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Overview Of Colorado Divorce
From start to finish, a divorce case (dissolution of marriage) takes anywhere from three months to over a year, depending on the court (the county where the parties reside), the parties’ approaches, and the complexity of the case.The soonest you can be divorced is ninety (90) days from the date of filing and service (date one spouse is served or signed a waiver of service, or the date of filing the case if you file as co-petitioners).
Colorado divorce is not based on the wrong-doing of either party. Instead it is a “no fault” state. The standard for dissolution is that the marriage is “irreconcilably broken”. One party may object and assert that the marriage is not irreconcilably broke, but as long as the other party insists it is, the dissolution will move forward.
Every Dissolution Has No More Than Four Possible Areas To Be Addressed Legally:
- The Division of Property and Debt. This involves the initial determination of whether a particular property (real or personal) is separate property or marital property. The same is true of debts. Once separate property is determined, the remaining marital property (and debts) need to be divided equitably.
- Spousal Maintenance. The threshold question here is whether one spouse is “a candidate for maintenance” and there are statutory guidelines to help determine this. The question then becomes how much would he/she be paid by the paying spouse and for how long a time period.
- Parental Responsibility (fka Child Custody) and Parenting Time Arrangements. This area deals with how the two parents will deal with the raising of their children, who will have what responsibilities and obligations and where the children will live.
- Child Support. This final area addresses the amount one parent may pay to the other for child support, how it is determined, how it is paid and for how long. Child support is statutorily mandated and there are guidelines to ascertain amounts owed in the majority of cases. (See Child Support page)
The topics of parental responsibility, parenting time and child support are areas the courts are very concerned with. While the divorcing parties are free to agree to just about anything between themselves (as long as it is not unconscionable), the judge will not allow them to do this concerning the children if he/she does not think an agreement is in the children’s best interests. This is particularly true with regards to child support.
Virtually every issue in a divorce, with the exception of abuse issues and/or illegal behavior (ie. One person is already married and never divorced the first spouse) will fit into one of the above four categories. The issue of abuse may be dealt with by obtaining a restraining order or by the use of the criminal courts or in rare cases by the filing of a civil lawsuit or a state initiated Dependency and Neglect action to protect the children.
The Process Of Getting Divorced
Getting divorced can be relatively simple or quite complex depending on several factors: the length of the marriage, the complexity of the parties’ financial affairs (including both assets and debts), the health and age of the parties, the disparity in the incomes or income potential of the parties, the health and age of the children, whether the parties intend to remain in the same geographic area, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, the emotional stability and maturity of the parties.
A factor not often considered or discussed, but which can be of great importance throughout the process of the dissolution is the particular attorneys involved. Like all people, attorneys have their own points of view, and approaches to dissolution. It is extremely important to find an attorney (whether you hire one to represent you or are using one mainly for consultation) with whom you feel comfortable and whose philosophy regarding how to handle your case is one you agree with and in which you feel confident.
The actual process of getting divorced can be handled in a number of different ways, depending on the circumstances and the desire of the parties. The husband and wife may want to proceed pro se (on their own without lawyers involved). One party may hire an attorney and the other may proceed pro se. They both may have an attorney, consulting and advising, but actually do the divorce on their own. Both parties may choose to be represented by attorneys and the case may be resolved by negotiation and compromise, Collaborative law, mediation, or arbitration (with a privately hired judge). These are all possible ways to proceed. A combination of some of these approaches is also possible.
About ninety (90) percent of divorce cases are settled without going to court for a trial before a Judge. A trial is always available. Should the parties be unable to reach an acceptable agreement, they are always free to litigate. It is also possible to agree on all but one or two matters and have those matters determined by either an arbitrator or a judge.
In the end, whether a divorce is resolved by a trial or agreement, its terms will become a court order which will cover all aspects of the dissolution, division of assets and debts, maintenance, parenting responsibility, parenting time and child support.
If there are issues involving parenting time and parental responsibility, a child family investigator will be appointed by the court or may be chosen by the parties.
To prepare yourself to handle your divorce do these three things AND remember misconceptions are just that:
- Get your own life under control. Lean on your social support system, seek professional help if appropriate, and be especially compassionate with your self.
- Communicate with your children and support them through the process. Children, depending on their ages, need to be consistently re-assured that they are not being divorced and that they will still be loved and cared for.
- Create a new working relationship with your ex-spouse especially vis a vis your children. This may take patience and time to develop.
Final Words Of Advice From Adults Whose Parents Divorced When They Were Children:
- Don’t put your children in the middle
- Do not bad mouth the other parent
- Put the children first
- Stay involved in your kids’ lives
- Talk to your children
- Reassure them often it is not their fault
- If possible, live near the other parent
- Communicate with your spouse so there are not mixed messages about things that involve the children
- Do NOT stay together for the sake of the children