Tips for Co-Parenting Over Summer Break
Summer is basically here for Colorado—which means school is out and kids’ schedules are about to change. For separated or newly divorced parents, summer can bring added quality time spent with the kids, but also worry and anxiety as parents juggle modified schedules, summer vacations, and visits from out-of-town family and friends.

Here are a few tips to make adjusting to summer schedules easier for you and your ex:

Review your co-parenting plan. When you divorced, you may have already created a parenting plan that includes summer vacation. Every summer brings changes to schedules, from camps and summer vacations to visits from out of town friends and relatives. All can impact your co-parenting plan. Further, summer schedules for children can change a parent’s schedule, with camps or other care arrangements starting or ending at different times. Review your parenting plan and adjust for summer. When are vacations scheduled? Are grandparents visiting? Where might scheduling conflicts arise and what are backup plans for childcare then?
Communicate. Whether you want to take your child on your vacation or enroll him or her in a summer camp, talk with your ex as soon as possible. Check that your plans and your ex’s plans are compatible. If they are not, start discussing necessary changes early. Do not let yourself be caught off guard once you have already made plans.
Be detailed. Create a summer plan. Who has your children when? Are you alternating weeks or weekends? Will either of you have your child with you for a longer period of time during the summer? How about who will be picking up your children after summer care and when? Delineate it all on paper (or on the computer, as the case may be).
Talk to your kids. Older children will likely have some input over summer schedules, so be sure and engage them early as plans for the summer begin to solidify. What activities will they be involved in over the summer? Will they attend summer camp, daycare or a combination of both? Be sure and include your children in conversations about the impact of summer schedule changes and what it might mean to co-parenting arrangements.
Share costs. Summer vacations and events all cost money. Review your separation agreement. Does your child support include extra summer activities, such as daycare? If not, be ready to talk to your ex about sharing the costs of unforeseen joint expenses.
Do not stick your kids in the middle. Summer vacation is a time of fun and relaxation for your children. Do not make them choose between you and your ex. You can have plenty of fun planned without making it a competition between you and your ex.

One of the most challenging parts of co-parenting is cooperation. It is also the most important part. By planning and communicating with your ex in a civil and cooperative manner as summer schedules emerge, you can make the school break fun and stress-free for both your children and yourself.
What Is A QDRO?
By Divorce Matters Attorney Ashley Balicki

QDRO stands for (Qualified Domestic Relations Order). This is an Order that can be issued by the Court in a domestic case to transfer funds from one ERISA qualified retirement account to another without any of the normal penalties. The most common accounts that are divided pursuant to a QDRO are 401(k), 403(b), and pensions. IRAs do not need to be divided with a QDRO. 

Important facts:
  • A QDRO needs to be drafted and filed with the Court so that a judge can sign it before any accounts can be divided.
  • While not many attorneys in Colorado draft QDROs, this is a service that I provide. I work with the Plan Administrator to get a QDRO drafted and pre-approved before sending it to the Court to streamline the process.
  • There are no penalties involved when funds are transferred through a QDRO as they normally would be for any other type of withdrawal or transfer.
  • There are no tax implications when funds are transferred from one retirement account to another through a QDRO. However, if a lump sum cash payout is taken then the party receiving same generally has to pay income taxes on it. 
  • Any Permanent Order or Separation Agreement needs to specify whether any accounts are to be divided pursuant to a QDRO and have specific language regarding how such accounts are to be divided.
  • A QDRO can also sometime be used to obtain past due child support.

If you have questions about QDROs, please feel free to contact me here.
Are Trusts Considered Marital Property In Divorce?
Written by Divorce Matters Attorney Justin Oliver

Parties going through a divorce often wonder how their property will be divided between themselves and their soon-to-be ex-spouse. Colorado is an equitable distribution state which means courts will attempt to divide marital property, including both assets and debts, fairly, but not necessarily equally. C.R.S. 14-10-113 provides guidance on the process and considerations courts use to determine what is a fair and equitable division of property in your case.  

When determining what property is divisible in a divorce, a court must first decide whether an interest can be characterized as “property”, and then whether the property is separate or marital. Martial property will be divided amongst the parties equitably while separate property will remain separate and cannot be divided by the courts. "Separate property" is: (a) Property acquired prior to the marriage; (b) Property acquired as a gift or as an inheritance; (c) Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties; (d) Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation; and (e) Property acquired with separate property. “Marital property" is all non-separate property acquired by either spouse after the marriage.

For example, if Wife had $50,000 in her 401(k) account prior to her marriage, but the 401(k) is worth $100,000 on the day of the divorce, then the initial $50,000 would be Wife’s separate property and the court would not have the authority to divide the original $50,000 between Husband and Wife. The remaining $50,000, however, which represents the increase in value accrued during the marriage, would be considered marital property and would be divided “equitably” between the parties. 

Before a court will attempt to characterize property as “marital” or “separate” it must first determine whether the interest in question is even “property” at all. In divorce proceedings, courts define "property" as items that have an exchangeable value which makes up a spouse’s wealth or estate. Courts consider a number of factors when determining whether an interest constitutes “property” including whether it can be sold or transferred and whether it terminates on the death of the owner. Enforceable contractual rights constitute “property” while interests that are speculative are considered expectancies and will not be classified as “property”. 

One particularly complex issue of property division in a divorce is determining whether a spouse's interest in an irrevocable trust amounts to a property interest that is eligible to be divided equitably. In determining whether a property interest exists or not, Colorado courts focus on whether the beneficiary spouse has a contractual right to enforce payment of trust funds. 

In the case of discretionary trusts, where the trustee has absolute discretion as to how much, if any, of the trusts’ funds are distributed, and where the beneficiary spouse does not hold a remainder interest in the corpus (assets or property) of the trust, then the beneficiary spouse has no contractual or enforceable right to either the income or principal of the trust. Therefore, the beneficiary spouse's interest in the trust will not likely be considered property subject to equitable division and will remain untouched by the court. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding a trust and divorce, please contact us here at Divorce Matters.
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