Articles and Other Thoughts of the Day
When I was in law school, I had a professor who always answered our questions by saying “it depends”. It was maddening! My fellow law students and I tried all year to get him to answer with a “yes” or “no.” We failed at every attempt.
Now, having practiced law for many years, I think I get it. While the statutes strive to ensure people similarly situated are treated the same, people are not always similarly situated.
If you ask me whether or not you will receive – or have to pay – child support and how much will it be, my response is (shudder), “it depends.” It depends on the incomes of the parties, the parenting time schedule, who pays the health insurance and the cost of day care.
If you ask me whether or not you will receive – or have to pay – alimony (also known as maintenance), my response is the same: “it depends.” It depends on the incomes of the parties, length of marriage, age of the parties, standard of living during the marriage, and several other statutory factors.
And if you ask me how much the divorce process costs, the answer is, “it depends.” I can honestly say, the more you and your soon-to-be-ex fight, the higher the cost. The more agreements we reach, the lower the cost. This is why I strive to work with you to identify your goals, determine what is worthy (and NOT worthy) of litigation, and try to calm things down. I’m not a push-over, but I refuse to argue for the sake of arguing. Sometimes a trial is the only method to resolve a case – and I love a good trial. But for your sake, I would much rather we resolve your case in a manner that is cost effective, reduces future conflict, and allows your family to move forward with a “new normal.”
So if I get the chance to meet you, and answer one of your questions with, “it depends,” don’t worry. We will figure out the best solution for your family based on your individual circumstances.
If you have ever met me, you probably heard me say, “act in a manner consistent with your goals.” So, what does that mean in the course of any family law case? It means what it says: figure out what your goals are, then try your best to execute those goals.
Let me give you an example (the following example is an exaggerated set of “facts,” not based on anyone I have actually met, and only offered to give you an idea of what NOT to do):
Let’s say you have been married for nine (9) years and have five (5) children with your spouse. Eighteen (18) months ago, you moved to Europe and have not seen, or even spoken to, your children. Not once, in eighteen (18) months. You are now back in Fort Collins and want to file a divorce. You have questions about custody, a.k.a. the allocation of parental responsibilities, and we meet to discuss your case. In our initial consultation you tell me you want to be the primary residential parent of all of your children and your spouse should only have supervised parenting time. Your spouse is fine, a pretty good parent, you just want him/her out of the picture. You haven’t seen the kids in 18 months, and it is your turn to care for the children.
See the problem? If you believe it is in your children’s best interests for you to be the primary residential parent, then it’s probably not a good idea to disappear for 18 months. You were not acting in a manner consistent with your goals.
OK, that was an absurd example, but it does show why it is important to behave in a way that is consistent with the outcome you want. If you are acting contrary to your goals, your actions may be persuasive evidence of how things should continue. If you think equal parenting time is best for your children, then do the best you can to execute equal parenting time. If you believe your children need another parenting time schedule, do your best to execute that schedule. And if you are in an unsafe environment, please get help immediately.
If your soon-to-be-ex-spouse does not agree with your goals, then we have methods to accomplish the goals during the dissolution of marriage proceeding, i.e., emergency orders (with allegations of imminent harm), a temporary orders hearing, experts, negotiation, mediation, etc. For today, I encourage you to spend some time trying to identify your goals. Then give me a call so we can discuss how to accomplish those goals.