back

Yeah, yeah!

While a name change can be sought during the divorce or legal separation proceeding, it is never too late.   Colorado has a statute that makes a name change post-decree very simple.  At any time at all after the entry of a decree of divorce or legal separation, a party can seek restoration of a prior full name.  All that is needed are a verified motion and affidavit, filed in the same case as the divorce or legal separation.  The standard is very easy:   That the restoration of a prior full name is not detrimental to any person.  An added bonus is that the request is ex parte, meaning the other party does not to have notice and does not get a say in the request.

So, if you want to get your name changed back, you can get your name changed back rather easily, yeah, yeah.

Ms. Storey’s Podcast regarding 50/50 parenting

Aikido vs. Aggressive Representation

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

A client recently told me I was like an Aikido Master.   Before getting offended, I thought it best to look up the definition of “Aikido.:  Aikido (Japanese: 合気道 Hepburn: aikidō) (Kyūjitai: 合氣道) [aikiꜜdoː] is a modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy and religious beliefs. … Aikido is often translated as “the way of unifying (with) life energy” or as “the way of harmonious spirit.”

Now this I took as a compliment.

The belief behind this art is that fighting and endless conflict are never the answer. This is true in all aspects of life, including during a domestic relations legal case.   Many potential new clients ask if our firm offers aggressive representation.   We are quick to say no, and then explain that such representation ultimately will get the client nowhere, their relationship with the future ex-spouse further damaged, and increase the legal fees.   Further, Courts do not like aggressive tactics, causing even more backlash for the client.   Rather, assertive and smart representation, that focuses on the facts rather than making personal attacks on the other party, that limits the engagement and ultimately resolves the conflict, without causing harm, is the greater path.

I like to explain to clients that if opposing counsel is not of like-mind, and instead personally attacks my client with digs, labels and allegations, I will not respond in kind.   Again, if I were to engage it would get the parties, and their case, nowhere.   With my client introducing me to “Aikido,” I have learned that this philosophy of mine in squarely within Aikido techniques—which “are purely defensive, we never meet force with force. Instead, we learn to redirect an aggressor’s attack, leading to a peaceful resolution.”   Yes, that is exactly it!

This martial art thinking is something that can and should be adopted in all parts of our lives.   It is, has been, and will continue to be part of my legal representation of each and every client.   Just breaking down the name even inspires me, and I hope it does you as well.  ‘Ai’ (harmony, love, collaboration) ‘Ki’ (power, energy) ‘Do’ (way or path).

Have You Said Thank You?

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

Parenting, as rewarding as it is, is hard.   Being a single parent is even harder.   Being a single parent following divorce has its own level of challenges.   Yet, those parents do not tend to get the much deserved “thank you” for all of their hard work, time commitment, lack of sleep, worry, and missed work for sick kids.

While it is always difficult post-legal filing to compliment the other parent, as such is more earned than any other time.

In addition to such a compliment being well deserved, I have to imagine that such a kind gesture would go a long ways in mending fences.  After all, even after the children have emancipated, the parents are always tied together by their children.   There will be graduations, weddings, births of grandchildren, birthday parties, all requiring presence of, if not interaction from, both.   How much better those would be if, along the way, a thank you was exchanged.

I am pretty private about my personal life.   However, I will tell anyone, even if you do not ask, that I have amazing children.   They are emotionally healthy, successful in school, funny, bright, and a delight.   While I thank God for doing most of the work to get them there, and give the kids a lot of credit for their own hard work and good choices, I do think I should get a bit of kudos. Their dad and I divorced nine years ago, when my son was in first grade and my daughter in fourth.  They have been in my primary care ever since, with my daughter a junior in college and my son a high school senior.   While I have never received a thank you from their father for how amazing they have turned out, the kids, themselves, are gratification enough.   Yet, that thank you would go so very far.   So, as you read this, be the better person…thank the other parent of your children for all he/she has done.   Be that good.

Communication is Key

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

I really enjoy attending conferences and seminars.   I always leave invigorated with new creative ideas and excitement for applying what I learned to my cases.  My recent attendance at the seminar “Family Law Through the Developmental Lens:  Assessing and Including the Voice of the Ever-Maturing Child,” was no exception.

During the seminar, it was shared that “There are indications in empirical studies that not listening to what children have to say during divorce process has had unintended negative effects.”   Now, this does NOT mean that children should be placed in the middle, told too much, or asked to decide their own parenting time.  Rather, the goal is to allow the child to share his or her feelings, and feel heard.

Oftentimes, the child will initiate the discussion, such as asking questions about what will happen, or sharing feelings of concern.   Other times, or in addition to the child starting a conversation, the parent can prompt the child, with questions such as “so, how are you feeling with this whole process?”   The talks should not include any promises, nor too many facts, and should never, ever involve negative comments about the other parent.   If a child asks for more information than would be appropriate to share, the parent need only say “I love you too much to involve you with that.”    If the child makes specific requests, such as for certain parenting time, the parent should simply acknowledge the request, thank the child for expressing, and confirm for the child that that will be considered.

Even if the parenting time that is ultimately implemented differs from what the child requested, acknowledgement that the child was heard will assist the child in successfully adapting to the schedule.   When the child is told of the schedule that will be put in place, a reminder should be given that the child’s statements were heard and considered, and that the parent believes that the schedule that will be used will be best for the child at this time.   The parent should encourage the child to share what he or she thinks and experiences with the time sharing, and to continue to express him or herself.

“When children are actively involved in problem solving and given recognition that their ideas are important and are being heard, they are empowered, and their confidence and self esteem grow….”   This is actually quite a simple concept, and the results can be huge.   Communication is key, including key to children’s success despite their parents’ divorce.

The Difference

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

I recently attended a Continuing Legal Education class about Family Law Through the Developmental Lens.   It resonated with me for several reasons, one of which surprised me.  It highlighted for me why our firm differs from other family law practitioners.

The seminar pointed out that part of the job of a lawyer in an allocation of parental responsibilities action is to be the caregiver of caregivers.  This is where our firm thrives.   We are a team with the clients, preparing them for each step of the process.   As part of this, we offer suggested reading materials, calls and in-person meetings in advance of any event, regular and frequent updates about the case, and constant guidance and advice.

Beyond the updating and preparation, we get in tune with the client.  Sometimes, that suggests that the client needs to pursue therapy in order to get to his or her best emotional and mental health.   Other times, a flower delivery seems needed.  Bluntly, there are times that the client needs a “come to Jesus” talk.   The end result of any of these paths, though, is that the client is better, their case is positioned for a good outcome, and the children benefit as well.

One of the most stressful parts of a case involving disputed allocation of parental responsibilities is the investigation of a Child and Family Investigator or evaluation of a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator.   Our firm basically holds the client’s hand throughout this process.   We prepare the client for what to expect from the specific investigator or evaluator, and support them at each step.   When the Report is issued, each time I am able to say to the client “Thank you for trusting me.”

And trust is really the key to a successful client-attorney relationship.  This could be the most important phase of any client’s life, and the present and future success of their children are at stake.   Our firm earns the clients’ trust by truly partnering with them and guiding them successfully.

If you read the reviews that are posted about us, you will see this theme throughout.  Clients see us as a team, working side-by-side with them, to get them to achieve their goals.   This is us caring for the caregivers.  And we do care for them.   We want them to be successful in their cases.   We want them to be successful for their children after we leave their lives.   We want their children to be successful despite the breakup of their parents.   We care.   That is what makes us different from other firms.

It’s Not About Quantity of Time

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

My college girl was recently home for winter break.  As she attends an out-of-state school, I only get to see her on breaks, or when I go see her.   We have always been quite close, so I really looked forward to a full month of her being home over the Winter Break.

She is 19.  So, I knew she would try to work some over break to earn a little spending money, and I also anticipated she would want to see local friends.  I was excited when she asked if we could host some of her college friends for part of the break, and again when she asked if we could host even more of her college friends over a different part of the break.   Soon the reality hit me that the full month to which I had looked so forward, was being whittled down to very little time for her and me.   I could have had one of those, “what about me” moments.   I really, really could have.

However, what I did instead was cherish what time I did have with her.  We had an awesome day of mother-daughter skiing (me) and boarding (her), with the accompanying long drive to and from the slopes for sharing, laughter, and her ever-present great music.   Another morning, she and I went back-to-school shopping and had brunch, with more time to talk (and learn she really likes coffee now).  Those two times, that was the extent of our one-on-one time through the whole month.  It was precious, and it was awesome, and probably even more appreciated because it was so little.

However, I also got to see the responsible girl work so hard to help defray some of her college costs.  I enjoyed seeing her maturity in friend choices, as her guests came in and out of our home (and were gracious enough to spend time with her family).   I appreciated seeing first-hand how kind she is to others, including making two separate special trips to see each set of grandparents.  I was blown away with how much she helped with the big family gatherings we hosted for Christmas Eve and again Christmas Day.  My heart melted as she made time for her younger brother, still in high school and admiring her so much.  All this time that she spent with others instead of me, or that I had to share her with others, was my amazing “parenting time” too – as this now young lady, in all of her wonder, is all I ever wanted in a daughter.

This was a reminder to me that the same is true in divorce.  Although each parent wants  as much time as possible with their children, quantity is not the most important component of that.  Whatever parenting time we have, quality is very, very important.  The importance is as to the moment, and is for the child and is for the parent, but is also as to the future success of that child.  When parenting time has to be shared, with friends, or family members, or activities, or homework, or just life, it is still parenting time nonetheless, and it is all part of what parenting entails.   When the child is with the other parent for parenting time, it could be one of those “what about me” moments as well.  But, it all, all of the time, is part of parenting, and it is all about the child, and it is what we make of it for ourselves, and what we make of it for the child.

A Fresh Start

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

As I sat down to write an inspirational message for the new year, with “a fresh start” seeming so applicable to divorce as well as this time of year, I found a poem on-line written by Seema Chowdhury.  It says it all, ever so eloquently.   So, I share it with you:

There is no suffering without happiness
No struggle without any peace
No defeat without joy of victory
And no loss without gain’s lease

No Autumn without sparkling Spring
No winter without splendid Summer
No coldness without a touch of warmth
And no bitterness without sweet hummer

There is no wrong without a right
No tears without a tender smile
No reality without an emerging dream
And no weakness without strength’s pile

So hang in there my dear friend
And never plan to ever quit
We all know at time life is difficult
And also harsh, bleak and a misfit

But remember that you have an option
To pick and color your life’s cart
And win this race of running time
By awakening Spring in your heart

And surround yourself completely
With inspiration, motivation and care
To fill life’s empty and hollow space
With countless and tender prayers

So you can learn life’s valuable lessons
Those can warm up your weaken heart
And help you to always choose happiness
That will give you a clean and a fresh start.

Wishing you all a happy new year, and a fresh start!