Practice Area: Child Welfare


Custody (Parental Responsibilities)

There is no “normal” or “typical” parenting plan – parenting plans need to be unique to the child and family at issue, taking into consideration several factors such as age, development, location, familiarity with co-parent, among many other things.  In order to make recommendations about parenting plans, I need to be appointed by the court as a CFI and learn about the child and family by performing an investigation.

Child Welfare

Child Welfare includes a variety of issues and case types (Domestic Relations, Dependency & Neglect/PRNP, Juvenile Delinquency, Adoption).  In Gabriela’s current practice, she focuses on domestic relations cases where she serves as a Child and Family Investigator (CFI).  Divorce, separation and disputes regarding allocation of parental responsibilities are stressful events.  In addition to coping with divorce or separation, parents need to be mindful about the impact such family reconfiguration can have on their children.

A CFI is appointed by a judge to assist the court in making the right choices for children, focusing on their best interests.  As a CFI, Gabriela will independently investigate the relevant issues and make recommendations as to parental responsibilities which may include decision-making, parenting time, or relocation.

Regardless of who requests the CFI appointment, the Court may apportion the CFI’s fees and costs to both of the parties, or to one of them.  If either party is indigent, the state of Colorado may pay all or a portion of the fee at the state rate.

The most recent Chief Justice Directive, amended in November 2011, caps the CFI fees at $2000. If the fees are going to be higher than that, the CFI may go back to Court to explain that extraordinary circumstances exist and the additional fee is justified.


Dependency & Neglect cases involve the physical, sexual or emotional abuse and neglect of children.  In these cases, a Guardian ad Litem is appointed by the court to perform an independent investigation.  The Department of Human Services is the Petitioner in these cases.  Parents are required to successfully complete a “treatment plan” and the termination of parental rights is a possible outcome.



Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is an authorization to act on someone else’s behalf in a legal or business matter. It can be a useful tool when parents or pet caretakers need to ensure their child or animal companion will be properly taken care of during the parent or pet caretaker’s temporary unavailability. A power of attorney will work hand-in-hand with a pet trust, discussed here.

The person who is giving the power is referred to as the “principal” while the person who accepts responsibility of the power is called the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact”. Among other things, powers of attorney can be revocable, irrevocable, special or general, durable or non-durable. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect upon the principal’s incapacity. A non-durable power of attorney will not be effective upon the principal’s incapacity.

There are many options with respect to powers of attorney and you should fully understand what it is you need before you sign any legal documents.


Dependency & Neglect (serving as Guardian ad Litem)

Gabriela Sandoval has experience serving as Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in D&N cases, representing the child’s best interests before the Denver Juvenile Court. In Colorado, the court appoints a GAL on all Dependency & Neglect cases. In these cases, the Department of Human Services files a complaint against parents or a non-parent caretaker of a child based upon neglect or abuse. D&N cases are civil in nature. Some responsibilities of the GAL include:  conducting an independent investigation and representing the legal and “best interests” of the child; determining with whom the child will live and what, if any protection orders should be issued by the court; providing input on treatment plans for parents and child; personally visiting with the child and; filing legal documents on behalf of the child.

In Colorado, a child is neglected or dependent if: A parent or legal custodian has abandoned the child or has mistreated or abused the child or allowed the child to be mistreated or abused without taking lawful means to stop the abuse or mistreatment from happening again; The child lacks proper parental care; The child’s environment is harmful; The parent or legal custodian fails or refuses to provide necessary or proper care, education, medical care, or other necessary care; The child is homeless or without proper care; The child is a run away or otherwise beyond the control of his or her parent or legal custodian; The child tests positive at birth for certain controlled substances; The parent or legal custodian has subjected another child to habitual abuse and that parent or legal custodian has been the respondent in another proceeding where that child was found to be dependent or neglected based on allegations of sexual or physical abuse or the court determined the parent or legal custodian’s abuse or neglect caused the death of another child and the pattern and type of habitual abuse pose a current threat to the child. COLO. REV. STAT. § 19-3-102 (2007). A guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the child’s best interests in all dependency and neglect cases.

~ The above has been taken, in part, from the Colorado Children’s Code.

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