But I Read On-Line…

I will be very direct.  The internet is not the best family law attorney.  There are misstatements, fact-specific anecdotes, and pure misinformation.   It can be a fine starting place.  A person can look up what is required for Colorado to have jurisdiction to enter a divorce decree, or see what the filing fee is.  If they find a reputable site, a person may even be able to get a fairly good idea as to what child support will be.   However, for accurate answers about the law, and the law as applied to the facts of a specific case, there is no substitute for an in-person meeting with an excellent family law practitioner.

One example of misinformation is as to parenting time schedules.   So many people, for whatever reason, have a belief that Colorado is a 50-50 parenting state.   It is not.  Our law has no presumptions as to a certain parenting schedule and, instead, each parent has the burden of proving why the plan he/she proposes is in the specific child’s best interests.   Anything you read on the internet to the contrary is wrong.

Another common misunderstanding is that common law marriage is based upon how long parties have resided together.  That simply is not true.   Common law marriage in Colorado turns on whether the parties held themselves out as husband and wife to their community with the intent to be married.   Examples are whether they introduced their mate as a spouse, told family, friends and co-workers that the two are married, and filing married status on tax returns.  Length of cohabitation has nothing to do with it.   Anything your read on the internet to the contrary is wrong.

Colorado has recently passed amendments to the maintenance statute. An urban myth has become that the statute contains mandatory calculations for maintenance, which are set in stone.   That is simply not accurate.   The statute has advisory guidelines, and nothing more.  They are a starting point for the court and the parties to consider—that’s it.    The specific facts of a case may make maintenance not applicable despite the advisory guidelines, or applicable regardless of what the starting advisory guidelines reflect.   Similarly, the amount and duration of maintenance are very fact specific.   Anything your read on the internet to the contrary is wrong.

The biggest disservice to pro se parties, in my opinion, are the self-help forms that can be found on-line or at a courthouse.   The intentions behind these were good, but the actual implementation has not yielded the intended results.   The forms are too simple, so that the specifics of a particular marriage are not obviously addressed.  I have developed a special niche within my practice, as a result of parties who used the forms and handled their case pro se hiring me after-the-fact to try to fix what they got wrong using the forms.   Sometimes what they seek cannot be fixed, as certain terms within an agreement are final and nonmodifiable.   Terms that can possibly be fixed, such as parenting time, will be costly and the damage that has occurred may not be able to be repaired.   Another unanticipated result of these forms is that people just keep the litigation going, finding forms for modification and contempt and other actions, without the necessary understanding as to whether their facts support the requisite relief.   This ongoing conflict is actually the number one component reflected within research as to harm to children of divorce.

Spend a little money, and meet with a reputable family law attorney to get a basic understanding of what the actual law is and how it is applied to specific facts of your case.   Get an understanding from an actual expert in the field about what the odds are, chances of success, and potential risks of any chosen path.   It is truly cheaper, financially, emotionally and physically, to get it right the first time.  Plus, the internet does not carry malpractice insurance.



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