What impact will a domestic violence allegation have on my relationship with my kids?

As stated above, if your spouse has received a civil protection order against you, this order can make such tasks like discussing parenting issues and having pick-ups and drop offs very difficult. Special provisions will often have to be negotiated so the parties can continue to co-parent. Additionally, when the judge is considering the best interests of the child in determining parenting time, the judge must give consideration to the child’s physical, emotional and mental needs. Thus, if domestic violence is proven the court must take that into account and make all attempts to ensure the child’s safety and emotional well being are protected. This could result the domestic violence perpetrator’s interaction with children being limited and monitored.

Therefore, if you have been accused of or found to have committed domestic violence, it is important to contact an attorney immediately so that you can ensure the issue is addressed as fairly as possible before a family court.

Can I get divorced without an attorney?

Colorado law certainly allows and even provides some assistance for people who represent themselves in a divorce. However, despite the forms available on the court website: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/SubCategory.cfm?Category=Divorce, and the minimal assistance some county courts provide, it does require a significant amount of time and effort to educate yourself, fill out forms properly, and keep track of the required court deadlines and appearances. Thus, pursuing your own divorce is something you should consider very carefully. Here are a few things to consider:


  • Is this a contested divorce?
  • Do you have a small or simple martial estate? In other words are your debts and assets easily defined and can they be easily divided?
  • Do you have relatively equal incomes or are not seeking maintenance? The ideal situation would be relatively equal incomes, so maintenance is not an issue, or, if there is a disparity in incomes, there are no issues of underemployment, hidden income, or inability to work, as these are often highly contentious and involve extensive evidentiary proof.
  • Do you have children? You can get a divorce on your own even if you have children, however, experience in this field has taught us that issues involving children are usually too complex for parties to negotiate purely on their own and this often devolves into fighting that ends up costing the parties, more time, money and grief in the end.
  • Do you live in Colorado? If you live outside the state there are additional steps you’ll need to take and it can be very helpful to have a local attorney handling your case for you.


If you have any questions about these considerations, or would like to discuss whether you should pursue a case on your own without an attorney please feel free to contact our office and schedule a consultation with one of Smith, Shellenberger, and Salazar’s experienced attorneys.


We are pleased to announce that Lisa R. Shellenberger of Smith Shellenberger and Salazar, LLC has been selected to be part of the committee that will create the third specialized ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) Court in the United States. The new ICWA Court will be established in Denver County Juvenile Court starting on January of 2017. The only other two specialized ICWA courts in the United States are Edelman Children’s Court in Los Angeles, California, and the Duluth Courthouse in Duluth, Minnesota.

Spearheading this ambitious project is the venerable Judge Donna Schmalberger in conjunction with a committee of ICWA scholars such as Nikki Borchardt Campbell, Executive Director of the National American Indian Court Judges Association, the Casey Family Programs Foundation, and attorney Lisa R. Shellenberger of Smith, Shellenberger and Salazar, LLC., a firm specializing in Native American law and tribal issues. The committee is in contact with and is working in conjunction with their counterparts in Los Angeles and Duluth to ensure the success of this project.

The new ICWA Court is being established to clear the confusion that some attorneys, judges, and judicial officers may have regarding ICWA cases, which are a specialize subset of Dependency & Neglect cases involving Indian Tribes and Indian children. The purpose of the ICWA Court is to streamline the ICWA process by establish clear policies and procedures governing ICWA cases.

We are honored that partner Lisa R. Shellenberger has been personally chosen by Judge Schmalberger as a member of the committee establishing Colorado’s inaugural ICWA Court. Partner Lisa R. Shellenberger has litigated ICWA cases on behalf of tribes and Native Americans for many years and is regarded by her peers as an expert in ICWA related issues. She is excited about sharing her experience and knowledge with the committee and is committed to ensuring that the new Denver ICWA Court is a success.

Initial Training for the ICWA Court for Judicial Staff and Officers is anticipated to begin on Thursday, October 27, 2016 with a half-day training aimed at regular participants in ICWA court such as attorneys, caseworkers, GALs (Guardian Ad Litems), and CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates). This will be followed by a longer full-day training on Friday, October 28, 2016.

What if my spouse an I agree on a division of parental responsibilities?

If you and your spouse are able to agree on a division of parental responsibilities that is fantastic! You have just saved your selves and your children a great deal of conflict, and created an environment that will hopefully lead to an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse that allows you both to co-parent your children. However, any agreement will still be reviewed by the court, and the court will still have to make a determination that that agreement is in the best interests of the children.

Further, remember that these agreements are by law somewhat difficult to modify, so you want an agreement that hopefully contemplates potential future conflict and provides for resolution of that conflict. Therefore, even if you and your spouse have reached an agreement, it is a good idea to consult an attorney before submitting anything to the court. If you have questions about your parenting plan, please contact our office to set up a consultation with an attorney.