Creating Healthy Boundaries After Divorce

Fence 3

When looking to set appropriate boundaries after divorce here are some things to keep in mind. Healthy boundaries can be hard to establish and to keep in place, but they will make a world of difference to you, your ex and your children. Ever changing boundaries are confusing to everyone involved.

Too much information. Neither you nor your ex is entitled to delve into each other’s personal lives. You have separate lives now and the less either of you gets involved in each other’s personal issues the less conflict you will have. It is not your business who your ex is dating, or what he/she is doing; and vice versa.

Boundary 5

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You cannot get respect if you do not give it. Communicate in an efficient and respectful way with each other. Do not blame or accuse, but inquire. Keep all communication brief to the matter at hand. Do not ask personal questions or give personal advice or criticisms. Respecting boundaries, whether the other person has established them or not, helps you keep your own boundaries and show self-respect.

Be the bigger person. This is always hard. The saying is that it takes two to tango. You do not pick the fight, and you do not engage in the fight. If the conflict escalates, you walk away until things cool down. Disengaging is always better than saying things you cannot take back later or may be sorry for if brought up in court. You are no longer married and you can always walk away from the conversation. Avoiding a conversation, however, does not make it go away. Some conversation is necessary when children are involved.Couple boundaries

Bashing not allowed. Do not bash your ex where your children can hear it or let other people do so. The same goes for friends and family. Even if you think they cannot hear you, they probably can. It creates conflict and confusion for children to hear negative things about either parent. They want their parents to love them and keep them safe. Tearing down the other parent leaves children groping for a life boat. Children feel they have to take sides and make each parent happy. It is unfair to put any child in that position. Children do not need the stress of dealing with adult issues. Protecting your children is more than just getting a divorced. It is about making sure they do not get dragged into anyone’s baggage.

Keep the children out of the middle. The children should not be the intermediaries and carry messages or schedules between parents. It is not the children’s responsibility to do these things and places an unfair and sometimes overwhelming burden on them. If the other parent is doing this, stay firm and communicate with them about the message/schedule, and add politely not to send such messages with the children. Sometimes communicating by email or through a message board like can be helpful in establishing these boundaries. If the behavior continues you may want to consult your attorney.

Child Tug of War

Your ex’s happiness is not your responsibility. You are divorced. It is not your job or duty to make sure your ex is happy or content. This goes with #1. If your ex is having problems with anything other than the children you do not have to fix it, give advice, or take on their problem for them. Also your ex is no longer your support. Establish a group of friends, relatives and professionals to give you needed support and advice.

Blood is thicker than water. Keeping a good working relationship with the ex in-laws is always nice. However, make sure your friendship with them is actually a friendship and not just because you were part of the family. Do not expect them to pick your side of a conflict. Your ex should not be a subject of conversation at all and they should not be contacting you to complain about either you or your ex.


Establish your own routines and home. Your home is your home. When your ex is in your home or you in his/hers, that person is a house guest. House guests should be treated as such and you need to make sure he/she understands it is not their home and they are a guest. It is not an opportunity to criticize or invade the other person’s privacy. Your ex should not expect to come into your home and “hang out” with the kids and vice versa.Boundary 1Zero tolerance for abuse. This boundary goes hand-in-hand with #2. You cannot continue to try to communicate or reason with a person who is yelling, demeaning, or belligerent to you. Feel free to say the conversation is not productive and you are going to hang up. Then hang up. Zero tolerance is exactly that – zero. After hanging up do not answer repeated calls or text messages or emails about the communication until you and your ex have had a chance to calm down. You may want to say you need an hour or a day and will get back to them about the issue. Engaging in conflict is not healthy and you need to sever that emotional tie to your ex. Keep your dignity and voice your fears and frustration to friends and not your ex. By doing this you maintain control of your emotions and yourself.

Child support/spousal maintenance. These are not gifts from your ex to you. These are ordered support payments and do not give your ex the right to criticize, comment on, or belittle you regarding your job, finances, etc. Keep your financial circumstances to yourself for your own protection. Do not beg, plead or compromise yourself where it puts you in an inferior position from your ex. If you are having trouble getting your payments, contact a lawyer or your county Child Support Enforcement Unit.

Different parenting styles. Every parent has a different style of parenting. You need to accept that your ex will not do things exactly as you do and move on. As long as the children are not in imminent danger, parents are allowed to parent their children in their individual way. Setting these boundaries with the children is also important. They should know what to expect from you for rules, discipline, etc. Just because something does not apply in your ex’s home does not mean they are not held to that standard in your home. When possible, do your best to coordinate disciplinary issues so the children do not receive conflicting messages.

Do Not Cross

Establishing healthy and consistent boundaries is difficult and takes many tries.  Do not be discouraged if it does not work immediately.  Setting boundaries takes time and reminding.  Stay firm and know that eventually these boundaries will help you establish your own peace and new life.

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for


What is the “Best Interests of the Child”?

parent-child hands

Whether it is an action for the allocation of parental responsibilities or an action for divorce, Colorado’s standard for determining parenting time, residential custody, and decision-making is called the best interests of the child. It can be found at Colorado Revised Statutes, 14-10-124. The purpose of this standard is to nurture a loving relationship between the child and both parents and to give the child frequent and continuing contact with both parents, where appropriate.

The point of this standard is to put the needs of the child above those of the parents and to accommodate those needs as much as possible given the particular circumstances. The child’s safety, physical/mental/emotional well being, and needs are given predominant consideration by the court. Consideration is also given to extenuating circumstances such as a history of domestic abuse, child neglect/abuse, convictions for sexual assault, and other crimes related to children.


Statutory factors include:

  1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;
  2. The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  4. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
  6. The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor;
  7. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
  8. The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time; and
  9. The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

Colorado Revised Statutes, 14-10-124 (1.5).


As you can see there is no presumption that a mother is more qualified to care for the child more than a father. Although some allowances are made if the child is an infant, it certainly depends on the facts of the individual case. Factors which weigh in the Court’s decision are claims of child abuse/neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault (especially as applied to children who are conceived as a result of that assault). This can also affect decision-making allocation.

In decision-making, even if the above conditions exist, if the parties show they have been able to make decisions for the children together in the past the Court may be inclined to grant joint decision-making. There are also circumstances in which the Court would grant sole decision-making for the safety and and well being of the abused party and the child. See, Colorado Revised Statutes, 14-10-124 (1.5)(b).

Mother-SonMany times a Child and Family Investigator (“CFI”) or Parental Rights Evaluator
(“PRE”) is appointed by the Court to provide a neutral perspective on the situation and what is in the best interests of the children involved. The costs of a CFI or PRE vary from $2,000 to more than $10,000. After evaluation and investigation these experts file a confidential report to the Court with a summary of their findings and recommendations about the children. These reports are sealed from outside viewing, but the parties and their attorneys, if applicable, will also be given copies. Colorado Revised Statutes, 14-10-116.5 and 14-10-127.

In 2013, this statute was amended to make more specific provisions for situations involving domestic violence/abuse, child abuse/neglect, and perpetrators of sexual assault. If the Court finds there is a believable history or sufficient evidence that any of these factors exist the Court can restrict parenting time to the perpetrating party, order counseling or evaluations, enter protective orders, and other relief to provide that the victim and the children are protected while still preserving the rights of the offending parent.

Every case is different and you should always consult with an attorney about the options and your rights in any case dealing with parental responsibilities (divorce, neglect or custody cases). Foremost the Court is going to do what will protect, nurture and promote a loving relationship between every child and both of their parents. The goal is to impact the children as little as possible even though their parents are no longer together.

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for

Just You Wait Until Lil Johnny’s Twelve

An Overview of Child and Family Investigators, Child Legal Representatives and Parental Responsibilities Evaluators

custodyDivorced parents are fond of saying that at a certain age their children can go into court and “tell [the court] the truth” which will lead to changes in parenting time, decision-making, etc. The most common age they claim this can happen is when the child is twelve years old. There is no rule in Colorado on what age a child has to be to voice his/her opinion on parenting time. There is no hard and fast rule that says a court has to speak to the children. Generally children are not allowed in the courtroom during proceedings involving them and their parents. However, there are alternatives to allow their voices to be heard such as Child and Family Investigators, Child Legal Representatives, or Parental Responsibilities Evaluators.

On occasion a judge or magistrate will talk directly to a child to find out what his/her opinion is or what the child desires for an outcome. This is done on the record and out of the presence of the parents and their attorneys. These records are normally sealed and require a court order for good cause to be released. Generally, it has to be a very good reason to open these sealed records to parties. This is not a common occurrence and some judges will not allow it at all. When it does happen the children are usually teenagers and/or mature for their years.


This does not mean the judge will order what the child wants, but the judge will take the impressions and information garnered from such a conversation into account when issuing orders. Requesting a child be allowed to talk directly to the court is not something to be done lightly or without serious consideration of the pressure this puts on the child. It is not recommended that this be done with children who are very young. Having a child come to court is quite literally placing the child between the parties and smack dab in the middle of the fighting.

benefits-of-joint-custodyThere are other ways to take into account the wishes and opinions of the child. The most common way in Colorado is a Child and Family Investigator or CFI. This person is a neutral party appointed by the court, usually recommended by the attorneys in the case, to investigate all allegations and make recommendations to the court based upon their thorough investigation and the best interests of the child(ren). Barring exceptional circumstances, e.g., out of state travel for investigation, CFI fees in Colorado are capped at $2,000 with each party usually bearing one-half of the costs. These fees are due up front before an investigation begins. There are some CFI would take state assistance for those who qualify.

A CFI will speak with the parents and the child(ren) among others during the course of an investigation. The CFI files a report with the court at the end of the investigations with recommendations. A CFI is useful when there are allegations of drug/alcohol abuse by a parent or child, neglect or endangerment of a child by a parent, domestic violence, alienation of parental affections, and relocating with the child to another state. Where a CFI is not useful is where the parents simply do not get along and do not agree or communicate well. Just because one parent is unhappy is not a reason to request the appointment of a CFI.

Professional TestimonyAnother option is a Parental Responsibilities Evaluation or PRE. These are usually done by mental health professionals and can run over $10,000 and there is no cap on the expense. A PRE can ask for mental health evaluations or conduct testing if they are qualified. The PRE usually discusses issues with both parties, the child(ren) and interviews persons involved with the child. When there are issues of abuse or serious mental health issues a PRE can be helpful to the parties and the court. Again a PRE is most effective in situations which involve more than one parent being unhappy with the current situation.

On the opposite end is a Child Legal Representative or CLR. This is an attorney assigned to represent the child’s best interests which is different that representing the child’s interests. A CLR does not submit a report or testify in court. The CLR acts as an attorney at all proceedings including questioning and calling witnesses to testify. A CLR is useful in cases where there are older children such as teenagers and many times can help all parties reach a resolution outside of court. The parents are responsible for the payment of the CLR fees.

Child Tug of War

A prime consideration needs to be are you putting your child in the middle of a dispute with your ex to further your interests or your child’s. Children should not be asked to choose between parents. Although we always counsel clients not to ask their children to choose there is frequently one parent who does or who does not understand that what they are asking of the child equals making them choose between parents. Children are the innocent bystanders in divorce and custody cases. It is not their choice for their parents to divorce or dispute custody. Many times they are the casualties of these proceedings. So, yes, you can ask that Lil Johnny be allowed to talk to the court, but ask yourself if you really want to put Johnny in that position.

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for

Equitable versus Equal In Divorce


The common question some clients ask is how many divorce cases have you won. Each case is subjective and each client is unique in their needs and goals. Truly there are no winners in a divorce. It is, sometimes, a traumatic unraveling of a part of a person’s life that they cannot get back. This is compounded by the division of their belongings, major assets and the separation of debts.

Colorado is an equitable division state for all assets and debts accumulated during a marriage regardless of whose name the asset or debt is in. One thing that is different in Colorado is that any property a person has before the marriage remains their separate property unless a person deliberately co-mingles the asset with marital assets. However, any increase in the value of that separate asset during the marriage can be divided.


Equitable division of assets and debts can be confusing as most people think that means everything is divided 50/50. This is not necessarily so and depends on a variety of different factors and the specific circumstances of each case. A judge may divide assets in a way which seems unequal in order to equalize the circumstances of each party. Essentially this puts both parties on the same ground financially. It can be as simple as one person gets the marital house without buying out the other party and the other gets to keep all of his/her retirement – if it is a simple exchange of values.

equitable_mortgageIt is important to know what assets and debts you feel strongly you should keep or should be the other person’s responsibility. You need to understand that a lopsided division which may penalize one party is not necessarily going to be something a court will agree to or order. Being a “no fault” divorce state, Colorado does not necessarily take wrongdoing into account when dividing assets. Many judges do not want to hear about the string of affairs of one party because it is not deemed relevant to divide assets. There are always exceptions to this depending on circumstances. For instance if one party has a gambling problem, situations involving domestic violence and abuse or child abuse, and, sometimes, even one party spending lavish amounts on an extramarital affair to the detriment of the marital assets. This is not an exclusive list, but merely possible examples.

Dividing debts proportionate to each party’s income is also another way the Courts can resolve a case. If one party makes substantially more income than the other, that person may be given more of the marital debt. This can also help mitigate spousal maintenance in some cases by lowering the amount of output the spouse requesting maintenance has through debt division. Just because one spouse does not know the extent of the debt the other spouse has accumulated does not mean he/she will not be responsible for a portion of that debt. The rule is pretty clear in Colorado and anything accumulated during the marriage (asset or debt) is marital. Assets or debts accumulated after separation are not always marital but it depends on the circumstances of each case.

Devalued real estate balance sheet

So equitable does not mean equal division and depending on the facts of the case can be used to a client’s advantage in negotiating settlements. Every case is different and there are a myriad of different ways to separate, divide and apportion assets and debts. Consulting a lawyer before entering into any agreement can help you achieve a level of equitable division that you can be satisfied with.

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for

What Is this Thing They Call Mediation and Why Should I Do It?


In the late 90’s courts starting using mediation more and more to help parties fashion their own solutions to their cases and to lighten the amount of cases taken to trial. Whether or not you have a civil or domestic case mediation allows you to be in charge of your case and it’s outcome.

So what is mediation exactly? It is when two parties (Plaintiffs and Defendants/ Petitioner and Respondent) sit down with a neutral person who is not a part of their case nor interested in the outcome of their case. Where there are protection orders (also known as restraining orders) in place, mediation can still occur with the parties in separate rooms and agreements as to who gets to leave first, etc.

The process is confidential, unless there is information that would normally be required and exchanged between the parties as part of the case. Part of that confidentiality is that a mediator cannot be called into court to testify about the mediation session or things either party did during mediation. Mediators cannot give you legal advice and they are usually not licensed attorneys.

Mediators work to fashion between the parties a compromise. The mediator talks to each side and finds out what their ultimate desires are with regard to their case. Everyone has a wish list or what they really want the court to do for them. Mediators take those wish lists and talk to the parties to craft compromises which still meet their desires and needs as much as possible.

During mediation parties can more candidly exchange facts and figures to support why they want something. Sitting down with a neutral person to hash out the differences is sometimes the best way for each party to understand the how and why of the other party. It can lead to greater communication and understanding in divorce and custody cases.

One of the best attributes about mediation is that it allows the parties to “control their destiny” in a way that going to trial or hearing does not. Going to court can be costly and there is never a guaranteed outcome to any case. By going to trial or hearing you are giving control of the outcome to a person who does not know you, the other side, or any other individuals who may be effected by the judge or magistrate’s decision. There is a limited amount of time to present why you are there and what you want. Outcomes are entirely dependent on how that court interprets the law and what it sees in the case that is presented. Generally most people are not completely happy with the decisions of the court whether they are on the “winning” side or not. With mediation there is give and take and a chance to craft a solution that both parties can live with ultimately.

In Colorado there are a number of options for mediation. The most utilized option is the Office of Dispute Resolution ( also known as “ODR”) which operates under the Colorado court system. It is available in every county and they have a variety of mediators skilled in various different parts of the law. ODR mediation rates are very affordable usually $60/person/hour. There is also available a sliding scale or other relief if you cannot afford the costs of mediation. The majority of mediation done by ODR occur in the courthouses across the state.

There are also private mediators whose prices range from $70 – $500 per hour per person. Many of these mediators are also worth it depending on the type of case and the mediator’s expertise. In high conflict divorce cases where there are lots of assets to be divided the higher priced mediators can be more skilled in communicating the advantages and disadvantages to the parties. Going to mediation can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in legal fees. Depending on the facts of the case, an attorney can spend two to sixteen hours preparing for court. That is in addition to going to court to try the case. There are also costs for experts, exhibit copies, printing, mileage and parking among other expenses to consider. Reaching an agreement in mediation allows you to have control over the outcome and over your financial output.

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for

So You Are Officially Divorced. What Now?

Your Decree has come in and your divorce is final. So what do you do now? Here’s a checklist of things which may apply to your situation to help you get through what happens now.

Personal Care

✓ If you are feeling a sense of loss, grief or depression seek professional assistance or a support group to take care of yourself. There are lots of support groups available in your community through churches, schools, etc.

✓ Take some time for a little personal self-care. Have a massage, visit a spa (yes even the guys enjoy this), take a short vacation or weekend break.

Financial Accounts

✓ Close all joint checking & savings accounts as soon as all outstanding checks and automatic payments have cleared the bank

✓ Open new checking & savings accounts

✓ Update automatic payments taken from your accounts with new account information

✓ Change named beneficiaries of retirement accounts & life insurance policies

✓ Create new Estate Plan (Will, Trust, Health Care Surrogate/Agent, Living Will & Power of Attorney)

✓ Ensure all prior Powers’ of Attorney are revoked in writing

✓ If Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is required by your Permanent Orders, follow-up with your attorney and the Plan Administrator to ensure they are notified of the divorce and the QDRO is completed. Some plans have time restrictions that need to be followed.

✓ If there is to be a transfer of IRA funds the receiving spouse must open a qualified IRA to receive the funds and the distributing spouse must notify the financial institution to initiate the transfer

✓ Close all joint credit card accounts

✓ Change all passwords for online account access

✓ Request a final bill from your legal counsel and ensure it is paid

✓ Obtain a copy of your credit report 30 days after the final judgment to ensure that all joint accounts have been closed

✓ Close joint safe-deposit boxes & open new one in individual name


✓ Secure COBRA or other health insurance / notify employer of divorce if health insurance provided through employer

✓ Update auto, home owner & flood insurance records / secure new insurance

✓ Change beneficiaries on all life insurance, disability or other insurance policies

✓ Obtain necessary term life policies if required by your Separation Agreement or Permanent Orders

Property & Asset Records

✓ Sign documents to retitle cars, campers, boats, planes and other vehicles into individual names and file new title with DMV or other agency

✓ Begin looking into refinancing any assets as required by your Permanent Orders or Separation Agreement

✓ Record deeds transferring title to real property

✓ Notify utility companies if new name on account

✓ Ensure any funds held in escrow are transferred or returned (security deposits on rental property, utility deposits)

✓ Notify the Post Office of change of address and mail forwarding

✓ Arrange for the transfer of any personal property that must be distributed as soon as possible

Parenting Issues

✓ Update school records with name and address of both parents

✓ Update medical records with name and address of both parents

✓ Sign up for Our Family Wizard (, or Talking Parents ( or other program to manage parenting contact, children’s schedules, medical reimbursement payments, etc.

✓ Set up direct deposit or Income Withholding Order for child support. Complete papers from the Family Support Registry and return them in order to open the required Registry accounts for child support

✓ If supervised parenting time is ordered, make sure all paperwork for the chosen supervision facility/person is completed in a timely manner and returned

Name Change

✓ Update Social Security Administration

✓ Update driver’s license & auto registration with DMV

✓ Update bank and credit card records

✓ Update employment records

✓ Update insurance records (health, life, disability, auto, homeowners)

✓ Update IRS records

Professional licenses

✓ Update Passport

✓ Update agencies as required for your professional license, especially when a name change is involved


✓ Obtain IRS Publication 504, “Divorced or Separated Individuals” for information about filing status, exemptions, alimony, QDROs, etc.

✓ Change your tax withholding allowances with your employer

✓ Use the IRS withholding calculator to determine your new withholdings (

✓ If you are receiving alimony or self-employed determine if estimated quarterly payments will be necessary.

✓ Execute IRS form 8332, Transfer of Dependency Exemption, if required under terms of the Separation Agreement or Permanent Orders