Take the time to familiarize yourself with the information below about family law and what our family lawyers in Colorado Springs at Maceau Law can do for you:
You not only want what’s fair and right for you and your family, but you also want to get through a family legal issue as quickly and inexpensively as possible. At the same time, you don’t want to make mistakes or cut corners which could lead to a compromised legal outcome for you. And that’s why you should learn as much as you can about family law, but sometimes it can seem quite overwhelming.
Family law includes a wide range of topics involving visitation rights, child support, child custody, divorce, domestic violence, adoption, property division, prenuptial agreements and spousal support arrangements. A family lawyer is a lawyer who specializes in these issues helping families as they go through these difficult and wonderful times of life.
A good family lawyer knows the details of family law procedures. They should be able to tidy up all the details in order to best assure you receive an optimal outcome.
And a good family lawyer not only knows the law well, they also pay close attention to you and your personal needs. You should never feel intimidated or confused. It’s your life —you’re the one who lives with the results! Your attorney should be doing everything possible to make you feel at-ease, informed, and prioritized.
VIDEO: What a Family Lawyer in Colorado Springs at Maceau Law Can Do for You
In the video below, Colorado Springs family lawyer, Gregory A. Maceau, Esq., explains what family law is, when to hire an attorney, and what you can expect when you hire Maceau Law for a family law situation you may be dealing with.
What Is Family Law?
Family law is the field of law that encompasses all legal issues pertaining to families. Many jurisdictions within the United States find their family courts are the most crowded dockets. The following are common issues that fall under family law:
- Abuse cases: Any cases that pertain to child abuse or neglect.
- Adoption cases: In some instances, these cases could include the termination of parental rights. In most cases, it is simply handling the process of an adoption.
- Divorce cases: A divorced case will often involve child support, child custody, alimony and paternity issues. In addition, the division of assets and liabilities is often addressed during a divorce proceeding.
- Elder law: These laws exist to establish someone’s long-term life plan for their possessions and investments. This can include estate planning, trusts, guardianship, power of attorney, end-of-life planning, retirement planning and protection against elder abuse.
More details about family law
The following are more detailed explanations of the above situations:
According to childrensdefense.org, over 750,000 children are abused or neglected every 42 seconds. However, many cases go unreported. In 2009, there were 751,049 children who were reported as neglected or abused. In fact, child neglect or abuse is the leading reasons families and children are brought to the attention of the child welfare system. When abuse is discovered, the children are usually moved into the state foster care program. Child abuse and neglect is considered a crime and is tried as such.
Adoption cases vary depending on what types of adoptions are involved. For example, domestic adoptions will entail different aspects than an international adoption. However, almost all cases will benefit from an attorney’s expertise.
In divorce proceedings, an attorney will represent one spouse and fight for their interests in regards to the division of finances, possessions and debts. In addition, any alimony, child support, child custody or visitation rights that need establishing are often discussed during a divorce proceeding.
Having an attorney create an estate plan will ensure there are no misunderstandings as to how someone’s possessions or investments should be handled once they pass away. Many families end up in bitter disagreements over who should get what after a loved one has died. A great estate plan will prevent this problem. Elder law also involves end-of-life planning including a person’s preferences when it comes to their funeral, and in some cases, it gives a loved on power of attorney to act on the behalf of an individual when they become unable to care for themselves mentally or physically.
Positive aspects of family law:
Many attorneys appreciate working in the family law field because they feel it gives them the opportunity to help individuals through very stressful life experiences. Consequently, it is one of the most rewarding areas of law in which to work.
What does a good family law attorney need to know?
The following areas highlights the laws in which a family law attorney must be knowledgeable:
- Insurance law.
- Tort law.
- Criminal law.
- Constitutional law: For example, full faith, credit and due process laws.
- Agency law.
- Laws relating to trusts and wills.
- Common law and venue statutes.
- Property laws.
- Laws pertaining to small businesses.
- Real estate laws.
- Creditor and debtor laws.
- Bankruptcy rules and code.
- Tax laws: For example, gift, estate, income and general tax law.
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that around 41 percent of all first marriages end in divorce. The percentage rises to 60 percent for second marriages and to an astounding 73 percent for third. Because divorce is so prevalent, child support issues are commonplace and are sometimes a matter of contention between separating parents.
What is child support?
Child support is the terminology used to describe the periodic or ongoing financial payments made by one parent to the other to benefit the child following the termination of a marriage. If parents have joint custody, the parent with the higher income will typically be required to pay child support to the other parent. Child support laws are based on the belief that both parents should be financially responsible for the support of their child even if the child does not reside with both parents.
How long does child support have to be paid?
Most courts require parents pay child support until the child has reached adulthood, becomes active in the military or until the court declares the child emancipated. In some cases, child support payments are required past childhood. However, these cases usually involve special needs children.
Child support can be terminated when:
Courts can legally terminate financial responsibilities if both parents agree there is no need to financially support the child. Financial obligations are also revoked if the child is adopted and the parent gives us their parental rights.
How is child support determined?
Child support is usually arranged during the dissolution of marriage, an annulment, a marital separation or a divorce. In most cases, the non-custodial parent pays child support. Each state has its own guidelines regarding the amount of child support that should be paid. A judge typically determines the final amount. Child support is most often discussed when child custody is being determined.
What happens when parents have joint custody?
When parents have joint custody of a child, determining who pays what in regards to child support can become complicated. Two factors are considered when setting up child support when parents have joint custody:
- The percentage of income the parent contributed: This is in regards to the amount that each parent contributed to the couple’s joint income before they became separated. When one parent has contributed a higher percentage, they will likely pay more towards child support.
- Which parent has more time with the child: Another factor in determining who pays child support in a joint custody situation is who physically has the child more often. When a child resides with one parent more than the other, the other parent will usually be required to pay child support to help with the financial burdens associated with caring for a child.
How are child support payment amounts determined?
There are many factors that go into determining the proper amount for child support in each case. However, the following are factors that are always considered when determining child support amounts:
- The parent’s government retirement or private retirement benefits.
- The parent’s pensions.
- The parent’s veteran’s benefits.
- The parent’s wages or self-employement earnings including bonuses and tips.
- Any workers’ compensation, social security benefits or disability payments a parent may receive.
Additional factors that can affect child support allocation:
- The income of the parent who is paying child support:
The more a parent earns, the more he or she is required to pay in child support. Moreover, courts recognize financial hardships and understand the parent’s need to provide for their own needs in addition to helping support a child.
- Quality of life experienced:
The court will examine the living conditions the child was used to before the marriage was dissolved. If the standard of living was high, the court will require the parent responsible for child support help maintain that standard of living. This is required to prevent the child from experiencing a vast shift in their standard of living and to keep their life more normal.
- The expenses associated with raising a child:
The court determines how expensive it is to raise a child in the particular city or state in which the child resides. In some cities, the cost of living is substantially more than in others, so this is in important factor to consider when determining child support amounts.
- Specific needs of the child:
When a child has special needs because they are either mentally or physically disabled, a judge takes this fact into consideration when setting child support amounts.
- The financial resources and income of the custodial parent:
A judge also determines the financial resources of the parent who has custody of the child when determining child support amounts. When the custodial parent has a good income and a high personal net worth, the non-custodial parent will not have to pay as much child support as they otherwise would have.
When it comes to child custody laws, both parents have equal rights as far as the federal law is concerned. However, the state in which the parents reside will make the ultimate decision in regards to child custody. The court will take various factors into account when determining child custody in a case. They are as follows:
- Each parent’s physical and mental health.
- The child’s mental and physical health along with their age and sex.
- Each parent’s lifestyle and social factors: This includes factors such as if the parent is a smoker or has been abusive to the child in the past.
- The child’s preference if they 12 or older.
- The possible impact changing living arrangements would have on the affected child.
- The child’s current lifestyle including school, home, community or church life.
- The parent’s ability to provide the child with adequate medical care, shelter, food and clothing.
- The emotional bond between the child and parent.
- A child’s siblings: Usually siblings remain together with one parent. However, in some instances, they are split up. Regardless of the outcome, the court does consider the child’s siblings when awarding custody.
When the above factors favor one parent over the other, the courts typically award custody to that parent. The overall goal is to determine which parent will give the child the best and most stable home environment. Which parent should be awarded custody is sometimes determined via a child custody evaluation.
What is a child custody evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is a report drafted by a neutral professional about each child and each parent. This evaluation includes information from counselors, doctors, teachers and other people who have regular contact with the children. A recommendation is made to the court after this process has been completed as to which parent should be awarded custody.
Do courts award custody to mothers more than fathers?
In past years, most states awarded custody of tender aged children, meaning those who are 5 and under, to the mother. However, this ruling is no longer a foregone conclusion. All states require that a mother and father be equally evaluated to determine which parent best meets the child’s needs.
In many divorce cases, the two parents agree for the mother to have custody of the child with the father having reasonable visitation rights. This happens for numerous reasons. One reason that parents agree to this arrangement is the mother tends to understand their child’s daily needs better. However, that is not always true. In addition, mothers are usually more tenacious when fighting for custody of their children than fathers.
Most family courts give preference to the parent who can demonstrate that he or she was the child’s primary caretaker. The following are factors that indicate a parent is a primary caretaker:
- The parent educates, disciplines or guides the child in most matters.
- The parent assists the child with homework on a fairly regular basis.
- The parent transports the child to school or makes sure they get to school via bus or other means.
- The parent arranges the child’s extracurricular activities and oversees their social interactions.
- The parent makes sure the child has regular dental visits and medical care when needed.
- The parent cleans and purchases the child’s clothing.
- The parent grooms, dresses and baths the child.
- The parent prepares the child’s meals.
Is custody always awarded to just one parent?
Custody is not always given to just one parent. There is also a joint custody option that gives both parents custody. There are three main types of joint custody, and they are as follows:
- Joint legal and joint physical custody.
- Joint legal custody: This means the parents share the responsibility of making religious, education and medical decisions for the child.
- Joint physical custody: This means the child spends equal time with each parent.
Of course, child custody cases can differ from state to state. For example, in New Hampshire and New Mexico, courts are required to award joint custody unless doing so would be to the detriment of the child.
The process of filing for child custody:
The process of obtaining custody of a child often begins with a child custody hearing. This hearing is held if the parents have a disagreement as to which of them should have custody of the child. Each parent will be able to present their case by sharing their testimony. Sharing their testimony gives parents the ability to share with the court why they feel they should be awarded custody. Evidence is presented in some cases. In cases where abuse is present, photos showing evidence of the abuse are often shown to reveal the potential harm a child may experience if custody is awarded to the abusing parent. Witnesses are also allowed to speak on the behalf of each party.
When a couple determines divorce is imminent, their child’s custody can be one of the most contested aspects of the process. The above information highlights some of the ways that child custody laws enable parents to share child custody or keeps children away from parents that should never have custody.
What to Look for in a Family Law Attorney
One of the most important characteristics an attorney who practices in family law should have is gentleness and understanding. Family law often involves emotionally trying circumstances, and a good family law attorney should deal with a client in a gentle manner.
Ability to remain calm: A good family law attorney will have the ability to remain calm regardless of the stress that sometimes surrounds a case.
Fight for their client: A good family law attorney will keep their client’s best interests in mind at all times and represent them well while continuing to keep in mind other’s needs. This is especially needed when cases involve children.
What does filing a case under family law cost?
The cost of each case will vary greatly depending on the situation. For that reason, it is very difficult to place a dollar amount of all family law cases. Most cases will involve attorney’s fees and court costs. However, in cases that involve adoptions, there are also adoption fees to consider. In most cases, when dealing with elder cases, there is no need to go to court. For that reason, the expense for that type of case will be much less than that of a divorce or custody case.
Why hire a family lawyer for adoption issues?
Adoptions can become quite complicated. Families seeking to adopt benefit from a family lawyer’s expertise as they deal with the various issues that arise when finalizing an adoption. Each adoption agency and state has differing demands when it comes to adoption. Therefore, hiring specialists who understand all aspects makes the completion of a successful adoption more feasible. Family lawyers will often times meet with the adoptive parents and birth parents before the adoption process as a means of addressing any potential problems before they arise. Having a family lawyer on board for the adoption process can benefit both parties as they go through the emotional experience of either giving up a child or gaining one.
Why hire a lawyer for the creation of premarital agreements?
It is a fact that more than half of marriages end in divorce. Because of this fact, obtaining a premarital agreement is wise and is often recommended by family lawyers. A well constructed premarital agreement will protect assets possessed by one party such as a family business or inheritance. No one should attempt to create their own premarital agreement without the expertise of a family lawyer. Because premarital agreements are often challenged in court after a divorce, having an experienced lawyer create the agreement is imperative. Family lawyers will know what the state law requirements are and what other aspects should be included in the agreement. In many cases, lawyers who specialize in divorce are the best at preparing premarital agreements. After all, they understand what will hold up in court after a divorce and what will not.
Why hire a family lawyer for divorce proceedings and child custody hearings?
Divorce proceedings can become very complicated. This is especially true when a couple is not in agreement as to who gets what when it comes to assets and debts. In addition, child custody, child support, visitation rights and alimony all come into play during a divorce. Therefore, hiring an experienced family lawyer is imperative when dealing with the aforementioned issues. A parent who desires greater visitation rights or even joint custody and is being denied by the other parent often needs the help of a family lawyer in order to obtain the outcome they desire. Some situations pertaining to child custody reach even farther than divorce law and include possible child abuse allegations resulting in custody being awarded to grandparents or the state. Any issue dealing with the well being of a child deserves the benefit of a family lawyer’s experience.
In addition to cases pertaining to a child’s well being, a family lawyer is also imperative when it comes to cases pertaining to domestic violence. When one party is being abused and is fearful of their life, they require the help of a lawyer to ensure their safety. A case must be put together that will lead to an arrest of the abuser and the protection of the party being abused.
What to look for in a family lawyer:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts careers in the law field to increase by 10 percent from the year 2010 to the year 2020. Because family law is a very popular area of law to practice, it only stands to reason that there are many family lawyers from which to choose. Therefore, knowing what to look for in a good family lawyer is imperative. The following are some aspects to look for in a family lawyer:
- Experience: Above all else, a family lawyer must have extensive experience in order to be effective. In addition, finding one that specializes in the specific type of case a client is facing is imperative. For example, lawyers that are experienced in dealing with divorce are better than those who oversee adoptions when dealing with divorce proceedings. Therefore, acquiring a record of a lawyer’s past cases is a great idea.
- Success: Another important aspect of a good family lawyer is a high success rate. Potential clients should ask for the percentage of victories a lawyer has obtained in correlation to defeats. This will reveal a lawyer’s ability to win a case.
- Cost: Budget restrictions often have a great effect on the lawyer a client hires. When budget is an issue, than determining the overall cost of a certain lawyer’s services is imperative. The cost of hiring a family lawyer will vary based on the case at hand and the location of the case.
- Compassion: A hardened lawyer who shows no compassion will not make a woman dealing with domestic abuse feel very safe. Therefore, finding a lawyer that is compassionate and passionate about their client’s rights is important. After all, the issues dealt with by family lawyers are often times personal and sometimes tragic. For that reason, a keen sense of empathy must be shown by a good family lawyer. However, clients also appreciate a realistic view of their case. Thankfully, there are tactful ways to communicate the reality of issues without being dismissive of a client’s concerns.
The area of family law is vast. Those who are dealing with issues applicable to family law must procure the services of a highly skilled family lawyer to obtain success in and out of the courtroom.
Hire a Top Family Lawyer in the Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Castle Rock Areas
Make you get what’s fair to you and your family. At Maceau Law, we take the time to listen to you and properly represent you in a court of law. We don’t treat you like another number or try to rush you through the process which could compromise your outcome. Call us now at 719-633-2222 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation in-person over the phone with one of our Colorado Springs attorneys. All information is kept strictly private.