It’s difficult to think at all in those circumstances, but your focus should narrow down to your kids and your money. Make sure you have access to your bank accounts and credit cards, and consider putting some money aside. Many men plan ahead and move money around before they announce they want a divorce, so pay attention to the signs. Don’t leave the home, and especially keep the kids there and continue their lives as close to the same as you possibly can. (Of course, if there is physical abuse, leave and get somewhere safe.)
What should a woman consider when choosing a divorce attorney?
It’s important to get someone who will fight for you and your kids. There are many attorneys who can guide you through the court and paperwork process, and if there are no real issues between you and your soon-to-be-ex, that might be sufficient for you. But if there are real issues about parenting and money, it’s essential to have someone strong on your side. Regardless of what he says, it’s not “being nasty”.
What can a client do to best assist you in doing your job as her divorce attorney?
First and foremost, tell me everything. I am your advocate, and everything we share is confidential, so I need to know the whole story, including your fears and challenges. That way I can work with you to get you to the best possible result for you. Also, pay attention to the money. Many women might handle the household budget, but have no real understanding of their spouses’ business interests, assets or debts. Thirdly, be responsive and proactive. We’re partners in this situation, and avoiding things is generally a bad idea.
What do you find is the most common battle between high conflict couples?
It’s all about control. For many couples, the control is manifested through parenting time with kids, and with the money. So small things become large issues (like Mom buying a dog for the kids after Dad leaves). Men often rely on their job/business and its success as their main identity. When money and assets become issues, they feel threatened. For women, their identity as their kids’ mom is often their core value. Suggesting they give up time with their kids becomes a threat to them.
What would you say to a woman that was insisting on having her day in court?
Sometimes, having your day in court is very important. Prior to a trial or hearing, I would lay out all the options, and the likely risks or outcomes of those options, for the client, as well as the cost associated with each option. It’s the client’s choice where we go. For some clients, even though they know a court is likely to rule more towards a 50/50 parenting plan, it’s really important to her to lay out why that is not a good idea for the kids. If she understands the likely outcome, and the cost, and she wants to go forward, that is her right.
What advice would you give a client that was being bullied, threatened or coerced by her husband?
If any of the behavior is physical, it is imperative that I help her get out of his range. Protection orders can also apply to phone calls, emails and text messages, if that’s how he’s using threats or harassment. Having a strong advocate by your side is also extremely important, and can be extremely empowering for women. When you have an attorney, you can request that all communications go through me, or through a parenting coordinator/decision-maker. There are several options to protect clients from that kind of behavior, and I never back down to a bully!
Under what circumstances would a judge grant sole physical and legal custody to a parent?
In Colorado, there is a real presumption among most judges that the best interests of the child mean significant parenting time with both parents. The statute which applies to the denial of parenting time to a parent (Colorado does not use the word custody anymore), refers to physical and emotional endangerment to the child. This is a high standard. Usually, we only see denial of parenting time when there has been ongoing abuse of the child or very severe mental or emotional impairment of the parent.
What should a woman do if her attorney does not respond to telephone messages or emails?
I’m a big believer in showing up. If you’re in the lobby, they really can’t avoid you!! Otherwise, start interviewing other attorneys. I get several clients who have not had good experiences with other attorneys, especially regarding responsiveness. Don’t let it go on too long, because there may be deadlines or other time-sensitive issues with your case that could jeopardize you. Find someone else as soon as possible, and then clearly explain your expectations as to responsiveness and communication.
How often do you see cases of Manimony?
Often, actually. In Colorado, maintenance (the word “alimony” is not used anymore) is solely a function of resources. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, a new statute sets forth the findings the court must enter, based on each party’s needs, assets, income and ability to work, and then uses a formula based on the marital incomes and the years of the marriage to determine maintenance. Higher income women need to know about this situation, because I have seen men leave their jobs and “dumb down” their careers in order to be eligible for “man”tenance.
What advice would you give a woman regarding social media and texting during the divorce process?
I have a sign on my desk that says “The situation called for serious thought, but I texted anyway.” Stay off social media. If you need to vent or let a loved one really in on it, send a personal email or message. Do not post for all the world to see. Do not post on his page, or his GF’s page. Carefully manage your Facebook friending or LinkedIn circle. This is the time to circle the wagons, as far as social media is concerned. As for texting, I use printed out texts and emails all the time in trial. Be very careful what you send to your ex, or anyone else that might be involved. (No “SCREAMING” at the GF.)
Is there any other advice you would like to give women who are just beginning the divorce process?
Believe in yourself. You may feel very much like you’ve been run over by a truck, but you do deserve a good life, and a strong advocate for you. It is not bitchy or mean to protect yourself, benefit from what you’ve worked for throughout the marriage, and be in a position to take care of yourself going forward.
Kelly Ann Breuer
Hackstaff Law Group, LLC, 1601 Blake St., Suite 310, Denver, CO 80202
Years in Practice: 10+
Is there anything else that you would like potential clients to know about you?
I am an experienced litigator who returned to practice two years ago after my own contentious divorce. I was home with my kids for 10+ years. I very much understand the emotional devastation of divorce for women, and bring my empathy and passion to my practice.