Colorado DivorcePoint!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Colorado Divorce Online Records - 2007 Divorce Law Changes

Colorado online divorce records - 2007 law changesChanges to Colorado divorce law now limit access to Colorado divorce online records. Effective January 1, 2007, the Colorado Department of Public Heath and Environment has adopted a policy which interprets and includes their official reports of Colorado divorce and family law (domestic relations) records as confidential "vital records" within the definition of Colorado's vital statistics records laws.

As a result, online access to the statewide database for Colorado dissolution of marriage (divorce), legal separation, and declaration of invalidity (annulment) records has ceased. Instead, given this interpretation, access to these Colorado divorce-related records requires proof (as do other Colorado vital records) of:

  • an important family or legal-representative relationship by the requesting party, or
  • a direct and tangible interest in the record.
Accordingly, Colorado online divorce records are now available only after formal application establishing legitimacy to access these confidential records. Formal application is also mandated for in-person, fax and mail inquiries.

(In accord with this new interpretation of Colorado law, Colorado's Office of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics has a new standard form to secure verification of dissolution of marriage and related records. Application includes submitting appropriate documentation of identity — regulations detail in exhaustive fashion acceptable forms of proof — and of the reason for requested access to these divorce records.)

This change to Colorado divorce online records access presumably arises from increasing concerns of potential misuse of information in divorce-related records, especially for purposes of identity theft.

Note: Records of Colorado dissolution of dissolution of marriage (divorce), legal separation, and declaration of invalidity (annulment) remain available directly from the clerk of the county or judicial district of the decree's issuance. As noted in other articles on our website blog (see, for example, Ain't Nobody's Business! Increased Privacy for Colorado Divorce Records), policies regarding public access to Colorado divorce records from the clerk's office vary by county or judicial district.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Chocolate Pudding Brings Peace of Mind!

Chocolate Pudding children's divorce book favorably reviewed by Colorado divorce family mediatorsAs a divorce professional, I don't often fall in love with new children's books about divorce; there are simply too many fine ones already out there. Sandra Levin's Was It the Chocolate Pudding?: A Story for Little Kids About Divorce, however, is a welcome exception, a total delight!

Chocolate Pudding perfectly captures the powerful confusion divorce ushers into the world of a six-year-old boy and his little brother. The boy just knows his mom moved out of their home, suddenly and without explanation — because he smeared chocolate pudding all over his brother one day. After all, he muses, "I was in big trouble mister!" for getting carried away in what seemed like just so much fun.

Levin's picturebook world is accompanied by his reassuring voice patiently explaining to the young reader all these new and complex adult words and phrases:

'Explaining' is when you talk to somebody about something so they can understand it, even if that somebody is a little kid.

'Differences' is the grown-up word for everybody not liking the same thing and not always getting their way.

'Adjusting-to-our-new-arrangement' is what you do when you don't have an ideal situation and it's still okay.

Gorgeously illustrated by Bryan Langdo, Chocolate Pudding's punchline is the boy's huge relief upon discovering it was NOT his pudding antics that led his mom to leave the family. In fact, he learns, he and his brother didn't have a darn thing to do with his family's breakup! (And just to be sure that all kids hearing the story understand: "Relief," he notes, "is the grown-up word for feeling like you're carrying a big heavy book bag and someone takes it off your back.")

Levin's premise is that "big stuff like divorce needs some explaining," and Chocolate Pudding is more than up to the task.

Highly recommended for young children (perhaps 2 to 6 years of age) and anyone touched by divorce's sometimes long shadow.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Colorado Law Blogs (Blawgs) in the News!

Colorado law blogs & Google searchOur Colorado divorce law blog and divorce and family mediation practice blog are among "the handful of attorney-run blogs" featured in a first page article of this Sunday's Business section of the Denver Post, "They Blog the Law, and the Law Wins." Post staff writer Greg Griffin examines the phenomenon of legal-minded or law blogs, known as "blawgs" — noting they are a natural way for web visitors and potential clients with a need for professional services to stay current in an ever-changing legal landscape.

For subjects including politics, health care law and divorce mediation, Griffin tauts law blogs as a marketing and client tool "far more dynamic than the traditional website and newsletter," and a way for attorneys and law professionals to establish themselves as among the experts in their respective domains.

Other Colorado divorce blogs mentioned include: TalkLeft (featuring political and social injustice commentary by Denver criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt), Holland and Hart Health Care Law Blog (featuring healthcare law topics, by Denver health care attorney Greg Piche), Colorado Appeals Blog (regarding issues in Colorado court appellate issues, by Denver lawyer Blain Myhres), Leadership for Lawyers (on leadership and law firm marketing, by Denver legal marketing sage and law firm marketing director Mark Beese) and Math Class for Poets (covering an eclectic mix of law-related subjects, by Broomfield, Colorado real estate lawyer Timothy Hadley).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ain't Nobody's Business! Increased Privacy for Colorado Divorce Records

new restrictions to public access of Colorado divorce records

Many standard Colorado divorce forms contain rich details of the parties’ and their families’ personal data and information, including full names, birthdates and — most troubling — social security numbers. These sweeping disclosures have been mandated as oftentimes necessary to effect compliance with support orders and for other legitimate court and third party government purposes.

With identity theft on the rise, however, critics have challenged the public's formerly expansive access to Colorado divorce records as unduly invasive and dangerous.

In response to these privacy concerns, Chief Judges in certain Colorado counties and judicial disticts are now limiting public access to divorce and related files.

In Spring, 2005, the Colorado Supreme Court announced comprehensive rules generally seeking to maximize public accessibility to court records, but requiring court staff to remove personal information from files before release. Local counties and judicial disticts were given authority, however, to seek waivers of these general rules, if compliance with these editing requirements became burdensome.

As one example, Jefferson County's Chief Judge has now ordered access to divorce records restricted to the parties to the case and their attorneys of record, with two exceptions.

Non-parties may now obtain a copy of only two types of Colorado divorce records:

  1. the Decree of Dissolution or Legal Separation, and
  2. the Separation Agreement.

Copies of these court-filed documents will now be provided upon request, without special review or approval of the Court or a judicial officer — but only after all social security numbers are “redacted” (removed in their entirety) by court staff.

Most observers welcome this increased sensitivity to the potential abuses of public access to Colorado divorce records. And, although there seems little reason to withhold final divorce decrees (there is a compelling interest in the public to know the status of its citizens’ marriages), I remain troubled with the new policy's continuing to provide non-parties copies of a divorce “Separation Agreement.”

The Separation Agreement typically 1) discloses the details parties’ parenting plan (here, children's names, health and special needs are revealed with the parents' choices on how they will manage future decisions; additionally, specific schedules for timesharing are typically detailed) and 2) describes the parties’ finances: their assets, debts, income and employment, and support arrangements including child support and/or spousal maintenance, or “alimony”.

Because of the public's access to the Separation Agreement, I question whether these new directives go far enough. Some counties, of course, have, as a matter of local judicial district policy, freely “sealed” all divorce records. However, many feel the courts or legislature have missed an opportunity to implement a broader and statewide uniform policy not requiring savvy and special efforts to protect basic privacy information of Colorado divorcing parties.

(Interestingly, one of the state's major newspapers has editorialized against proposed greater restrictions of public access to Colorado marriage certificate/license records.)

A subsequent Denver, Colorado Rocky Mountain News article reports Colorado divorce courts are limiting public access to court files as a means of living within recent legislative budget restrictions. Jefferson County, Colorado Chief Judge Brooke Jackson emphasized his personal commitment to "open access to the courts," but explained his crafting a limited access policy:

There is no way our clerk's office has the time or manpower to go through thousands of files searching for and trying to remove or redact information ....

The article notes that Denver's divorce and family law courts have not implemented any such policies; at present, Adams, Arapahoe, Gunnison, Jefferson, Mesa and Montrose are restricting access to divorce and family law records because of costs.

For details of Mesa County's February, 2006 administrative order, see the Grand Junction Sentinel's article Open Records Under Attack on Several Fronts.)

See also a comprehensive article of the Denver Post on this issue, Judicial Districts Object to Public Access to Files.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Colorado Courts: Justice (& Divorce Resolutions) Delayed

long delays await Colorado divorce & family court visitorsRecent news articles have detailed how Colorado divorce and family courts are straining under the pressures of continued reductions in court staff, hours and services.

Longmont, Colorado's Daily Times-Call quotes Colorado State Court Administrator (and former Pueblo, Colorado District Court Judge) Jerry Marroney as decrying the rapid deterioration of court access and case processing for Coloradoans and their families:
[W]e can [continue to] slam people and ... treat them like cattle and ... give them 15-minute hearings when they deserve an hour,” Marroney said, “or we can get to a quality scenario.”

The Longmont news article reports that Colorado court observers believe proper staffing for timely services, including processing of divorce and family law cases, requires an enormous infusion of additional funding for new judges and court staff – funding that is likely not forthcoming.

In a second news article, Justice May Be Blind, But It Also Can Be Rented In a Pinch, the Denver Post discusses how one Colorado divorce couple sought out alternative dispute resolution (in their case, using an arbitrator), given Arapahoe County, Colorado courts' being “clogged with enormous backlogs,” and detailed the hardship on another Douglas County, Colorado mother, waiting since May for a Colorado child support law ruling.

Indeed, the Denver Post's subsequent editorial (Justice Delayed: Justice Denied) called for an effective legislative response.

As we noted in our divorce law news article on Colorado court delays of last year, mediation clients often
are able to accelerate the divorce process, and move forward with their lives. Unlike parties awaiting a contested hearing before Colorado divorce and family courts, these families and their futures are not placed "on hold" for long periods of time.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Our New Colorado Divorce Law & Family Mediation Blogs Favorably Reviewed!

Diane Levin's pre-eminent Online Guide to Mediation has warmly welcomed our two new blogs (this Colorado DivorcePoint! divorce law blog, and our FamilyCraft mediation practice blog) and praised our Colorado divorce mediation website!

In "New Kids on the Blog: Colorado Divorce Mediators Launch Two Blogs Exploring Divorce and Family Law and Mediation," Boston mediator, attorney and trainer Levin announces our blogs' launch, and praises our web site as a

a welcoming and user-friendly resource for anyone who wants to find a more civilized way to navigate the difficulties that divorce and family conflicts can bring. This web site demystifies the mediation process, provides resources for parents and families, has links for downloadable forms and even features a Kids' Divorce Art Gallery.

Ms. Levin concludes:
This is one of the most comprehensive, easily accessible, and visually pleasing web sites I have encountered.

We're pleased to receive such acclaim for our website and blogs and promise to continue our efforts to provide valuable content for our Colorado clients and other web visitors.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Between Two Worlds: Children of Divorce (and Their Researchers' Conclusions)

Between Two Worlds - studies of, and stories from, children of divorceIn Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, Elizabeth Marquardt blends her interpretation of data (extensive telephone surveys of more than 1500 young adults from both divorced and intact families) with her respectful telling of personal stories (culled from in-depth in-person interviews with 70 study participants).

Ironically, as a professional family mediator who works full-time in the maelstrom that is divorce's shadow, I find the emerging controversy over critics' assessments of Between Two Worlds at least as interesting and thought-provoking as the book's underlying studies' conclusions.

With respect to the latter, I struggle to find much "pioneering" (as the book jacket proclaims) in Marquardt's basic conclusions from her data:

  • While divorce is sometimes necessary, there is no such thing as a good one.

  • Divorce fundamentally restructures children's experience of childhood.

  • Although many children of divorce move on in the visible world as competently as do those from intact families, their psyches are nonethless measurably changed by divorce's long reach.
To broadly generalize, of course, modern divorce research has widely been sorted into one of two camps: 1) the first group chronicles divorce's certain persistent challenges to children (e.g., the works of Wallerstein, e.g., The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce); 2) the second emphasizes children's resiliency in meeting these challenges (e.g, the work of Hetherington, e.g., For Better or Worse: Divorce Reconsidered). Between Two Worlds squarely adopts the view of the first camp (indeed, Wallerstein authors the book's Foreward).

Marquardt is an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values (described as a "think tank on children, families and civil society"), and a child of divorce (she repeatedly intimates that her own divorced family history confers credibility on her social science observations). This may explain the potent vitriol of her rhetoric. By way of example, she decries what she regards as the pollyannish stylings of media and academia on divorce, as "happy talk."

But beyond the power of her storytelling (which is inescapable in all authentic tales of fractioned families), Beyond Two Worlds adds to an important discussion mostly by its exploring Marquardt's theory that denial and self-interest explain adults' propensity to minimize divorce's impact on children:
[W]hy are children of divorce considered so resilient? Because the adults need them to be that way.

Courtesy of Wisconsin Public Radio, listen to Ms. Marquardt's debate about these matters with University of Southern California's Constance Ahrons, author, The Good Divorce and We're Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say About Their Parents' Divorce. Hear NPR's Robin Good interview Ms. Marquardt as well.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Lesser Known Mediated Divorce Settlement Options: Nontaxable Maintenance

Mediation with a professional, experienced divorce/family mediator can provide divorcing couples expertise to evaluate financially savvy approaches to divorce. From time to time we will blog some lesser known (but nonetheless valuable) settlement options that may allow your Colorado family to minimize the financial impact of your divorce.

The ordinary taxable approach to “spousal support,” “maintenance” or “alimony” — they’re all the same, by the way! — generally affords a cooperative divorce couple significant tax savings. (In this ordinary approach, spousal maintenance is reportable as income to the recipient and deductible by the payor.) But many couples (and even many divorce or family lawyers) assume such savings are always present or that this approach is required by federal divorce tax laws.

But this is not the case. Analysis of a tax advisor (or even review with standardized software such as FinPlan's Divorce Planner) may reveal this approach costs the couple net cash flow. For example, if both parties find themselves in similar tax brackets before a spousal support plan is considered, the ordinary approach is likely inefficient from a tax perspective. In such circumstances, the divorcing parties may choose, as part of their divorce financial planning and by agreement, to "opt out" of the tax treatment of alimony. (This is expressly allowed by Sections 71 and 215 of the Internal Revenue Code).

A thoughtful review of the net benefits to both 1) the ordinary taxable and 2) the less often utilized “opt-out” and nontaxable approaches to spousal maintenance, should be carefully considered in designing any Colorado divorce financial plan. Using divorce tax planning software, both Larry and I routinely consider with our couples in mediation, the net benefits of both these approaches to spousal maintenance.

(See also our maintenance / alimony law related articles on Mediation’s Power in Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) at Divorce and on Colorado Temporary Maintenance.)

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Squid and the Whale - Divorce at the Cinema

Sundance Film Festival double award winner (for Noah Baumbach's directing and screenwriting) The Squid and the Whale opens today at Denver's Chez Artiste movie theater.

(Update: The movie is now showing in other front range Colorado theaters, including those in Boulder and Colorado Springs.)

Despite most critics’ ardent praise, we caution: The Squid and the Whale is clearly not a movie for all adults and certainly not a movie for most children. The parents’ past transgressions and present misplaced solace in promiscuous relationships is thrown in the faces of their adolescent and pre-adolescent sons. The vulgarity of their sexually focused conversations and behaviors is at times shocking.

If you can look beyond that, the movie is an authentic and honest chronicle of one all-too-human family. It poignantly, even brutally, reminds us of divorce’s fierce power to shake the sometimes fragile moorings and often taken-for-granted refuge of family.

Set in Brooklyn’s Park Slope in 1986, The Squid and the Whale tells the story of an academic dad in career crisis and a boundaryless mom suddenly finding her stride in the writing world. Both parents’ self-absorption as they separate and divorce leaves sixteen-year-old Walt and twelve-year-old Frank in utter turmoil as they wrestle with their own coming-of-age issues.

Squid’s thematic subjects are not novel; among these are:

  • divorce brings up our greatest insecurities; shame and humiliation drive normally grounded adults to bizarre, and sometimes aggressive behaviors;

  • children intuitively grasp or actively seek out the details of their parents’ vulnerabilities and the details of their relational failings;

  • children choose sides -- sometimes if only to prop up the most wounded of their parents -- but their choices are usually fickle and short-lived and never free from conflict; “being caught in the middle” always requires enormous sometimes overwhelming coping resources of them; and

  • children mimic their parents’ misconduct, especially in times of stress, often accelerating behaviors and choices hard to manage as adults and overwhelming for them as children.

On our main website’s Family Resources Parenting After Divorce section, we summarize what contemporary parenting research tells us “works.” Overall – we write there – the children who do best after divorce and separation are those, whose parents

1.   listen to their children and nurture an independent and empathic relationship with each of them;

2.   fully support their children’s relationships with the other parent (making them feel loved and wanted in both homes);

3.   develop positive strategies for setting limits and imposing appropriate discipline;

4.   continue to hold reasonably high expectations for their children, regardless of trying circumstances; and

5.   shield their children from their parental disagreements and resentments.

Above all else, The Squid and the Whale is a vivid canvas painting the landscape of parents who wholly disregard each of these prescriptives for healthy co-parenting after divorce.

Los Angeles Times movie critic Kenneth Turan is surely right that The Squid and the Whale is “acutely observed and faultlessly acted,” and a movie that “will make you laugh because you can’t bear to cry.” His judgment that the movie will “break your heart and heal it again” resonates less convincingly. Ninety minutes of Baumbaugh’s craft left my heart far from resting comfortably. Instead, The Squid and the Whale left me marveling at how healing ever arrives in the divorce odyssey (as convinced that I am, it generally does), and how children ever find the resources and resilience to recover from the wounds their divorcing parents’ inflict (as certain that I am, they often do).

Highly recommended for divorcing or separated parents, with reservations for those with sensibilities as noted.

See NPR's initial review with streaming audio and followup article with streaming video movie out-takes, an in-depth radio interview with the director Noah Baumbach and Apple's site for the official movie trailer (in QuickTime format).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Why a Colorado divorce law and family mediation blog?

As many of you may know, issues in family and divorce law in Colorado (as in all states) and parenting research news and controversies often arise quickly. Blogging on our website allows us to timely create content and promptly direct divorcing parties and mediation clients to valuable information and links to other internet resources.

My colleague Chris (Colorado divorce attorney-mediator and former marriage and family therapist Christopher L. Griffith, J.D., M.S.) and I (I'm Lawrence F. King -- I go by "Larry" and am also a Colorado divorce attorney-mediator) will post to this news and information blog.

To stay current, feel free to subscribe to our news feed. More details on your options and "how to" subscribe (so you are regularly notified when we add new posts!) may be found on our main Colorado divorce law and mediation website's homepage.