-- Beth Padilla
Child custody matters often come to a head around the holidays. Parents frequently want to change the parenting plan (a.k.a. the custody arrangement) for special holiday events. The reality of our court system is that making changes that require court review or intervention a few weeks before Christmas is unlikely to occur before the holiday. However, this does not necessarily mean parents are stuck with a parenting plan that neither of them wants for the holidays. We often encourage our clients to come up with sensible agreements with their ex-partner to benefit the children, especially during the holidays.
So what can you do if you and your ex agree to change the plan but do not have time to go to court? We suggest you draft a written stipulation explaining in great detail how the parenting plan ordered by the court will be modified for the holiday season. The parties should notarize the stipulation and file it with the court. We can assist families with stipulations on an hourly basis without a retainer. If you would like help drafting a stipulation, please contact us.
Padilla Law, P.C. is pleased to announce that Paul Padilla has been appointed to the Criminal Justice Act Petty Offense and Misdemeanor Panel, for the United States District Court, District of Colorado.
The Criminal Justice Act was originally created in 1964 to establish a system for appointing and compensating lawyers to represent defendants who are financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings. Later, the CJA was expanded to create federal defender organizations, similar to state public defenders.
In Southwest Colorado, the CJA Panel is used to hire local attorneys as defense counsel, when a federal public defender is not available or has a conflict that otherwise prohibits him or her from working on a case.
-- Paul E. Padilla
This week, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that if a parent’s parental rights are terminated, his or her financial responsibility for the child is also terminated.
Previously, if the New Mexico Human Services Department terminated a parent’s rights, the parent still had to pay child support to the other parent or the State, if the child was in foster care.
In Colorado, if the Department of Human Services terminates a parent’s rights, the parent no longer has to pay child support. However, if a parent voluntarily relinquishes his or her rights, they still have to pay child support. This distinction is to ensure that parents don’t abandon their children simply to avoid financial responsibility.
However, in New Mexico, because the Court of Appeals created a new rule based on the circumstances of a single case, rather than creating a statute that makes a distinction between voluntary and involuntary termination, parents can potentially end their financial responsibility by giving up their parental rights.
Unfortunately, this may incentivize many parents to simply give up their parental rights to avoid paying child support.
The New Mexico Supreme Court may still reverse this decision. However, until it does, there is no distinction between voluntary and involuntary termination, which may cause significant problems in enforcing child support orders.
Attorney Beth Padilla was the moderator for a recent Continuing Legal Education (CLE) presentation co-sponsored by the Colorado Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Southwest Colorado Bar Association in Durango, Colorado. The CLE addressed professionalism in the courtroom.
Pictured L to R: Beth Padilla, Magistrate James Casey, Southwest Colorado Bar President Geoff Craig, District Court Judge Martha Minot. (District Court Judge William Herringer was also on the panel but is not pictured.)
-- Martha Burwell, Pre-Law Intern for Padilla Law, P.C., Summer 2013
Spending the summer working with Beth and Paul Padilla has not only been meaningful, but also extremely interesting, educational, and fun. On my first day, the Padillas showed me around the office, including the small desk and computer that they had purchased especially for their new intern – or in other words, for me—to use. Then Beth and I went straight to court for a hearing, and quickly back to the office where I observed a client meeting conducted in Spanish. This high-paced work would continue for the next 4 months, while I spent about 10 hours a week in the office, in the court room, and even delivering subpoenas.
Since I have an interest in human rights and immigration, and I speak Spanish, about three quarters of my work was done with Beth. She taught me how to draft letters to clients, and how to put together petitions for immigration clients, by sorting through evidence and creating exhibits. She also gave me some tools for conducting legal research. I was invited to sit in on client meetings, which often took place in Spanish, where I observed first hand the complex world of immigration.
At first, this work which was so new to me seemed a little abstract; however, it was all made real when I met the clients with whom Beth was working. This was really making an impact on their lives—she was helping them become U.S. citizens.
Another side of Beth’s work which interested me was her role as Guardian Ad Litem, where she represents the best interests of children. Beth advocates for children who have few others to speak on their behalf. Although the hearings could be tough to watch, it was very interesting to see the integral importance of the role Beth plays.
Some of my time was spent with Paul, who also proved to be an adept and enthusiastic teacher. He invited me to observe in court, and spent time explaining legal concepts, going over the cases he was involved in. It was particularly interesting to follow one case, in family law, all the way through, and see the results. He also emphasized to me a very important trait to have as a lawyer: meticulous and detailed organization.
I experienced another aspect of law with Paul—delivery of subpoenas. While delivering letters, in person, which order the recipient to testify in court, I saw many faces change to confused, angry, happy, scared, or apathetic. An interesting job to say the least!
My internship culminated with a VAWA case. VAWA stands for the Violence Against Women Act, and for women immigrants, it is extremely important. VAWA states that any woman who has been abused by her U.S. citizen spouse, can petition for herself to become a lawful permanent resident, rather than wait for her spouse to petition on her behalf, as the law normally requires. This was a heart-wrenching and complicated case, but with Beth’s guidance, I put together the extensive exhibits, with overwhelming evidence in the client’s favor. I have yet to hear the results of the petition, but I very much hope it is approved and the client can free herself from the cycle of violence.
Going to law school is an enormous investment. I have asked myself countless times if this purchase of education is worth 25 years of debt. Interning at Padilla Law was a chance to really see what being a lawyer means, in a day-to-day sense. How would my time be spent? Would I enjoy it? Would I thrive at it? I am very grateful to Beth and Paul for allowing me the chance to explore this, gaining invaluable insight into what it means to practice law in a small firm – leaving me in a better position to one day embark on my own career in law.
Attorney Beth Padilla was chosen as the first attorney to be featured in the Office of the Child's Representative's quarterly newsletter section entitled, "Meet an OCR Attorney." A portion of the article is re-published below:
"Beth Padilla practices in the Sixth and Twenty-Second Judicial Districts in Colorado. She is licensed to practice law in Colorado and New Mexico.
Q: Why did you choose to practice child welfare law?
A: I studied juvenile and family law in law school and was interested in the subject matter. However, I did not practice child welfare law until I relocated from Denver to Durango, Colorado and opened a firm with my husband, Paul Padilla. I decided to contact OCR on the advice of a mentor and judge. It made sense to me that I might be able to help kids in southwest Colorado because I am bilingual in English and Spanish and have an immigration background.
Q: What has been the most rewarding moment for you while working with
children and families in the dependency and neglect system?
A: One of the first D&N cases I received was a family of three young children. The children were removed from one foster home and placed into another based on allegations of abuse. One of the kids, aged six, was asked by a caseworker who the child would contact if he felt unsafe and he responded that he would call his GAL. I was so excited that he not only remembered me but also would turn to me if he felt unsafe in his new placement.
Q: What drives you to continue in this line of work?
A: I am driven to continue with child welfare because I really think I can
help the kids in these cases. The kids in dependency and neglect cases need an adult they can talk to and that is looking out for them. I try to be that
Padilla Law, P.C. is pleased to announce that Paul Padilla has been elected to the Board of Directors of Alternative Horizons, a community resource center striving to end domestic violence.
Alternative Horizon’s services and programs include:
- 24-hour free, confidential, and bi-lingual support hotline;
- Support groups for domestic violence survivors and the children or survivors;
- Prevention education and community outreach programs;
- Court advocacy;
- The “Bridges of Hope” legal program; and
- Individual therapy services for child, youth, and adult victims.
Alternative Horizon’s services are critical to Durango and southwest Colorado, and Paul hopes that his involvement with the organization will bolster and advance its efforts.
Paul is grateful for the opportunity to work with the program and its staff and board of directors, and believes that his election to the Board is the first step in developing a long-term relationship between Padilla Law, P.C. and Alternative Horizons.
-- Beth Padilla, Esq.
Researchers from the University of Harvard School of Education and the University of Southern California have published the results of study examining the impact of President Barack Obama’s immigration program for young people entitled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA was implemented one year ago today, on August 15, 2012. Through DACA, young people that arrived in the United States before they turned sixteen years old, attended high school or obtained a GED, have been continuously present since June 15, 2007, are between the ages of fifteen and thirty one, and have not been convicted of serious crimes may apply for DACA. DACA requires the young person to turn himself into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and DHS will in turn defer action on the person’s case for two years. Through the program, young people may obtain work authorization, a social security card, and perhaps a driver’s license. DACA is not a pathway to citizenship, does not allow young people to have a green card, and does not permit young people to apply for immigration status for their family members.
The recent research demonstrates that DACA has had a positive impact on the young immigrant community in the United States. For example, sixty-one percent of DACA recipients obtained a new job after they were granted DACA status. Fifty-four percent of DACA recipients interviewed opened their first bank account, while sixty-one percent obtained their driver’s license. There are many benefits to the young immigrants that have obtained DACA status as well as to the American public. When more young people are able to obtain jobs, they are less likely to support themselves and their families through illegal means. In addition, if young people are able to obtain a driver’s license, they are more likely to obtain car insurance as well. Overall, while DACA is not the DREAM Act, it is a step in the right direction and the benefits apply to many sectors of the public.
For more information regarding the recent study, visit http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/how-daca-impacting-lives-those-who-are-now-dacamented
-- Paul E. Padilla
Recently, several people have come into my office with questions about property rights and what to do after someone has passed away. Unfortunately, many of these people waited too long to do anything, and there was very little I could do for them.
However, this situation is very understandable. The process of losing a loved one and dealing with the property was stressful, and they thought their family would agree on how to handle everything. But, after a couple of years of family conflict, they found out that they had waited too long, and now they have limited options.
When someone passes away, the legal process of handling their affairs and distributing their property is called probate. If there is a Will, it is filed with the court and a person is appointed to make sure the terms of the Will are followed. If there is not a Will, then the person’s property is distributed based on default statutory laws, called intestacy.
In both Colorado and New Mexico, the general rule is that this process has to start within three years of the person’s death. If you wait too long, then a court will not accept a Will, and its terms will not be enforced. This means that some people may not get the property that was intentionally left to them in the Will.
Obviously, any time lawyers and courts are involved, the process can be expensive and even more stressful. But, surprisingly, in some cases this process can be relatively easy.
When a person dies and does not have a lot of property, their assets can be dealt with without having to go to court. In Colorado, if a person died in 2013, did not have any real estate, and the total value of their personal property is less than $63,000, the property can be dealt with by using a process called Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit. In New Mexico, the requirements are similar, but the asset limit is $50,000.
This process allows a person to sign an affidavit and collect all of the deceased person’s assets in order to distribute them according to a Will, or distribute them to the deceased person’s family. To execute the affidavit, all you need is a notary public, and nothing needs to be filed with the court. So, this can save a lot of time and money.
As I said above, the deceased person cannot have any real estate after their death. But there are several situations that this can occur, even if the person lives in and owns a home at the time of their death. If the property is held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or if there is a beneficiary deed or life estate, the property transfers to someone else the moment the person dies.
Therefore, depending on how much other personal property the person had, it may be possible to use the Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit process, and avoid going to court.
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano, recently announced that DHS will treat immigration petitions filed by same-sex married couples the same as petitions filed by heterosexual married couples. This change is fundamental for same-sex partners where one partner is a non-citizen of the United States. Now, all United States citizens or residents may file an immigration petition for their immigrant spouse.
Before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, a same-sex partner was unable to obtain immigration status for his or her spouse. After the Supreme Court’s decision, a spouse may petition for his or her spouse if they were lawfully married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.
While the change is a major success for human rights activists and the LGBT community, there are still many questions that must be litigated to resolve. For example, what if a couple is united in a civil union under Colorado law? What happens if a couple marries in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage but then returns to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage?
For now, immigration attorneys are discussing these issues and preparing to litigate cases that are unjustly denied. If you and your partner are lawfully married and want to petition for immigration status, it may be a good idea to speak with an immigration attorney about your options.