Authored by W. Benjamin King, Esq
While not mandatory, discovery often occurs in family law cases and clients are well-advised to research this complex process before engaging in same. Fortunately, discovery is exactly what it sounds like—it is a litigation tool to assist the attorneys and parties in discovering new, or previously undisclosed, information relevant to the case. In every family law case, whether it is an allocation of parental responsibilities action or a dissolution of marriage, your lawyer needs to obtain the information necessary to: (I) assess the merits of your case; (II) to prepare for alternative dispute resolution and settlement negotiations; and (III) to prepare for trial.
The propounding of various requests, and the subsequent exchange of information between parties, is called “discovery.” The discovery process for family law cases typically includes: “interrogatories,” “requests for production of documents,” issuance of multiple “subpoena duces tecum,” and sometimes “depositions.”
In Colorado, the Supreme Court has authorized the use of ten-pattern requests for production of documents. Additionally, the Rules of Civil Procedure provide each party the opportunity to request up to ten “non-pattern” documents that your attorney can specifically tailor to the circumstances of your case. In a divorce situation, these written requests for production of documents will generally ask for the production of supplemental financial documents about the nature, source, and extent of each party’s property, whether it was acquired during the marriage or prior to the marriage, as well as information about income and debts.
Further, if decision-making authority and parenting time is in dispute, lawyers will frequently request information about the parties’ children, or information germane to each parent’s prior involvement with the kids. Generally, requests for production of documents permits your attorney to ask for documents going back several years. If you or your spouse own a business, expect several requests for production of documents asking for voluminous financial documents relating to the business, including but not limited to: accounting records, profit and loss statements, and customer lists and records. If necessary, speak to your counsel about the possible need for a protection order from the Court to protect any potential information that is proprietary to your business.
Similar to requests for production of documents, the Colorado Supreme Court has authorized the use of ten pattern interrogatories and ten non-pattern interrogatories. Interrogatories are simply written questions served on the opposing party that require a written response given under oath. These questions can be particularly helpful in assisting your lawyer with pinning down the other side on their position to various issues. Because these answers are given under oath within 35-days of being served, lawyers often use these responses to impeach the other party at trial if they attempt to change their response to any of the prior questions. Parties with children would be prudent to propound pattern interrogatory number thirteen as it essentially forces the opposing party to outline their legal position on all allocation of parental responsibilities issues prior to trial.
Next, as an officer of the Court, your lawyer has the ability to issue subpoenas on third-parties, which require the recipient to produce the requested documents to your lawyer within a certain time frame. A subpoena is typically used to obtain records that may help your case, but which the other side will not or cannot produce. Common examples where subpoenas are utilized is in seeking: bank records, credit card records, information from an employer, or to obtain a copy of a trust instrument from the trustee if the opposing party is a named beneficiary in order to determine the contents of the trust corpus and to what extent the other side may demand distributions from the trust.
Finally, as part of the discovery process, either lawyer may schedule a “deposition,” to depose the opposing party, which must take place in the presence of a court reporter. There is a growing trend in family law to have these depositions videotaped. The person being deposed will first be sworn in by the court reporter prior to answering all of the lawyer’s questions under oath. In family law, you, your spouse, and other people having relevant information about your case may potentially be deposed.
The primary purpose of a deposition is three-fold: (a) first, the deposition is used to gather pertinent facts about the case; (b) it is then used to assess how well the deponent would testify if the case proceeds to trial; and (c) it ensures that critical questions are asked under oath to avoid any surprises at hearing. Similar to interrogatory responses above, a skilled litigator will use the deponent’s answers against them at trial if they change any of their responses to attack the credibility of the witness. More often than not, a party will need to order and pay for a deposition transcript form the Court reporter when the deposition is concluded for purposes of trial preparation and use as a trial exhibit.
Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2 mandates each party to a family law dispute has a legal obligation to provide certain information to the other side automatically, subject to only a few certain limitations. The discovery tools outlined above assist lawyers with expanding the scope of Rule 16.2 mandatory financial disclosures. If your spouse fails to disclose certain financial records or assets required by Rule 16.2 and your attorney recovers them in discovery, the Court may sanction the opposing party by ordering them to pay a monetary sanction, ordering them to pay your attorney’s fees and costs incurred in connection with your discovery efforts, or the Court may simply award you the asset the opposing party attempted to conceal.
While discovery is a very useful litigation tool that can simultaneously be used to assist in the facilitating of a beneficial settlement, the discovery phase of a case often times ends up being the most expensive component of a case aside from trial. Drafting of discovery is a time-consuming and somewhat tedious endeavor, and so is the review of any records produced by the opposing party. Nevertheless, discovery may end up saving the client money if it helps to bring about a timely settlement of the case.
The family law attorneys at McConaughy & Sarkissian, P.C. are astute in all aspects of discovery in domestic relations cases. It is crucial to hire an attorney and experienced paralegal that will work with you in tandem to facilitate this process from start to finish. Call us today at (303) 649-0999 to discuss this process, or visit our office conveniently located in Douglas County, Colorado.
 Typically this will be mediation ordered by the Court for most domestic relations cases in Colorado.
 Requests for admissions are specifically excluded from family law actions in Colorado pursuant to C.R.C.P. Rule 16.2(f)(4) unless agreed upon by the parties or permitted by leave of court.
 Frequently abbreviated as “RFPs.”
 Frequently referred to and abbreviated as “ROGGs.”
 Referred to as being the “deponent.”
Authored by W. Benjamin King, Esq.
It is no secret that Coloradans love their pets. According to a 2011 report by the American Veterinary Medical Academy, 63.2% of pet owners considered their pets to be family members. Not surprisingly, Colorado even has a statute solely dedicated to trusts for pets! See, C.R.S. § 15-11-901. However, Colorado domestic courts have not taken the approach that pets are integral members of our family; rather, pets in Colorado are deemed to be either marital or separate property depending on when the animal was purchased.
This does not sound right does it? A pet is viewed as being synonymous with a car, couch, or recliner chair—how can that be? Animals for much of history were viewed as having more utility value and as being income producers rather than being companions and the law treated them as such. Thus, there is no such thing as custody or pet visitation in Colorado. In a divorce, one party will be awarded the animal unless the parties can agree as to a scheduled exchange of the animal. Thus, it is important to have an attorney that can discuss your options and litigation strategy concerning your pet if that is of paramount concern to you. It is best in a dissolution proceeding to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can assist you with navigating the issues of your case and provide alternative solutions such as stipulated agreements regarding custody and visitation of your pets.
As an exception to the rule above, if you are worried about a spouse or significant other harming an animal during the divorce proceedings, you can petition the Court for a civil protection order to protect: “An animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either of the parties or by a minor child of either of the parties.” C.R.S. § 13-14-101(2)(b).
Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today at McConaughy & Sarkissian, P.C. to further discuss this issue.
Economic Misconduct in Divorce
Family Law with Professor Jennifer Hendricks
October 5, 2017, at University of Colorado School of Law
Upon invitation from Professor Jennifer Hendricks, firm attorneys W. Benjamin King and Kama McConaughy Sarkissian had the honor and privilege of lecturing at the University of Colorado’s School of Law. Ben and Kama taught a family law class concerning the issue of economic misconduct in divorce. Ms. Sarkissian was counsel for the leading appellate case in Colorado concerning marital waste: In re Marriage of Jorgensen, 143 P.3d 1169 (Colo. App. 2006) and is one of the preeminent authorities on the doctrine. Our lawyers greatly enjoyed giving back to their alma mater and look forward to continuing our firm’s dedication to service and philanthropy.
WealthCounsel Colorado Forum
September 15, 2016, at the law offices of Dymond Reagor Colville, PLLC
Greenwood Village, Colorado
Upon invitation from Carla Little of the Little Law Offices and Michael W. Reagor shareholder at Dymond Reagor, P.L.L.C., and in conjunction with the Colorado Bar Association’s Continuing Legal Education program, McConaughy and Sarkissian, P.C. attorneys Kama McConaughy Sarkissian and W. Benjamin King had the honor of lecturing on financial trust issues, which arise during the pendency of a divorce. Mr. King also lectured on the benefits a prenuptial agreement and marital agreement may have in protecting client’s interests in trust assets from their divorcing spouse and why settlors of trusts should be aware of that protective mechanism.
Benjamin King joins McConaughy & Sarkissian, P.C. as an Associate Attorney. Effective August 1, 2016, Mr. King has joined our firm and his litigation practice will focus on construction related matters, insurance defense and domestic relations. Welcome Ben!
We are delighted to officially announce the launch of our new website! You can now find us at www.Colorado-Divorce-Attorneys.com.
Our goal with this new website is to provide our visitors with a basic understanding of family law issues, including divorce, maintenance, child custody and property division, and help them determine whether hiring an experienced family law attorney is the right decision for them. We welcome questions from our visitors and encourage them to set up a free initial consultation if they are in need of legal advice. Our current and prospective clients will find useful information about our practice and the types of representation we are able to provide.
We will be routinely updating our content with helpful information, articles, blogs, newsletters, and client reviews in the testimonials section.
We hope you find the new website informative. We are working hard to make sure it contains valuable legal resources for our visitors.
For any questions, suggestions, feedback or comments, please E-mail us.
Kama McConaughy Sarkissian, Esq.
Authored by Kama McConaughy Sarkissian, Esq.
Maintenance, also known as spousal support or alimony, is an allowance awarded by the court in some 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 awarded when the court finds that a spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs and is unable to support him or herself through appropriate employment.
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 3 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 will be $1,100 ($2000-$900) per month.
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. Ultimately, the court has the discretion to award maintenance in an amount that is fair and equitable to both parties.
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.
Authored by Kama McConaughy Sarkissian, Esq.
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. During an action for legal separation, marital property and debt are allocated between each spouse, as are parental responsibilities and maintenance and child support are determined. When a decree of legal separation is entered, you remain legally married to your spouse, but you are afforded the same financial protection and a resolution of parenting issues as in a divorce. After six months, either party may convert the decree of legal separation into a decree of dissolution of marriage by filing a motion with the court.
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