August 27, 2013

Same-Sex Relationships: Breaking it Down

By Matthew B. Drexler, Esq.*
Teresa A. Drexler, Esq.*

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Domestic relations attorneys are most familiar with the husband and wife model of litigation. Family law attorneys are also familiar with assisting a large number of couples who find themselves crashing and burning before the wedding bells ring. The cases are familiar: a male, a female, and the division or allocation of property, assets, debts, parenting time, parental decision making, child support, and sometimes the family dog is in dispute.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States deemed unconstitutional Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). On March 12, 2013, Colorado approved civil unions, which recognizes that same sex individuals may have their property, assets, debts and other benefits (e.g. retirement plans) subject to division under Colorado’s domestic relations laws.

So, domestic relations attorneys must now impress upon their clients the importance of recognizing civil unions, discuss the relative rights and obligations of individuals in a civil union and must navigate their clients through the new landscape of dissolving civil unions.

Call The Gasper Law Group for a free initial consultation to discuss the ramifications and benefits of Colorado’s Civil Union legislation and the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

At the very least, you need an attorney who will properly and confidently analyze individual benefit plan documents to determine whether benefits may be allocated in same-sex civil union relationships and, if so, how they can be divided.

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August 27, 2013

When can Child Support Be Modified? Different approaches by the Colorado Court Appeals in modifying child support.

By: The Gasper Law Group, PLLC.

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Under Colorado law, child support may be modified where the parties mutually agree to change custody of their minor child/children. Yet, the law becomes hazy when determining the impact this mutual agreement may have on the modification of child support. Questions arise: Is child support modified at the time the custody actually changed or at the time a party files his or her motion? May the support obligation be modified for the obligor/payer, the Obligee/receiver, or both? Does the court retroactively apply the modification? What happens to any child support debt or arrearages existing prior to the modification in the event the change in child support is applied retroactively? Will the child support enforcement units of each state recognize the modification?

Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-122(5) specifically states “the provisions for child support for the obligor (payer) under the existing child support order, if modified pursuant to this section, will be modified as of the date when the physical care was changed.” Though this language appears simple enough, the divisions of the Colorado Court of Appeals have uncovered a complexity in the language. One division of the Court of Appeals determined this language allowed for modification of child support from the date the custody changed. See In re the Marriage of Emerson, 77 P.3d 923 (Colo. App. 2003) Whereas another division found the exact same language allowed only for modification from the date the motion was filed. See In re the Marriage of White, 240 P.3d 534 (Colo. App. 2010). Further, neither division could agree if the modification was only applicable to the original obligor or if the modification may be applied to the obligee. You may asking yourself, “what does this matter anyway as long as the child support payment changes?” These are good questions and the answers are even trickier!

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July 22, 2013

Navigating the Divorce Process

By: Haily Kolberg, Esq.*

You should never need to be an expert in divorce. That’s our job.

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Specifically, The Gasper Law Group will help navigate you through this challenging time by offering candid, straightforward and honest legal advice that will enable you to make informed decisions on the handling of your case. While we are fierce advocates in the courtroom, you may find yourself taking advantage of our negotiation and settlement strategies that sometimes avoids the courtroom altogether. We pride ourselves on our ability to fully analyze a case and offer you real legal advice based on your unique facts and circumstances. Whether you are in the middle of a divorce and desire an attorney with a fresh approach or whether you are at the very beginning of the legal process, below is a brief run-through of how the process works generally.

The first stage is the pleading or filing stage in which a Petition for Dissolution (with or without children) is filed with the court as well as a response from the opposing party. Although the Court offers boilerplate forms to initiate a divorce, we have seen our fair share of clean-up projects in which we have had to amend pleadings to assert or defend against claims or requested relief (child support, spousal maintenance, military retirement division). Sometimes the ship has sailed and it’s impossible or extremely expensive to right the wrong or omission from the original pleadings. If nothing else, an attorney can provide the reasonable buffer between the filing party and the opposing party. After all, some comfort or level of protection in challenging times is warranted by simply telling your ex, “you should call my attorney because I don’t want to talk about this.”

The next stage involves assembling documents and financial data prior to the very next stage, an Initial Status Conference or Court Facilitator meeting. This is more of a meeting than a hearing, where deadlines for your case are set so the Court knows your case will move along. The average divorce case in Colorado Springs takes over 4 months depending on the assigned division and the court’s docket. More complex cases involving experts or hotly contested issues result in longer case duration and can last for several months or a full year after filing. The quickest a divorce can be completed is 91 days (Colorado recognizes a statutory 90-day cooling off period). At the Status Conference, the Court may set additional deadlines in the event the parties have not completed the disclosure and financial exchange process.

In some case, informal or formal discovery is necessary. Discovery is the process of collecting evidence by way of subpoena, depositions, written interrogatories (questions to be answered under oath). Disclosures (discussed above) are required and must conform to the court’s orders and standard rules of procedure. Discovery on the other hand is initiated at the request of either party. Rest assured, discovery can be managed by the parties with the court being available to resolve any discovery or disclosure disputes.

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May 15, 2013

Military Divorce - Service Relief Act

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By Teresa A. Drexler
Partner and Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Military servicemembers face a myriad of challenges when they are deployed, in training or otherwise unavailable due to their military responsibilities and commitments. The problem is evident in many divorce and parenting cases where the non-servicemember files for a divorce or for parenting time orders when the military parent is unavailable to participate. In any divorce or parenting case involving a military service member, the application of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can create a roadblock for either or both parties in resolving such a case. The successful application of the SCRA results in delay. The SCRA allows a servicemember the opportunity to avoid a final hearing in a parenting or divorce case because he or she is unavailable due to their military orders. In order for the court to find a servicemember "unavailable" the applicant must follow procedural court rules and provide specific information to the court regarding their "unavailability". The applicant must provide a letter describing their current military duty requirements and a second letter stating that the applicant’s current military duty prevents the member from appearing in court and properly defending any current legal action. If the application to the court to delay the proceedings is not done properly the request may be denied and the case may move forward with or without the servicemember's presence.

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September 12, 2012

“Yes, you too must pay your child support Mr. NFL Superstar”

The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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You may remember Travis Henry: running back drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2001, spent two years with the Tennessee Titans, and then a modest year with the Denver Broncos in 2007, the last year Travis Henry was on the field after pleading guilty to a cocaine charge.

What about Jamal Lewis? Lewis had a magnificent career with the Baltimore Ravens before finishing his career with the Cleveland Browns. After becoming the second rookie in history to run for more than 100 yards in a Superbowl (2001), Lewis retired from the game in 2009.

And then there’s Terrell Owens…who can forget him? The talented, flamboyant, media hound recently found a new home with the Seattle Seahawks after several successful stints with other teams.


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September 11, 2012

Divorce in Colorado after Infidelity

"He cheated!" She broke your heart! He tore the family apart! It’s her fault she had an affair!

The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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We’ve heard it all. It’s heart braking and it’s unfair, but it doesn’t matter to the courts.
Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. Meaning the person asking for a divorce DOES NOT have to prove the other person committed adultery, was physically or emotionally cruel or abandoned the other party. Instead, they just have to state that the marriage is irretrievably broken. A no-fault divorce state like ours also means that the other person has no grounds to object to the Petition for Dissolution. If one person thinks the marriage is irretrievably broken, the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Another consequence of our no-fault divorce state is that in dividing martial assets or awarding maintenance the Court is not going to consider the wrongs of the other person that lead to the marriage breaking down. There will be no financial compensation for broken vows or a broken heart. Likewise, in determining child custody the Court is going to only consider those factors that help it determine what is in the best interest of the children. Generally, an extra-marital affair is not going to come into play when a Court makes this decision.

So, at the end of the day in Colorado, all that matters to the Court is that the marriage is broken, not the how or why it became broken. Although this may not be fair, especially for the wronged spouse, it makes divorces a lot cleaner since a person’s dirty laundry is not aired.

August 19, 2012

Child Tax Exemptions: What am I allowed to claim?

By Teresa A. Drexler
Partner and Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Many people come to our office seeking parenting orders not only for parenting time and expenses for the children, but also with regard to who gets to take child tax exemptions each year. A common question we are asked is “Why does he/she get to take tax exemptions when he/she never sees the children?” Many people come to our office and do not understand why the other parent should be entitled to claim any exemptions if the children are not residing with that parent at least ½ of the time or in some cases simply at all. The bottom line, however, is that the other parent is entitled to claim exemptions because Colorado law provides them this right.

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I stop at this point and state that our Family Law Division attorneys are not tax attorneys or accountants. Our standard response to tax related questions is to advise our clients to go seek the assistance of a tax attorney or accountant. However, we can tell you that Colorado law provides the sharing of tax exemptions for parents who share the financial burden of raising children. Sharing does not mean equally sharing the total financial burden that comes with raising children. Colorado law states that if a party is paying court ordered child support, regardless of whether or not they are exercising any parenting time or contributing to other costs for the child, the paying parent is entitled to their proportional share of the child tax exemptions. For example, if Mother makes $150,000 per year and Father makes $75,000 per year, Mother will be entitled to approximately 67% percent of the tax exemptions and Father may be entitled to take 33%. Typically this equates into a schedule where, in an example with two children, Mother might take the tax exemption for two years and Father might take the tax exemptions in the third year. There are a variety of ways to structure the exemptions and it is important it is clear in any Agreement or Order of the Court as to who is taking which exemption each year.

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August 13, 2012

A Hollywood Annulment

By Jessica L. Hughes
Attorney At Law
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

We’ve all seen them. The cliché romantic comedy or the storyline concocted to draw in viewers for May sweeps. The “will they/won’t they” couple, through a drunken haze or a misunderstanding of foreign culture, end up hitched. Yet in the harsh reality of the next morning’s light one of the parties adamantly insists the night before was just “one big mistake.” The cliffhanger leaves the audience wondering how such a horror can be rectified.

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Like a shining beacon of hope one little word is uttered… annulment. How simple it sounds. The court can invalidate the marriage and it will be as if nothing ever happened. However, an annulment is not as simple as proposed by our good friends in Tinseltown. Because, let’s face it, the legal particulars of invalidating a marriage would not be as endearing as Hugh Grant stumbling through his latest apology.

Perhaps the leading misconception surrounding annulments is the ease with which they are granted. Though the parties are spared the 90 day waiting period associated with a divorce, the grounds for which an annulment may be granted are far stricter. For an annulment to be granted in Colorado, proof of one of the following must be provided:

(1) A party lacked capacity to enter the marriage as a result of either mental capacity, infirmity or influence of drugs or alcohol;

(2) A party lacked physical capacity to consummate the marriage;

(3) A party is underage and did not have consent of his or her parent;

(4) One party entered into the marriage in reliance upon a fraudulent act or representation of another that goes to the essence of the marriage;

(5) One or both parties entered into the marriage under duress;

(6) One of both parties entered into the marriage as a jest or dare;

(7) The marriage is prohibited by law

In addition to meeting one of the reasons listed above the parties must begin annulment proceedings within a certain time frame. The reason you seek an annulment will dictate the timeframe you have to file for an annulment. For example, if you wish to annul your marriage because of fraudulent representation that goes to the essence of the marriage you must begin proceedings within 6 months of learning of the fraudulent representation. Whereas if you want to annul your marriage because a party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage you have one year after learning of the condition.

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August 13, 2012

Bankruptcy and Divorce: Get Out of Debt before Getting Out of Marriage

By Haily Kolberg
Attorney At Law
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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We’ve all heard the phrase “drowning in debt.” We’ve also heard the phrase “treading water.” If, when it comes to your debt, you are “treading water” but know you’ll soon get divorced, this article is for you.

Jack and Jill are getting divorced. They have approximately $30,000 in debt due to credit cards and unpaid medical bills. In the state of Colorado, debt acquired during the marriage, like their medical bills and credit cards, is normally treated as debt of the marriage, even if it was acquired by only one spouse and not the other. When Jack and Jill’s family splits into two, the household with the least income is hurt more financially. If Jack and Jill together were only “treading water” when it comes to debt, now that Jack and Jill have separated, they probably each feel like they are “drowning in debt.”

What should Jack and Jill do? Well, first, having a lot of debt makes any divorce messy, and going further into debt paying attorneys to split up Jack and Jill’s existing debt doesn’t make a lot of sense. What Jack needs to realize is that even if the Court orders Jill to pay their Visa bill, the credit card company can come back and sue Jack if Jill doesn’t pay. The credit card companies will say their contract is with Jack and that the divorce orders don’t affect a thing.

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August 7, 2012

Gasper Law Group – Helping People First

The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

Our motto is our mission, a goal that all of us at The Gasper Law Group try to incorporate into our both our personal and professional lives. It may seem cheesy. And trust me, I know more lawyer jokes than anyone. However, the attorneys at the Gasper Law Group uphold the highest ideals in legal ethics and compassion to clients, their families, and all who call us for help.

Why? Well because we are human. We understand that clients are human and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, even during those stressful times that fail to show a client at his or her best. We try to show grace and help people through some of the most trying times in their lives. We understand there are emotions. We understand that this is your family. We understand that you need to be an active part of the process and the solution. We do not make decisions for our Clients. We do not operate with our own agenda.

We advocate for our Clients and we try to encourage our Clients to do the right thing. We also go above and beyond at time for clients. Here are some other examples of what we have done for our clients and others in the past:

1. Offered low retainers and monthly payments from the very earliest days of The Gasper Law Group so that more people can have quality legal representation;

2. Taken a client shoe shopping when she was only allowed a single pair of shoes during her marriage;

3. Given baby clothes, toys, books and other things to families in need;

4. Operated an emergency line and actually answered the phone at 2 a.m. or on vacation from California;

5. Prepared for hearings at 3 a.m. with clients overseas;

6. Relocated clients to safe housing;

7. Helped clients get into substance abuse or mental health treatment;

8. Contributed to charities and participated in civic organizations;

9. Volunteered through churches;

10. Coached and judged mock trial;

11. And most importantly – We Listen!

August 7, 2012

Hillbillies, bagels and “No-Fault” Divorce

The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

When “I Do” turns into “I’m pretty sure I don’t” your friendly neighborhood courthouse comes rushing to your aid with a nifty little tool called “Divorce.”

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But why have you decided that you are no longer willing to have and hold ‘til death do you part? Guess what? The courts don’t care. That’s the beauty of the no-fault divorce in Colorado.

Most states offer no-fault divorces and most of those states don’t even require a statutorily mandated separation period. Colorado is one of those states where you need only represent to the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The courts don’t care to know who spends every waking hour at the strip club, who pelted who with a bagel (actual example), or who leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor. More importantly, your judge doesn’t want to hear, “But she cheated on me!” Similarly, your judge is not concerned with violence against each other unless that violence affects minor children.

One reason most states have transitioned to no-fault divorces is because the courts just don’t have the time or patience to listen to who hates who more. The other big reason is because courts also don’t want to listen to the served party argue as to why he or she would prefer to remain married.

Divorce is devastating in every aspect: financially, emotionally, and mentally. Most people can’t count divorce as one of the most enjoyable things they’ve done. While you may want to tell everyone just how awful your soon-to-be ex is, the courts won’t listen. The events and emotions leading up to the decision to divorce are deeply important to you, but no-fault means no-blame. “Irretrievably broken” means the marriage can’t be fixed. That’s it. That’s all the judge wants to know.

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August 2, 2012

Finding the Cost of Freedom: Splitting Personal Property

The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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Years, sometimes decades, worth of furniture, china, tools, books, DVDs and Christmas ornaments need to be separated at the time of a divorce.

As with all marital property issues in the State of Colorado, the law requires the court to divide the personal property accumulated during a marriage fairly and justly. However, the judge isn’t going to go through the marital home for you and make sure you each get an equal number of forks, spoons and Tupperware containers. If you and your soon to be ex cannot agree on the division of personal property yourselves, a Court will be more likely to take a hatchet than a scalpel to the personal property at issue.

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