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FAQs

Family law FAQs

How long will it take to get a divorce?
What if we never officially got married? What if we are in a common law marriage?
Is marital misconduct relevant in a divorce?
How about financial misconduct?
Who is responsible for paying child support?
How long does the duty to pay support last?
How much child support will I have to pay, if any? And how is this determined?
What happens if one of the parent’s financial situation changes?
How can I make sure I receive my child support?
Is each spouse entitled to half of their property?
What is "marital property"?
Am I entitled to a portion of my spouse's pension benefits or retirement?
What is a prenuptial agreement?

 

How long will it take to get a divorce?
In Colorado, you have to be a resident for 90 days before you can file for divorce. Once your spouse has been served and/or joins in the petition for dissolution of marriage by signing it, it can take another 90 days to get a decree of dissolution, if there are no contested issues. Complications with serving papers, dividing property, custody disputes and crowded court dockets can make the process take longer. Once we have a chance to discuss your particular circumstances, we can give you a better idea of how long it will take. You may never have to appear in Court if you both agree on all issues and either or both are represented if there are children or even if there is one lawyer or no lawyer without children.
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What if we never officially got married? What if we are in a common law marriage?
You still have to get a divorce. Common law marriage is recognized in Colorado if you have ever “held yourselves out as husband and wife,” whether on employment forms, tax returns, loan applications, title to property, insurance or in some other way, and you may be considered just as married as if you stood up in front of a judge or clergy person. The divorce process is exactly the same. Colorado recognizes common law marriage, but many states do not.
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Is marital misconduct relevant in a divorce?
Generally not as to financial issues, but it may affect parenting issues.
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How about financial misconduct?
Financial misconduct may be relevant in a Colorado divorce proceeding if one of the divorcing partners squandered or otherwise mismanaged the marital property of the couple.
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Who is responsible for paying child support?
A child’s natural parents, an adoptive parent, or a parent who has acknowledged paternity has a duty to financially support the child.
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How long does the duty to pay support last?
Generally, a parent ordered to pay support must pay until the child reaches the age of 19 and graduates from high school unless otherwise agreed upon or if the child has a disability. However, the obligation may continue beyond the age of 19 if the child has a severe disability. If a child is mentally or physically disabled, the duty to support may continue beyond the age of 19. Parents may also be required to pay college expenses for the child, if they agree to a legally binding contract such as a “Separation Agreement”.
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How much child support will I have to pay, if any? And how is this determined?
Child support is determined based on a formula set out by statute. In order to determine the amount of child support appropriate in your case, this formula will be applied using a number of factors including the number of minor children, income of both mother and father, amount of necessary out-of-pocket expenses to provide health insurance for the children, cost of daycare, and other factors. If one parent has custody or residential custody, the law assumes the residential parent is contributing to the child’s needs and directs the other parent to pay a percentage of his/her income to the custodial parent. See the Colorado Child Support worksheets at http://www.courts.state.co.us/chs/court/forms/domestic/electronicworksheets.htm or the Colorado Child Support Calculator at http://www.alllaw.com/calculators/childsupport/colorado/. The amount of overnight visits with the children can also determine the amount of support.
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What happens if one of the parent’s financial situation changes?
The court can modify the amount of child support at any time if one parent experiences a “substantial” change in circumstances. The court will determine if a change of circumstances has occurred and, if it has, the appropriate new amount of support.
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How can I make sure I receive my child support?
When a court issues an order of child support, it also may issue a withholding order. This order allows support to be secured in one of three ways. Most commonly, the court will issue a wage order, which allows for the withholding of wages. Self-employed people may have a bond order issued, which requires the person ordered to pay support to post a cash bond to be used if they miss a payment.

To ensure that a parent pays his or her child support obligation, the law now prohibits renewal of certain licenses, such as drivers’ or professional licenses, for those who are delinquent in paying support or those licenses can be suspended.
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Is each spouse entitled to half of their property?
Not necessarily. Colorado law requires equitable division of property, which takes into account many factors with the ultimate goal of dividing the assets fairly.
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What is "marital property"?
Marital property is property acquired during the marriage by the efforts of one or both of the parties. It does not include any property acquired before the marriage, acquired by inheritance or gift from a third party, excluded by valid agreement, or directly traceable to any of these sources. An increase in value of individual property could be considered marital property.
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Am I entitled to a portion of my spouse's pension benefits or retirement?
Yes. Retirement and pension benefits accumulated during the marriage, like real estate and bank accounts, are considered to be marital assets. You are entitled to an equitable division of any pension/retirement benefits earned during the marriage.
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What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract between prospective spouses agreeing to the property rights of parties upon divorce. A prenuptial agreement may also include provisions concerning distribution of a decedent spouse's property. To be valid a prenuptial agreement must include a full disclosure of assets and must not be executed under duress.
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Criminal law FAQs

When am I under arrest?
What are my rights when the police question me?
What should I do if I have been arrested?
Can I be arrested without a warrant?
How much force can an officer use?
What property of mine can an officer search?
What happens after I am arrested?
What is the "presumption of innocence"?
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
What is the difference between state and federal court?
How does a criminal case get into federal court?
Does every case involve a trial?
What happens before the trial?
What happens at trial?
What happens after trial?

When am I under arrest?
You are under arrest when law enforcement officers take you into custody or deprive you of your freedom of movement in order to hold you to answer for a criminal offense.
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What are my rights when the police question me?
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. If you decide to answer questions, you may change your mind and stop answering them at any time. You have the right to consult with an attorney before answering questions and to have an attorney present when answering questions. If you decide to answer questions or make any statements, the information you provide should be accurate and truthful. You also have the right to reasonable bail, the right to a fair and public trial, the right to be informed of the charges against you, the right to be confronted with the witnesses against you and to gather witnesses of your own, and a number of other rights. Those are your rights, but I advise that you exercise your right to consult an attorney before answering any questions.
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What should I do if I have been arrested?
Call Jeff Edelman right away. If you decide to answer any questions, make sure you answer them truthfully. You have a right to refuse to answer self-incriminating questions, and you have a right to have your attorney with you while answering questions.
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Can I be arrested without a warrant?
Yes. If an officer sees you commit a crime and in some other circumstances, an officer may arrest you without a warrant.
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How much force can an officer use?
An officer may use reasonable and necessary force to overcome resistance. If you are arrested, resisting the officer's commands is not smart. Resisting arrest, obstructing an officer in the performance of duty, or interfering with an officer in the performance of the officer's duty may result in additional criminal charges against you.
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What property of mine can an officer search?
If you are arrested in your home, officers may conduct a limited search of the immediate area without a search warrant. The officers may seize contraband, stolen property, or evidence of a crime in plain view. The officers may also check the rest of the house for accomplices or threats to the officers' safety under limited circumstances.

If you are arrested in your car, officers may search for weapons that could be used against them. The officers may ask for consent to search the vehicle. If you give consent to search, the officers may and probably will conduct a complete search of the vehicle. You can refuse consent to search. In the absence of consent, the officers cannot conduct a general search unless there is probable cause that the vehicle is carrying evidence of a crime or contraband. It is generally not advisable to consent to a search of your house or car.
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What happens after I am arrested?
The officers will take you to a police station, jail, or other detention facility. You should be advised of the charges against you. You may be given an opportunity to contact an attorney. If you are not, ask. You may be asked to provide samples of your hair, blood, or breath. If you refuse to provide these samples, a request for a court order to obtain these samples may result. Under certain circumstances, you may lose your driving privileges. You will be processed into the jail and taken before a magistrate or judge as soon as possible to receive additional legal warnings if you do not post bail. Do not volunteer any information without an attorney present.
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What is the "presumption of innocence"?
A criminal defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means the prosecutor has the burden of proving (beyond a reasonable doubt) that you committed the crime you are accused of and you do not have to do or say anything to prove your innocence.
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What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony depends on the severity of the crime. A misdemeanor is generally a crime where the maximum penalty is up to two years in jail. Conviction of a felony can result in jail or prison time for more than one year and can also result in other serious legal repercussions.
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What is the difference between state and federal court?
Federal courts are established by the United States government to decide disputes involving the United States Constitution and laws passed by Congress. Federal courts have a more limited jurisdiction than state courts and generally decide cases in which the United States is a party, cases involving a violation of federal laws or the constitution, cases between citizens of different states and cases involving bankruptcy, patent law and maritime law.

State courts are established by a State, County or City and are courts of general jurisdiction, which means they handle a larger number and broader variety of cases than the federal courts. While they are required to enforce the federal laws and Constitution, they are mostly responsible for enforcing the state laws and the state constitution.
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How does a criminal case get into federal court?
Usually, federal criminal cases begin when a U.S. Attorney or Assistant U.S. Attorney, representing the United States, brings evidence to a federal grand jury which the government believes shows a person committed a crime. If the grand jury agrees, it issues a formal accusation, called an indictment. The person indicted may be arrested before or after the grand jury proceeding.

After the indictment, the next step is an arraignment where the defendant is brought before a judge and asked to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” If the defendant pleads guilty, a date is set for sentencing. If the plea is not guilty, a time is set for trial.

In most cases, grand jury indictments are used for felonies. In less serious misdemeanor cases, the U.S. Attorney issues a criminal information charging the defendant with a crime.
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Does every case involve a trial?
No. Every criminal defendant has a right to a trial, but in many cases, a defendant and his or her attorney can reach a favorable settlement of the charges which can help the defendant avoid the cost, stress and notoriety often surrounding a trial.
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What happens before the trial?
Once a defendant has been indicted or charged by criminal information, the lawyers begin the pretrial discovery process where they try to learn as much as possible about the other side’s case. Your defense lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation, including interviewing witnesses and visiting the scene of the alleged crime. It is important to determine if the evidence the government plans to use was obtained legally; if not, it cannot be used at trial.

Depending on the strength of the case against you, either side may try to negotiate a plea agreement prior to trial.
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What happens at trial?
If a case is being heard by a jury, the first step is jury selection where the judge and sometimes the lawyers ask the potential jurors questions to determine if they will be able to decide a case fairly.

Once the jury is in place, each side gives an opening statement in which they set out their version of the evidence in the case. After the opening statements, the parties begin introducing evidence through the examination and cross-examination of witnesses and introduction of documents and physical evidence as exhibits. The prosecution goes first, followed by the defense. After the close of the defense case, the prosecution may choose to present additional rebuttal evidence.

After all the evidence has been presented, the lawyers give closing arguments and the judge gives instructions to the jury, explaining the relevant law, how it applies to the case, and what questions the jury needs to answer.

The jury then goes to a separate room to deliberate and reach a verdict.
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What happens after trial?
If a defendant is found guilty, the judge sets a date for sentencing. If the conviction is for a felony in state or federal court, the judge will order a pre-sentence investigation to aid the judge in determining the sentence. In federal court, the judge decides the sentence after considering the federal sentencing guidelines and other information relevant to sentencing.

A defendant may decide to appeal the verdict.
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