Res Ipsa

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.

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Divorced Affects Your Will

How Getting Divorced Affects Your Will

Getting divorced doesn’t just end your marriage; it can also void your will.

If you drafted a will while you were married and made dispositions or gifts to your then-spouse or relatives of your spouse (except for your shared children), under Colorado law those dispositions are automatically revoked upon the dissolution of the marriage. The nomination of your spouse as your personal representative is also automatically revoked. C.R.S. §15-11-804.

While this automatic revocation generally makes sense, it also means your will can be left with large holes in it. Even worse, depending on the language in your will, the automatic voiding of some provisions may void the entire document, leaving you completely without a will and subject to Colorado’s intestacy laws.

What Colorado law doesn’t automatically revoke, however, is any designation of a former spouse as the named beneficiary for things like bank accounts and insurance policies. That means, for example, if your ex is still listed as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, your former spouse is entitled to claim the proceeds despite the fact that you are no longer married. Updating beneficiaries is something you can do by simply contacting the institution that holds the account or policy.

If you’ve recently divorced and haven’t reviewed your will or other estate planning documents like your power of attorney, you may want to take a look at it and consider having an affordable attorney help you make the necessary updates. Now that you’re in a new chapter in your life, you want to make sure your will and other estate planning documents reflect your current goals.

If you have questions about updating your will at an affordable cost, contact me today. I offer affordable, flat-fee rates for will drafting in Colorado.

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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.

Legal Checkup: Don’t Start 2017 Without One

Legal Checkup: Don’t Start 2017 Without One

As you jump into 2017, it’s prudent to reflect on the year that was and the changes you may have experienced. While at the time, life events can be joyous or somber, many can also have long-term effects that you may not realize.

Take a moment to consider whether you experienced any of the following events in 2016:

  • Got married
  • Got divorced
  • Had a child
  • Adopted a child
  • Lost a child
  • Lost a parent or sibling
  • Received child support
  • Provided child support
  • Bought a home
  • Sold a home
  • Acquired a large asset
  • Disposed of a large asset
  • Inherited money or other valuable assets
  • Inquired a large debt
  • Enjoyed significant appreciation of an asset
  • Changed jobs
  • Started your own business
  • Welcomed a grandchild or great-grandchild
  • Moved in with someone
  • Were diagnosed with a serious health condition
  • Lost contact with a trusted friend
  • Acquired a new life insurance policy
  • Became a trustee
  • Became a beneficiary of a trust

If you experienced one or more of these events last year, you may want to get a legal checkup to ensure everything looks “healthy” and continues to meet your personal goals.

Lester Law currently offers complementary legal checkups to review your legal health.

If you have are interested in getting a complimentary legal checkup, please contact me today. I offer affordable legal help with family law and estate planning matters in Colorado.

Get Your Free Legal Checkup

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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.

Getting Married in CO without the Court

Getting Married in CO without the Court

In Colorado, it is possible to get married without ever going to a Courthouse or having a formal ceremony. Unlike some other states, Colorado allows for common law marriage. To get married by common law in Colorado, the couple must meet all of the following requirements:

  1. Be living together
  2. Mutually agree to be married
  3. Hold each other out to the public as being married

Cohabitation alone is not enough to establish a common law marriage, no matter how long the parties have been living together. That means, even if two people have been living together for 20 years, they are not assumed to be common law married if the other requirements are not met.

Because the agreement between the couple does not need to be formal or in writing,  it can be difficult to identify exactly when the marriage began if the couple got married by common law. If you are considering getting married by common law, writing down when the marriage started could be helpful for future reference.

There are also many ways a couple can hold each other out to the public as being married. One of the most common is for the couple to call each other “husband” or “wife”. While there is no exact thing a couple must do to be seen as holding themselves out as married, common actions include having joint bank accounts, filing taxes jointly, and making large purchases together. Because individual actions alone may not necessarily mean two people are holding themselves out as married, when determining whether there is a common law marriage, one must look at all the factors and not just one individual action.

Lastly, it is important to understand that getting married by common law has the same effect as getting married at the Courthouse or by some other formal ceremony. Spouses in common law marriages have the same rights and duties as any other married couple. Additionally, to end a common law marriage, the couple must go through the same Court process to formally dissolve the marriage and get divorced.

If you have questions about a common law marriage or are looking to end yours affordably, contact me today. I offer affordable, flat-fee rates for common law marriage issues in Colorado.

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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.

Changing Parenting Time

Changing Parenting Time

When a parenting time schedule is issued as part of a Court order, the parents are bound to follow it. A parenting time schedule put in place when a child is young, however, may not be workable once the child is older. As the child grows and his or her needs and interests become more involved, the parenting plan may need to be adjusted.

In Colorado, a Court-ordered parenting plan can be changed upon a motion or stipulation to modify. Ideally, the parents would have discussed the change and come to an agreement on a new parenting schedule that will work best for the child. Such an agreement is then submitted to the Court using a stipulation regarding parenting time modification to be made a new order of parenting time.

If the parents cannot agree on a modified parenting time, the parents can file a motion to modify, which the Court will oversee. Most likely, the Court will order the parents participate in mediation to try and come to a compromise. If mediation is not successful, the parents will go before the Court and make arguments as to why their parenting schedule is in the best interest of the child. The Court will then make a decicion and issue a new parenting plan.

It is important to understand that if a motion or stipulation has been filed for a substantial modification of parenting time that changes the parent with whom the child resides a majority to time another motion to modify parenting plan may be filed within two years, unless there is a belief the child’s environment may endanger his or her physical health or emotional development. This rule applies even if the previous motion was not granted by the Court.

If you are looking to modify your existing parenting time and want to do so affordably, contact me today. I offer affordable, flat-fee rates for parenting time issues in Denver.

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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.