Divorce Matters Overturns Wrongful Adoption, Reunites Father with Son

Recently, we handled a case that really reminded us of why our work is so important.

In this case, the mother and step-father filed for a step-parent adoption without the biological father’s consent. Along with their petition for step-parent adoption the mother and step-father filed an affidavit alleging the biological father had abandoned his son and failed to pay reasonable child support for more than a year.

A hearing was held to determine whether the father had abandoned his son and failed to pay reasonable child support and whether to grant the step-parent adoption. The father did not attend the hearing. At the hearing, the mother and step-father failed to inform the court that the father had recently filed and won, two months earlier, a hearing to enforce his parenting time and that he was exercising his parenting time with his son at the time of the hearing. They also failed to inform the court the father had repeatedly fought to enforce his parenting time for years. The court relied on the fraudulent affidavit, terminated the father’s parental rights, and granted the step-parent adoption. Thereafter, the father was not allowed to see his son.

Father, without an attorney, filed a motion to set aside the adoption based on fraud. The trial court refused to hold a hearing regarding father’s allegations that the step-parent adoption was obtained through fraud.

Divorce Matters began representing Father to reinstate his parental rights and to vacate the step-parent adoption.

First, Divorce Matters appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals the Judge’s decision in which he refused to hold a hearing regarding father’s allegations of fraud. Divorce Matters got the Court of Appeals to reverse the Judge’s decision and the Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court to determine whether the adoption was obtained through fraud.

Second, Divorce Matters went to hearing and argued the step-parent adoption was obtained through fraud. The trial court agreed. The trial court found the father had not abandoned his son and that the mother and step-father fraudulently misrepresented to the court that the father had abandoned his son. The court vacated the step-parent adoption and reinstated the father’s parenting time effective immediately. After not seeing his son for almost two years, the father gets to see his son again.

This is the type of case””and outcome””we always hope to secure for our clients and remind us why we work so hard on our clients’ behalf every day.

Dealing with the Family Business During Divorce

Recently, I spent some time talking to a couple currently in the process of having their family business valued. This couple, together for 15 years, is divorcing””having worked together at the business for much of their time together. Both spouses want their fair share of the business’ value.

Now they face having to appraise the business and figure out what’s next””from keeping the business with a sole owner to selling it and allocating sale profits among involved parties. What’s more, both have a vested interest in keeping the business running and maintaining profitability during the divorce process, until sound decisions about the future are secured.

This story is not uncommon. Divorce can be damaging to small business owners, particularly if both parties involved in the divorce were also highly ranked in their business. How do you decide what’s fair, when both of you have been heavily involved in this family venture?

Here are some tips on how to keep your business going, even after you’ve divorced:

Make decisions

Consider every level of potential effect from the divorce””from potential lost revenue to communicating with employees. Some potential questions to ask in regards to how you will handle the business include:

  • Are you planning to sell or keep the business?
  • Will you both continue to work there, or will one of you buy out the other?
  • Can you afford to buy out your spouse, if that is your interest?
  • How will you manage and run the business during the divorce process?

Make these decisions early in the divorce proceedings. In addition to getting the buy-out-or-sell decision out of the way, it may also provide you some piece of mind and security during your divorce.

Get a business valuation

Regardless of which above decision you make, you will need to know your business’ overall value. Hire a neutral third party””an accountant, business appraiser, or financial analyst who specializes in business valuation””to walk you through the steps. A business valuation takes into account all assets of the business, including the “intangibles.” Often, both spouses in this situation will hire their own valuation expert for comparison purposes.

In today’s economically challenged world, property values and future earning potential may both be considerably lower than years past, which is one reason why it is particularly important to have an accurate business valuation completed. The business valuation will take into account all aspects of the company””assets, liabilities, earning potential””to anticipate how lucrative the business’ future looks. To help the process along, have available tax returns or loan applications that you have filed as a business.


In the state of Colorado, a jointly owned business is considered marital property and will be split “equitably.” If the business is owned by one or the other it may not be considered joint or marital property, but it still may be affected if both of you played a major role in running the company.

The court will take into account the valuation of the business and the roles that each of you played in running and maintaining the business to make its decision on who will get what in the divorce. The court may order a buy-out from one of you to the other. If the two of you can’t come to an agreement, the court may decide to order that the business be sold. The court may also be open to the two of you continuing to work together if your divorce is amicable.

Divorcing in the Golden Years

Improved medical availability and technology has led to an increased life expectancy in the United States. Americans are living longer, healthier lives than they ever have in any time in our history. And with those longer lifetimes come higher aspirations for life in the Golden Years.

Many Baby Boomers want more from life than just the status quo””and it may be leading more couples to divorce court than ever before. Among the over-60 set, the incidence of divorce has increased sharply””by 50% in just the past 10 years.

Because these couples have had decades to build financial and emotional lives together””children, grandchildren, retirement funds, real estate assets, and shared debt””divorce in the golden years can be far more complicated.

The key factors of concern for divorcing couples over age 60 include:

  • Dependent Incomes: Many couples divorcing after 60 face shared expenses that depend primarily on one or the other’s current or past income. It can be particularly challenging to divide up assets equitably or calculate maintenance when one of you was a stay-at-home parent for decades””supporting the asset accumulation of the bread-winning spouse””while one of you earned the bulk of the income. It can also be more expensive to live as a single person, so you may be facing lifestyle changes with divorce.
  • Healthcare: Along with the dependent income, many couples divorcing later in life share healthcare coverage and costs. If you are retired or have never worked outside of the home, this can present unique challenges that the divorce process and division of assets and maintenance fees must address. At the age of 60, it is still a few years before you will be eligible for Medicare on your own. You’ll need to consider your own medical coverage during the divorce process.
  • Retirement Funds and Debt: Getting divorced does not mean that you have no more rights to your (soon to be ex-) spouse’s retirement or vice versa. If you have been married for longer than 10 years, you are entitled to a portion of each other’s social security benefits. This remains true even if one or the other of you remarry. And social security is just one piece of the retirement puzzle. If you and your spouse shared retirement funds throughout your relationship, dividing those funds can be messy, as can dividing up debts that have been shared for decades. If you have significant retirement assets, including pension plans, 401ks, Social Security and more, a financial planner who specializes in divorce and the division of assets is essential.
  • Emotional Stress: Then, there is the emotional element. Divorce is nearly universally difficult and painful, but a golden years divorce may bring out other emotions. These divorces can be traumatic to grown children, adding a twist to the impact of divorce on children. Divorcing couples over 60 often feel ashamed or embarrassed. Unlike 30- and 40-somethings who are divorcing, you may find yourself without a peer group. Worse, lifelong friendships can be at risk, as couples who have grown with you through the years struggle to deal with the “division of friendship.” Divorce at this stage of life takes different emotional tolls””and resources for you may not be as readily apparent. It’s wise to find a confidant””a therapist, support group, or other relationship””to help you through the emotional upheaval.


Divorce is different in the Golden Years. Impending retirements, medical needs and benefits, substantially larger assets, and emotional challenges less “researched” by experts in the field all bring a unique set of challenges. Financial planners, therapists, accountants, and a good attorney can be invaluable to you as you navigate the additional complexities of an already trying time in what you might have envisioned were the “Golden Years.”

When Divorce Means Selling Your House

Every once in a while, I hear someone comment that the Denver housing market isn’t suffering as much as other states.

That may very well be, but with single-family home sales dropping an average of 19.6% since last year and median home sales prices down 3.4%, I have also seen how hard it can be for divorcing couples to sell their home for their asking amount.

For that matter, it can be hard for Denver couples to sell their home in a timely manner at all.

Selling a house can take a long time””sometimes months or even more than a year. As of May 2011, the average length of time that a single-family home stayed on the market before being sold was about three and a half months””a month and a half longer than this time last year. That number may also rise depending on the price of your house. The more expensive your home’s listing price, the longer it may take to sell. A house that you owned with your spouse can rapidly become an albatross around your neck if you are still paying mortgage on a relationship that has ended.

So what do you do if you want to move forward with your divorce sooner rather than later, but your house isn’t selling immediately?

  1. Transfer mortgage over to one person’s name ”“ If one of you can afford to pay for the mortgage, you can refinance the house into that person’s name. Pro: Reduces some urgency, giving you more time to sell the house. Con: Requires legal and financial paperwork as well as negotiation for a fair and equitable buy-out.
  2. Joint mortgage responsibility ”“ During the process of your divorce, you can determine a fair division of the mortgage so that both parties remain responsible for the house payments. Pros: The entire mortgage payment will not fall solely onto one person. Con: Your finances and obligations will be tied to your ex until the house sells””potentially long after the divorce has been finalized.
  3. Consider short sale ”“ A short sale is essentially selling your house very quickly for less than the mortgage amount. It requires an agreement with your lender and is frequently easier to accomplish if the couple has good credit. Pro: Enables you to break ties with your (soon-to-be-former) spouse in a quick manner, without defaulting on your loan. Con: House will sell faster, but neither of you will make money from the sale. Research has also proven that short sales may be just as damaging to your credit as a foreclosure. Consider this option carefully.


I know that a house””or any jointly owned land or property””can be one of the biggest challenges in any divorce, outside of children. While Colorado’s housing market has fared better than some, it is still slow, and selling your house can be both an expensive and drawn-out process.

While it may seem overwhelming or painful to deal with right now””as you are eager to start the next phase of your life””the decisions you make regarding your joint property now will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Each individual and couple has different needs and obstacles to face when selling your house, so there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong path to choose. Hopefully the information I have provided has left you with the comfort that it’s not hopeless, and there are options available to you.

Protecting Your Assets During Divorce: What Every Coloradoan Needs to Know

During your marriage, you were collaboratively building your nest egg for the future. But in a divorce, what happens to your retirement funds, your home, and your debts?

Dividing assets is one of the primary stressors in any divorce. If you’re beginning the divorce process, what do you need to know to protect yourself and secure an equitable share of assets?

Below, we’ve answered four of the most commonly asked questions about property and asset division.

How is “equitable” division of property decided?

In Colorado, “marital property” must be divided equitably, but that doesn’t always mean your assets will be divided equally. Generally, marital property is any property that is acquired during the marriage, unless the property is acquired by gift or inheritance.

The division of marital property is generally a two-step process. First, it must be determined what constitutes marital property. Once that’s defined and valued, that marital property must be divided equitably. To determine what is equitable, the Court will look at all relevant factors including:

  • Contributions of each spouse to that joint property;
  • Economic circumstances of each spouse;
  • Value of property set apart to each spouse; and
  • Any increase, decrease, or depletion in the value of any separate property during the marriage.

Your lawyer and an accountant can help you answer some of these questions proactively during your divorce proceedings, providing comprehensive checklists and worksheets to evaluate asset values and contributions based on economic circumstances and direct inputs.

What happens to my 401K or employer-sponsored retirement funds?

If you and your spouse have employer sponsored retirement accounts such as a 401K or SEP, these assets may be considered marital property, and your spouse may be entitled to a portion of those retirement funds.

The division of an employer-sponsored retirement account is complicated because of rules and requirements placed on employers for management of those funds. To divide assets in an employer-sponsored retirement fund, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is usually required by the company to effectuate a transfer of those funds, in part to avoid adverse tax consequences.

Your 401K distribution through the divorce process is not subject to your 401K provider’s early withdrawal fee, if the withdrawal is managed and documented correctly. To avoid problems down the road, make sure that the documents required by your company for division of these assets are approved by the company before they are entered as Court Orders.

What happens to our house?

If you and your spouse own a home together, your house is considered marital property and its value””the proceeds secured from selling it””are divided. But remember, so is the debt associated with the home. Particularly in today’s housing market where sales are sluggish and values are dropping, your house as property””and its ultimate division””will be subject to a variety of factors, including joint mortgage ownership, difficulty in selling, one party not wanting to sell, the presence of children, and conflict over what should be done with the house during and after the divorce.

How are debts split?

Like your assets, debts incurred during the marriage are considered marital property. The first step you should take is to find out exactly what your debts are. You may know exactly how much you owe in debt, but if there is any possibility your spouse has spent money you are unaware of, your first course of action should be to get a credit report. This will identify any and all debt taken out in your name.

Once you are aware of what debt you carry under your name, the next step is to stop taking out additional debt. Discuss with your spouse the best course of action for stopping any spending on these accounts. As mentioned above, debts incurred during the marriage are marital property, and as such, will be split equitably. Who ultimately becomes responsible for which debt will be considered when the court decides an equitable allocation of your assets.


The division of marital property can be complex””particularly if you have a house, retirement funds, or debt. Speaking with a lawyer can help you secure a fair division of assets and liabilities. In some cases, you may also want to consult with additional experts””including accountants and financial advisors who specialize in divorce issues””to properly advise on issues related to your joint assets.