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  • Caitlin Callahan

Colorado is one of only a few states that recognizes common law marriage. Common law marriage is an informal, valid and legal approach to marriage. There does not need to be a formal marriage ceremony or a signed marriage license. Common law marriage only requires mutual consent (or an agreement between the two parties) and a mutual and open assumption that a marriage exists.


If either party disputes the existence of a common law marriage, the parties must have a validity of common law marriage hearing before they can get divorced. The court will need to determine if the couple held themselves out as married to their community.


Some factors that will serve as evidence of a common-law marriage include:

1. Co-habitation between the parties;

2. Having a reputation in the community as being married;

3. Having joint bank accounts;

4. Purchasing and owning property jointly;

5. Filing joint tax returns;

6. Using the same surname by both parties or by children born to the parties;

7. Social media posts referring to the other person as "spouse" or "wife/husband."


In Colorado there is no requisite time the couple needs to be together when establishing a common law marriage. As long as there is proof of the parties' intent to be married, the length of the relationship does not matter. The factors above will serve as guidelines of the parties' intent.


Once a common law marriage is established, all of the legally binding rights and benefits of a formal marriage apply, to include a potential award of spousal maintenance and division of retirement funds or other investments. All obligations of a marriage would also apply, which could include both parties' responsibility for debts incurred during the time the parties held themselves out as married.


If a common law marriage ends, the parties will have to go through a formal legal dissolution of marriage (divorce) through the court. Since a common law marriage is treated the same as a formal marriage, the same process will apply. The parties must obtain a formal divorce decree which generally includes a separation agreement and if the parties have children, a parenting plan. These documents will outline factors such as property division, debt allocation, parenting time schedules, spousal maintenance, and child support.


If you think you may or may not be common law married, we are happy to further discuss this with you.


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In February of 2022, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement equating gender-affirming care of transgender children to child abuse. This statement was echoed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott who directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to open investigations into parents who provide this care. Abbott urged teachers, doctors, and the general public to report instances of parents providing this type of care. Following this order, DFPS opened investigations into at least nine families.

In March, one of these cases came before Judge Amy Clark Meachum who issued a temporary restraining order related to the parties of that case, which was later expanded to a statewide injunction against these investigations. In this case, the plaintiffs are anonymous John and Jane Doe, parents of a transgender child who have been investigated in regards to their teenager receiving gender-affirming care. The mother, Jane Doe, is an employee of DFPS and is at risk of losing her job and has been placed on administrative leave due to the investigation. Also included in the suit is a psychologist, Megan Mooney, who states that Abbott’s order is a violation of her ethical obligations. Mooney could face civil suits if she complies with the order, or face prosecution if she does not. She has also testified to the impact that this will have on rates of depression and other mental health issues.

Paxton appealed the injunction to the Third Court of Appeals who upheld the ruling of the lower court and reinstated the statewide temporary injunction. However, in May, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that the appellate court had overstepped on procedural grounds. The Court stated that while the appellate court can reinstate an injunction to preserve the parties’ rights, the party at issue here is the parents directly involved in the suit, not all parents of transgender children in the state. The Supreme Court also issued additional restrictions on Paxton and Abbott’s order stating, ​​“DFPS’s preliminary authority to investigate allegations does not entail the ultimate authority to interfere with parents’ decisions about their children, decisions which enjoy some measure of constitutional protection whether the government agrees with them or not.”

In light of this ruling, many Texans are concerned about what this means for their children receiving medical care, and for them as parents subject to investigation. This has resulted in an increase of families considering relocation, at least temporarily, as many hospitals shut down their programs for gender-affirming care for minors and DFPS begins to investigate again.


While Texas and other conservative-leaning states may restrict access to gender-affirming care, state laws will continue to protect gender identity and expression in Colorado. On May 20, 2021, Colorado H.B. 21-1108 was signed into law which expanded Colorado laws on anti-discrimination to protect “all regardless of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, or ancestry” in all places of public accommodation including schools.


Colorado also contains the only comprehensive care center in the Rocky Mountain region specifically set up for gender-diverse children, adolescents and young adults- the TRUE Center for Gender Diversity at Children’s Hospital of Colorado. Their multidisciplinary team includes experts in adolescent medicine, endocrinology, art therapy, nutrition, social work, psychology and other areas. Some services they offer include puberty-blocking medications, hormone therapy, gender counseling, nutrition services, referrals to therapy and support groups and assistance with legal name and gender marker changes.


As more states begin following Texas, Colorado promises to remain a safe haven for transgendered children, adolescents and adults.

References:

https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/texas-judges-statewide-injunction-blocks-investigations-of-parents-of-transgender-kids


https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/parents-of-transgender-child-win-tro-that-blocks-texas-from-investigating-them


https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/texas-families-trans-kids-plan-flee-state-rcna23633


https://www.texastribune.org/2022/05/13/transgender-teens-child-abuse-texas/


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-13/top-texas-court-lifts-injunction-on-abbott-s-gender-care-rules

​​

https://www.childrenscolorado.org/doctors-and-departments/departments/gender-diversity-center/


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  • Devin McIlvain

What is a Civil Protection Order?

Commonly referred to as a “restraining order,” a civil protection order is an order issued by the court that prohibits the restrained person from contacting, harassing, injuring, intimidating, molesting, threatening, touching, or stalking the protected person. In Colorado, there are two types of civil protection orders: (1) Temporary Protection Orders; and (2) Permanent Protection Orders. A violation of any civil protection order is a criminal misdemeanor offense, which carries a maximum $5,000 fine and up to 18 months in jail.


What is a Temporary Protection Order?

A Temporary Protection Order is a protection order that lasts for up to 14 days- or up to one year if the parties agree to continue it. A person seeking a Temporary Protection Order, called the Petitioner or Plaintiff, will first file a motion with the Court stating that the subject of the protection order places him or her in“imminent danger.” The Court will then hold a hearing -- generally on that same day -- in which the Petitioner further explains the “imminent danger” posed by the subject of the order. Unlike with permanent protection orders, the Respondent does not have to be present for the Court to issue a temporary protection order. Upon finding that the Petitioner has proven “imminent danger,” the Court will then set a date for a permanent protection order hearing, at which the Court will determine whether it is necessary to make the temporary protection order permanent. If the Court does not issue a permanent protection order, the temporary protection will automatically expire on the date of the permanent protection order hearing.


What is a Permanent Civil Protection Order?

As the name suggests, a permanent protection order is nearly identical to the temporary protection order except that it has no expiration date and may only be obtained at the permanent protection order hearing after the Respondent/Defendant has been served with the Temporary Protection Order. At the hearing, you will need to prove the following two elements by a preponderance of the evidence:


1) “That the respondent has committed acts constituting grounds for issuance of a civil protection order” and;


2) “That unless restrained [the respondent] will continue to commit such acts or acts designed to intimidate or retaliate against the protected person.”


However, unlike the temporary protection order hearing, the restrained person will have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony as to why the protection order should not be made permanent. After hearing from both parties, the Court will then decide whether to issue a permanent protection order or terminate the temporary protection order. Permanent Civil Protection Orders in Colorado are permanent forever unless they are later modified or dismissed.


How are Civil Protection Orders Different from Criminal Protection Orders?

Generally, both civil and criminal protection orders contain similar language and result in the same consequences if violated. However, the two different protection orders differ significantly in how they are obtained and issued. Unlike the civil protection order, which requires a request from the Petitioner, the criminal protection order is issued at the Defendant’s first court appearance -- even if the alleged victim does not request it. Accordingly, the criminal protection order is also referred to as a “Mandatory Protection Order.”


While a civil protection order can be made permanent, a criminal protection order only lasts until the case is dismissed or the Defendant completes his or her sentence or probation. Because a criminal protection order will eventually expire, if you believe the danger will continue, it usually is a good idea to obtain a permanent civil protection order regardless of whether you have a Mandatory Protection Order. At Boeckx Law, we specialize in both obtaining and defending against civil protection orders. Give us a call if you need assistance.


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