The daily demands and challenges families face can be overwhelming. When family dynamics change, whether you are a spouse deciding to take a different path or a grandparent seeking custody, McConaughy & Sarkissian, P.C.’s experienced family law attorneys can assist you with your legal matters to protect you and your family’s best interests. In complex situations involving child custody, maintenance, property distribution, among other legal matters, we strive to reach fair and feasible legal solutions for our clients. It is our priority to help protect the best interests of children, as they need special care and attention during the transition. McConaughy & Sarkissian, P.C.’s dedicated team of legal professionals will walk you through the legal process step-by-step and provide vigorous, effective and economical representation.

Divorce

In Colorado, divorce is referred to as “dissolution of marriage.” Colorado is what is known as a “no-fault” state, which means that you do not have to show that your spouse is “at fault” (i.e., abusive, committed adultery, etc.) in order to dissolve your marriage. All you need to allege is that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

A proceeding for dissolution of marriage is commenced by the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the county you or your spouse resides, and the serving of the Petition and Summons upon your spouse. Alternatively, you and your spouse may file a joint Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You or your spouse must live in the State of Colorado for at least 91 days prior to the commencement of an action for dissolution of marriage, and the court cannot enter a decree dissolving your marriage until at least 91 days after your spouse has been served with the Petition and Summons.

We have represented people from all walks of life in dissolution of marriage actions. Whether you have been married only a few years or you have been together for decades, our knowledgeable and supportive attorneys can help you navigate through any issues that may arise during a dissolution of marriage.

We have represented people from all walks of life in dissolution of marriage actions. Whether you have been married only a few years or you have been together for decades, our knowledgeable and supportive attorneys can help you navigate through any issues that may
arise during a dissolution of marriage.

This practice represents the latest progression in divorce law nation-wide. Collaborative divorce emphasizes joint and cooperative problem solving instead of, and prior to, litigation.Parties remain in control of the entire process without interference from mediators, courts, and judges as they identify and solve the many issues facing divorcing families. I often remind clients that no one knows their personal lives or family dynamic better than themselves—especially not a judge. This process is holistic and intended to permit parties to dissolve their legal marriage in a prompt and amicable fashion to minimize harm to the family unit—especially children. This process typically involves assistance from mental health professionals and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). A collaborative case process will likely keep your family out of court and your legal affairs private. It will also give your family experience at resolving matters without resorting to litigation, and model positive dispute resolution for your children. Our attorneys are collaboratively trained and founding members of the professional group “Denver Source for Collaborative Divorce.”

What is the Collaborative Law Process and How is it Different?

This practice represents the latest progression in divorce law nation-wide. Collaborative divorce emphasizes joint and cooperative problem solving instead of, and prior to, litigation. Parties remain in control of the entire process without interference from mediators, courts, and judges as they identify and solve the many issues facing divorcing families. I often remind clients that no one knows their personal lives or family dynamic better than themselves—especially not a judge. This process is holistic and intended to permit parties to dissolve their legal marriage in a prompt and amicable fashion to minimize harm to the family unit—especially children. This process typically involves assistance from mental health professionals and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). A collaborative case process will likely keep your family out of court and your legal affairs private. It will also give your family experience at resolving matters without resorting to litigation, and model positive dispute resolution for your children. Our attorneys are collaboratively trained and founding members of the professional group “Denver Source for Collaborative Divorce.”

A proceeding for dissolution of marriage is commenced by the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the county you or your spouse resides, and the serving of the Petition and Summons upon your spouse. Alternatively, you and your spouse may file a joint Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You or your spouse must live in the State of Colorado for at least 91 days prior to the commencement of an action for dissolution of marriage, and the court cannot enter a decree dissolving your marriage until at least 91 days after your spouse has been served with the Petition and Summons.

Attorney Disqualification

Next, parties should know about attorney disqualification in the event the case does not become resolved. Many attorneys believe attorney disqualification supports settlement incentive to the potential litigants. If the case does not settle, both attorneys would be disqualified from representing either party in the forthcoming proceedings, nor would anyone at the previous attorneys’ firms be able to represent either party. If you are concerned about losing your attorney, the attorney can discuss other possible solutions like having binding arbitration occur in the event the parties cannot settle the case in the collaborative model.Binding arbitration may have its own benefits analogous to forum shopping if you select an arbiter with significant family law experience, which can be a former judge or magistrate.

Monetary Benefits of Collaborative Divorce

Our office recently concluded a traditional case where the parties’ divorce lasted longer than their marriage did. Traditional divorce proceedings often times parties a great deal in attorney’s fees and costs with litigation, which can escalate quickly where both parties share disdain for the other. A collaborative case can remove that risk by likely keeping your case out of the Court. From the first day your case begins, your money is spent working towards settlement and not trial preparation. More so, the collaborative process will give you and your family the tools and experience needed to resolve matters without the need to resort to litigation. Theses tools will be invaluable later on when post-decree issues arise such as: modification of spousal maintenance, child support, or parenting time.

Common Law Marriage

Colorado is one of only a handful of states that recognizes common law marriage.  People often mistakenly believe that someone is their common law spouse because they have cohabited for a certain number of years.  Cohabitation is not the only factor in determining whether parties have entered into a common law marriage.  Many people live together for

In order to find the existence of a common law marriage, a couple must mutually consent to be husband and wife openly and mutually assume a marital relationship.  It is key to establishing a common law marriage that the parties intended to be married and represented to others that they were married.  Examples of some types of evidence of common law marriage are filing a joint tax return as a married couple, or naming a party on a life or health insurance party as your spouse.  However, be aware that there is no such thing as common law dissolution of marriage.  If you are common law married, you will have to obtain a formal decree of dissolution of marriage.

Legal Separation

If you are contemplating a divorce but are unsure whether there can be reconciliation, a legal separation may be an appropriate course of action to take. Marital property is allocated to each spouse during this process, as are parental responsibilities, and maintenance and child support are determined. Going through a divorce is stressful. Taking more time to resolve your differences may ease the tension between the parties until there are mutually agreed upon solutions. A divorce has a permanent ending; a legal separation does not dissolve the marriage.

Maintenance

Maintenance, also known as spousal support or alimony, is an allowance awarded by the court in many circumstances to be paid (usually monthly) to a spouse or former spouse for maintenance following a divorce or legal separation or while such action is pending. Maintenance is only awarded when the court finds that a spouse lacks sufficient property or income to support himself/herself.

As of January 1, 2014, Colorado law provides courts with discretionary guidelines for determining the amount and term of maintenance payments based on the incomes of the spouses and the length of the marriage. The guidelines are only applied in cases where the parties’ combined annual income is less than $300,000 per year and the length of the marriage is greater than three years but less than 20 years. Under the guidelines, the amount of maintenance is equal to forty percent of the higher income party’s adjusted monthly gross income less fifty percent of the lower income party’s adjusted gross income. After this calculation, the recipient’s total monthly income, including maintenance, cannot exceed 40% of the total combined monthly adjusted gross income of both parties.

Example: Victor earns $5,000 per month, and Sally earns $1,800 per month. Victor’s maintenance payment would be $1,100 ($2,000-$900) per month under the guidelines.

Please note that the court uses the same formula in calculating temporary maintenance in cases where the parties’ combined annual income is less than $75,000.

In determining maintenance, the court will also consider other factors such as the property awarded to each party, the standard of living during the marriage, and the financial resources of each party.

Unlike child support, maintenance is tax deductible by the paying spouse and is taxable income to the receiving spouse.

As skillful negotiators, we are able to negotiate appropriate maintenance terms, whether you are the recipient or the payor of the award.   We investigate and determine what each spouse’s income from all sources is, or should be, to ensure maintenance payments are fairly calculated and negotiated.  We are experienced litigators who can represent you in all issues regarding maintenance.

Child Custody & Parenting

In Colorado,  we have an “allocation of parental responsibilities” between the parents of a child, instead of child custody. The court determines an allocation of parental responsibilities in the best interests of the child.

An allocation of parental responsibilities essentially has two components: decision-making authority and residential care/parenting time.

Decision-making authority is with respect to major decisions only, such as health, education, and spiritual upbringing. Either parent, or both parents, can be allocated decision-making authority for their child. If one parent has decision-making authority, this is referred to as “sole decision-making authority.” If both parents share decision-making authority, this is referred to as “joint decision-making authority.”

With respect to parenting time, the court will make a determination as to whether the child shall reside primarily with one parent and have parenting time with the other parent, reside equally with both parents, or reside a certain number of days with one parent and the remaining with the other. In extreme circumstances, a parent’s parenting time may be supervised by a third party to protect the child’s mental or physical health.

There are a few different ways to commence an action for allocation of parental responsibilities. Perhaps the most common way is through the commencement of an action for dissolution of marriage or legal separation. However, a parent, or a nonparent who has had the physical care of a child for six months or longer, can file a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities in the county where the child resides.

While it is usually best if parents are in agreement as to how to raise their child, frequently parents may need guidance as to what their legal rights are and, in some cases, they may need help in preserving their rights and protecting their children. In contested cases, we understand how difficult and emotional these matters can be. We are here to help guide you through these times and get you and your child the best possible results. If you have questions regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities, please contact our office for a free initial consultation.

Asset Preservation

Client’s legal concerns often include preparing their families for the event of death or divorce. Clients also frequently want to protect their assets, or ensure their spouse has the ability to make medical decisions for them in the event they become incapacitated. Allow us to handle your legal matters in order to bring you greater peace of mind and better asset protection. Our legal services include:

  1. Premarital Agreements (aka Prenuptial Agreements)
  2. Marital Agreements
  3. Medical powers of attorney
  4. Durable powers of attorney
  5. Wills and Trusts referrals available upon request

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Colorado courts often require some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to occur prior to proceeding to trial in divorce proceedings and allocation of parental responsibility cases—this typically is done by way of mediation. If you are represented, or if both parties are pro se, you can greatly benefit from having a skilled mediator that can facilitate the settlement of your case in a beneficial fashion for both parties without the need to resort to litigation. Our skilled attorneys have the legal experience and knowledge to provide valuable insight into disputes, which non-attorney mediators do not possess. Our lawyers offer the following professional services:

Mediation

Mediation may be particularly useful when parties have a relationship they want to preserve. So when family members have a dispute, mediation may be the ADR process to use. Mediation is also effective when emotions are getting in the way of resolution. An effective mediator can hear the parties out and help them communicate with each other in an effective and nondestructive manner. Attorney mediators also posses the ability to draft legally binding Settlements, Separation Agreements, and Parenting Plans.

Arbitration

In arbitration, a neutral person called an “arbitrator” hears arguments and evidence from each side and then decides the outcome of the dispute. Arbitration is less formal than a trial, and the rules of evidence are often relaxed. An added benefit to selecting an arbiter with family law experience is you avoid being assigned a magistrate or judge new to the domestic relations bench.

Med-Arb

In the event mediation fails, the mediator immediately goes into the role of arbiter to make a decision for the parties on a specific set of issues. Thus, parties are guaranteed a resolution either way in the event mediation is unsuccessful. This prevents duplicative legal fees and travel time.

Settlement Conferences

These conference may be either mandatory as Ordered by the Court, or voluntary. In both types of settlement conferences, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral person called a “settlement officer” from our office to discuss possible settlement of their dispute. The settlement officer does not make a decision in the case but assists the parties in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case and in negotiating a settlement. Settlement conferences are appropriate in any case where settlement is an option.