Res Ipsa

Do I really need to file that form for the child tax exemption?

Do I really need to file that form for the child tax exemption?

As tax season approaches, many single or divorced parents have questions about claiming the child tax exemption. Often times, a Court-ordered parenting plan will state that the parents will alternate the years in which each claims a child under the exemption. Sometimes the parents alternate every year, and sometimes they alternate every couple years. Regardless, when parents are not married and filing a joint tax return, the IRS requires a specific tax form to be filed regarding the child tax exemption.

Tax Form 8332 is for the Release or Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent. This form should be filed by what the IRS calls the custodial parent. The IRS defines the custodial parent as the parent “with whom the child lived for the greater number of nights during the year.” If the parents equally split the number of nights the child lived with each, the IRS considers the parent with the higher adjusted gross income as the custodial parent, with some exceptions for parents who work nights.

That means if the parent with whom the child lived for a majority of a given tax year was not the parent scheduled to claim the exemption for that child, that non-claiming parent would need to complete Tax Form 8332 so that the other parent can claim the exemption. The IRS requires this form to help avoid the situation where both parents claim the same child, which can cause one or both parties to refile or be audited.

It should be noted that under the law in Colorado, if a parent is past-due with child support payments by December 31 of the given tax year, that parent is not entitled to claim the child exemption even if he or she otherwise would be under the parenting plan.

If you have questions regarding your specific situation and how your taxes may be affected, it is best to contact a tax professional to assist you.

If you’d like legal help regarding parenting plans or custody agreements at an affordable flat-rate in Colorado, contact me today.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver-based affordable family law lawyer and affordable estate planning lawyer licensed in Colorado.

Checklist: Separation Agreements

Checklist: Separation Agreements

When going through a divorce, you and your spouse may create a separation agreement. A separation agreement details how the assets and debts accumulated during the marriage will be divided upon the divorce. Separation agreements include all assets and debts acquired during the marriage, regardless of how the asset or debt is titled.

While a basic separation agreement can be found on the Colorado State Court website, the basic agreement does not cover issues that may cause conflict down the road. Although not every issue can be predicted, the best separation agreements consider and address all the most common issues that tend to arise. When the separation agreement addresses these foreseeable issues, the parties know exactly how to handle the situation and conflict is avoided. Without a comprehensive separation agreement, the ex-spouses often end up back in court, which is both time-consuming and expensive.

When drafting a separation agreement, there are several things to consider. Although not exhaustive, below is a list of some of the most common issues spouses should consider and include in a separation agreement.

  • Personal property
  • Real estate
  • Automobiles
  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Business interests
  • Debts
  • Maintenance
  • Health and dental insurance

If the parties can come to an agreement, having a comprehensive separation agreement that covers these topics will help the parties move forward and avoid future conflict.

If you’re looking to have an affordable flat-rate comprehensive separation agreement drafted in Colorado, contact me today.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

Checklist: Parenting Plans

Checklist: Parenting Plans

When going through a divorce with children or through a custody case, you will ultimately end up with a parenting plan. A parenting plan is like an instruction manual, providing guidance on things like which parent the children will be with and when, how major decisions will be made, and how financial expenses should be divided.

While a basic parenting plan can be found on the Colorado State Court website, the basic plan does not cover many of the issues that cause conflict down the road. Although not every issue can be predicted, the best parenting plans consider and address all the most common issues that tend to arise. When the parenting plan addresses these foreseeable issues, the parents know exactly how to handle the situation and conflict is avoided. Without a thorough parenting plan, parents often end up back in court, which is both time-consuming and expensive.

When drafting a parenting plan, there are several topics to consider. Although not exhaustive, below is a list of some of the most common issues parents should consider and include in a parenting plan.

  • Regular parenting time schedule
  • Summer schedule
  • Holiday schedule
  • Major decision making
  • Communication
  • Safety
  • Exchanges
  • Travel
  • Division of expenses
  • Health and dental insurance

Whether the parents can agree on a parenting plan or whether the Court must step in and make the decision, having a comprehensive parenting plan that covers these topics will help the parents move forward and avoid future conflict.

If you’re looking to have an affordable flat-rate and comprehensive parenting plan drafted in Colorado, contact me today.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

Hiring a Lawyer: A Practical Guide

Hiring a Lawyer: A Practical Guide

Need to hire a lawyer but have no idea where to start or how to find the right one? The Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel has put together a comprehensive resource to help you find and work with the right lawyer.

Hiring and Working with an Attorney covers such topics as:

  • Why you should hire a lawyer
  • Lawyer referral services
  • Interviewing the lawyer
  • Assessing the lawyer’s fees
  • A lawyer’s duties
  • How you can help facilitate a productive relationship
  • How to help prevent problems
  • How to deal with problems if they occur

Click the image below to download this free resource today!

(Click to download)

If you’re interested in speaking with an affordable, flat-rate lawyer in Colorado, contact me today.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

Why is divorce so expensive (too)? Blame the Lawyers

Why is divorce so expensive (too)? Blame the Lawyers

Last year, I wrote about why divorce is so expensive and explained how, in many cases, it’s the spouses who drive up the price. This time around, I wanted to look at how sometimes it’s the lawyers who add to the expense.

Divorce lawyers who have a traditional practice generally charge a retainer up front and bill against it for each hour they work on the case. Retainers for a divorce can range from $2500 to $5,000+, and the average hourly rate for a lawyer in Colorado is about $250 an hour. If the retainer runs out, the lawyer asks for more money. What the final cost will be is often difficult to nail down.

For family lawyers who earn a living this way, maximizing the time it takes to do something means maximizing income. However, taking as much time as possible is not always in the client’s best interest. Particularly with divorces, prolonging or exacerbating the process not only makes divorces more expensive, but it can wreak havoc on the client’s well-being.

In my view, divorce lawyers shouldn’t be focused on billing time; they should be focused on the client and what he or she needs. Lawyers should be effective problem solvers, not litigious bill generators. For family lawyers like me who are client-focused, we’ve built our practices to help clients affordably get the legal help they need.

Divorce lawyers who offer affordable, fixed-fee representation or unbundled legal help for divorces keep divorce costs low by focusing on the most important issues. This type of affordable family law practice also encourages the lawyer to work efficiently and quickly solve the client’s problems. If spouses can be civil and lawyers can work efficiently, divorces can be far less expensive than they are now.

If you’re looking to get divorced in Colorado at an affordable, flat-rate, contact me today.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

Can I get divorced without hiring a lawyer?

Can I get divorced without hiring a lawyer?

Have you wondered whether you can – or should – get divorced without hiring a lawyer? Maybe you and your spouse are pretty agreeable right now and you’re worried that hiring lawyers will only turn things ugly. Or maybe you know the average cost of a divorce in Colorado when no children or maintenance is involved is about $15,000 ($20,000 when there are either children or maintenance), and you just don’t have that kind of money laying around. I mean, really, who does?

Using the free survey below, you’ll learn whether you could get divorced on your own, should get some affordable legal help along the way, or should probably hire an affordable lawyer from the beginning. It takes less than 5 minutes to complete and can help provide answers to that lingering question.

 

If you are interested in working with an affordable attorney who offers unbundled legal services, contact me today. You can also estimate your cost for legal help from Lester Law by reviewing my affordable rates for unbundled legal services and full representation .

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law attorney and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

How to Save Money on a Divorce Without Children

How to Save Money on a Divorce Without Children

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to save money on a divorce when children were involved. The same can be said about a divorce without children. While you can get divorced in Colorado without the help of an attorney, it’s generally not recommended. Attorneys help ensure your rights are being protected throughout the process, but they can be expensive. So while you may be thinking that you can’t afford an attorney, you might want to think again. There are affordable options to get legal help from an attorney.

Below is a list of tasks completed by most divorces without children in Colorado. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive, but instead provides a general guideline.

Attorneys who provide affordable solutions for divorces often offer unbundled or task-based legal help. In other words, the attorney will help you with individual tasks of your choosing. Some examples of where an affordable attorney can help you throughout the process is indicated below.

    1. File for divorce in the county where you or your spouse reside
      1. Note: At least one party must have lived in CO for 91 days prior to filing
      2. File the Petition, Case Information Sheet, and Summons.
      3. Pay the filing fee
      4. An affordable attorney can review these documents before you file them to ensure completeness.
    2. Complete personal service, if not filing jointly
    3. Review documents received by the Court
      1. An affordable attorney can review these documents with you and answer any questions you have.
    4. Provide proof of service to the Court, if not filing jointly
    5. Complete the required mandatory disclosures
      1. File a notarized Sworn Financial Statement, the Supporting Schedule, and a Certificate of Compliance
      2. Send the other party copies of your supporting financial documents
      3. An affordable attorney can review these documents before you file them to ensure completeness.
    6. Attend the Initial Status Conference
      1. An affordable attorney can help you prepare for this Conference and answer any questions you have about what to expect.
    7. Participate in Mediation, if you and your spouse do not agree on all issues
      1. An affordable attorney can help you prepare for mediation and answer any questions you have about what to expect.
    8. Prepare Agreements
      1. Prepare a notarized proposed Separation Agreement
      2. An affordable attorney can draft this agreement for you. Having an affordable attorney draft it will help ensure nothing is left out.
    9. Prepare for Permanent Orders Hearing
      1. If you and your spouse do not agree on all issues, be prepared to present evidence and testimony to support your position
      2. File a proposed Support Order, Pretrial Statement, and a proposed Decree of Dissolution of Marriage with only the caption filled out
      3. An affordable attorney can review these documents before you file them to ensure completeness.
    10. Attend the Permanent Orders Hearing
      1. An affordable attorney can help you prepare for this Hearing and answer any questions you have. Having an attorney assist with your preparation will help you present your strongest argument to the Court.

As you can see, there are several tasks in the divorce process where you can get the help of an affordable attorney for a fraction of what traditional attorneys will charge. You can choose to have an affordable attorney help you with all of the tasks or just a few. It’s entirely up to you.

If you are interested in working with an affordable attorney who offers unbundled legal services, contact me today. You can also estimate your cost for unbundled legal help from Lester Law by reviewing my affordable rates for unbundled legal services.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law attorney and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

How Getting Married Affects Your Will

How Getting Married Affects Your Will

A few weeks ago, I posted about how getting divorced affects your will, but it’s not just divorce that can affect your will. Getting married can also have an effect.

In Colorado, surviving spouses have certain rights when it comes to their spouses’ estate, despite what the deceased spouse’s will may say. The two most notable rights are the elective share and the family allowance.

Because Colorado views marriage as a partnership, the State protects spouses from being entirely disinherited by the other. Spouses are entitled to a portion of the probate estate, called the “elective share”.  Receiving the elective share is not automatic, however. The surviving spouse must assert the right no later than nine months after his or her spouse dies or within six months after the deceased spouse’s will is admitted to probate, whichever comes later.

During the administration of the estate, which can take some time, the surviving spouse is also entitled to receive funds from the estate to help support his or herself and any dependent children. This entitlement is called the “family allowance” and is meant to provide financial assistance for basic necessities while the estate works its way through probate.

If you wrote a will before you were married and have not updated it since, you may want to consider review your will with an attorney to ensure it still meets your goals in light of the statutory rights your spouse now has. If you have questions about a common law marriage or are looking to end yours affordably,

If you have questions about your will or are looking for an affordable way to update your will, contact me today. I offer affordable, flat-fee rates for will drafting in Colorado.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law attorney and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

Why Marriage is a Business Decision

Why Marriage is a Business Decision

Although business isn’t the most romantic topic to discuss on Valentine’s Day, it is important to understand that in many ways the decision to get married is a business one. Having a piece of paper that legally binds you to your significant other won’t change your personal connection or devotion to each other. Couples can remain happily together for decades without ever getting married, while others who are legally married can’t stand each other.

At the end of the day, marriage simply creates a legal entity around two people and bestows upon them certain rights, privileges, and benefits. Below are just a few examples of the legal rights married couples enjoy in Colorado:

  1. Spouses can ride in the ambulance and visit the hospitalized spouse even when visiting hours are restricted to others.
  2. Spouses can make medical decisions for the other spouse when he or she is incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate.
  3. Spouses can file joint state and federal taxes.
  4. Spouses enjoy tax-free transfers of property between themselves.
  5. Spouses enjoy discounted rates for insurance.
  6. Spouses can obtain health insurance through the other spouse’s employer.
  7. Spouses can receive discounts on tuition.
  8. Spouses can take family leave to care for an ill spouse.
  9. Spouses can sue on behalf of a deceased spouse for wrongful death and loss of consortium.
  10. Spouses are entitled to a portion of the marital property if there is a dissolution.
  11. Spouses may be entitled to spousal support or alimony after a dissolution.
  12. Spouses enjoy a privilege for marital communication, which means a Court cannot force the disclosure of the communication’s contents.
  13. Spouses can both receive government benefits like social security and Medicare.
  14. Spouses may obtain immigration and residency benefits for a non-citizen spouse.
  15. Spouses of active servicemembers or veterans may receive military benefits for education or medical care, even though one spouse is not enrolled in the military.
  16. Surviving spouses are entitled to inherit a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate, even if the deceased spouse doesn’t include the surviving spouse in his or her will.
  17. Surviving spouses receive an exemption from both estate tax and gift tax for property left to them by their deceased spouse.
  18. Surviving spouses can receive the wages, workmen’s compensation, and retirement plan benefits of their deceased spouse.
  19. Spouses can create life estate and marital deduction trusts, which cannot be used for non-spouses.
  20. Spouses can provide instructions for after-death exams and procedures of the deceased spouse.

While having a marriage based on love and respect is the ultimate goal for many, don’t be fooled into thinking that a piece of paper is the key to creating that type of relationship. The paper simply documents the marriage as a legal institution. The relationship part is up to you.

If you are interested in learning more about how entering or ending a marriage may affect you, contact me today.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law attorney and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.

How to Save Money on a Divorce with Children

How to Save Money on a Divorce with Children

While you can get divorced in Colorado without an attorney, it’s generally not recommended. Attorneys help ensure your rights are being protected throughout the process. Attorneys can be expensive, though, and many require a large retainer and charge by the hour. So while you may think you can’t afford an attorney, think again. There are affordable options to get legal help from an attorney.

Below is a list of tasks completed by most divorces with children in Colorado. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive, but instead provides a general guideline.

Attorneys who provide affordable solutions for divorces often offer unbundled or task-based legal help. In other words, the attorney will help you with individual tasks of your choosing. Some examples of where an affordable attorney can help you throughout the process is indicated below.

    1. File for divorce in the county where you or your spouse reside
      1. Note: At least one party must have lived in CO for 91 days prior to filing
      2. File the Petition, Case Information Sheet, and Summons.
      3. Pay the filing fee
      4. An affordable attorney can review these documents before you file them to ensure completeness.
    2. Complete personal service, if not filing jointly
    3. Review documents received by the Court
      1. An affordable attorney can review these documents with you and answer any questions you have.
    4. Provide proof of service to the Court, if not filing jointly
    5. Complete the required mandatory disclosures
      1. File a notarized Sworn Financial Statement, the Supporting Schedule, and a Certificate of Compliance
      2. Send the other party copies of your supporting financial documents
      3. An affordable attorney can review these documents before you file them to ensure completeness.
    6. Attend the Initial Status Conference
      1. An affordable attorney can help you prepare for this Conference and answer any questions you have about what to expect.
    7. Attend Parenting Class
    8. Participate in Mediation, if you and your spouse do not agree on all issues
      1. An affordable attorney can help you prepare for mediation and answer any questions you have about what to expect.
    9. Prepare Agreements
      1. Prepare a notarized proposed Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan
      2. Prepare Child Support Worksheet A or Worksheet B, depending on the parenting plan
      3. An affordable attorney can draft these agreements for you. Having an affordable attorney draft them will help ensure nothing is left out.
    10. Prepare for Permanent Orders Hearing
      1. If you and your spouse do not agree on all issues, be prepared to present evidence and testimony to support your position
      2. File a proposed Support Order, Pretrial Statement, and a proposed Decree of Dissolution of Marriage with only the caption filled out
      3. An affordable attorney can review these documents before you file them to ensure completeness.
    11. Attend the Permanent Orders Hearing
      1. An affordable attorney can help you prepare for this Hearing and answer any questions you have. Having an attorney assist with your preparation will help you present your strongest argument to the Court.

As you can see, there are several tasks in the divorce process where you can get the help of an affordable attorney for a fraction of what traditional attorneys will charge. You can choose to have an affordable attorney help you with all of the tasks or just a few. It’s entirely up to you.

If you are interested in working with an affordable attorney who offers unbundled legal services, contact me today. You can also estimate your cost for unbundled legal help from Lester Law by reviewing my affordable rates for unbundled legal services.

———–

This website and blog include information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is a Denver affordable family law attorney and estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado.