Divorce Lawyers and Attorneys in Denver, CO
Colorado Divorce Cases
Divorce Law in Colorado
Most questions about a potential divorce case can be broken down into three types:
- Divorce process
- What are my rights in divorce?
- Will I be okay at the end of my divorce?
Divorce process questions center around how the courts process divorce cases. Questions about process usually include the time-frame for filing, who should file first, how long it takes, which court do I file in, can I avoid going to court, do I file for separation, etc. These questions are usually answered by referring to the Colorado statutes and rules for divorce.
What are my rights-type questions are fact specific with some reference to the divorce process itself. Rights questions usually include things like can I go for “full custody”, am I going to get alimony/maintenance, what happens to my student loans, what if I can’t pay the bills, do I still have to deposit my check into the joint account. Rights-based questions tend to be answered with “degrees of probability”. For example, your lawyer might respond, “it’s highly unlikely you’ll be awarded sole-decision making” or ” you’re mostly likely going to have to pay something in maintenance.”
“Will I be okay” questions are actually lurking behind everything else. They are what’s really occupying the person’s mind. What does life look like after all this done? How am I going to make it? All “will I be okay” questions come from a fear of the unknown, and are a perfectly natural place to begin. The goal is to recognize this fear in yourself – and in the other spouse – adopt it, manage it and turn it into something positive – it will be okay. In, fact the next stage in life could be fantastic.
What Are My Rights?
When people come to Johnson Márquez Legal Group for their free divorce consultation, we often hear, “I just need to know what my rights are.” Depending on what a person is asking, sometimes we can help with specific direction, but in other instances we are limited in what we can discuss.
The difficulty with this question is that it often calls for legal advice. Lawyers are prohibited from giving legal advice to non-clients, by law, so if the real question being asked “what am I entitled in my case?” then the question is one we cannot answer until after we’ve been hired.
The key to a “what are my rights” question is to provide the person resources that help them understanding the difference between real fears and fake fears. All too frequently, we hear that the other spouse has threatened to “take the kids away”, or leave the other spouse with nothing. So many of these statements are without any basis in the law and only being made to create fear. If you’re afraid, you’re more likely to do what they tell you to.
“What are my rights” question also may center around leaving the house, retirement accounts, and protection from domestic violence. In our opinion, the more information you seek out, the more likely it is you’ll be able to distinguish between real fears and fake fears.
Again, many “what are my rights” questions must sometimes go unanswered until after you’ve hired your lawyer. However, doing some research, and scheduling a free consultation may go a long way toward helping you distinguish between real fears and fake fears.
Divorce Process – Colorado
Divorce is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. The changes come fast and furious and are often beyond your control. There’s no shame in asking for help. Help may come from family, friends, lawyers, doctors or clergy. Whatever the source, make use of it – they really do want to help.
Colorado divorce cases are initiated with the filing of Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition must be served on the other party, who then has the chance to file a Response to the Petition. In a divorce petition, a party identifies the issues in the case, including:
- Division of Assets
- Division of Debt
- Child Support
- Parenting Time
- Decision Making
- Attorney Fees
Most judges will immediately set your divorce case for an Initial Status Conference upon the filing of the Petition. This means a family law court date may be set in your case even before the other spouse is served with a copy of the divorce paperwork. If you’re the spouse being served, it is important to check with the court clerk to determine if a court date has already been set.
The Initial Status Conference can be a very useful appearance, if you’re prepared for it. Unfortunately, many parties come unprepared and, as a result, their divorce case must be set over for yet another status conference, wasting valuable time and resources.
Being prepared for the Initial Status Conference in your Colorado divorce case means different things, depending on the issues. Generally, the court wants to see completed Sworn Financial Statements, including an exchange of all the required attachment, and a Stipulated Case Management Plan. While most courts will not issue orders, like child support or temporary maintenance orders, it can often be a good idea to come prepared to discuss these issues in order to get the divorce court’s help resolving them.
At the Initial Status Conference, the Court may determine that your case requires a Temporary Orders Hearing. Some divorce courts will require a written motion from one of the parties before they set a Temporary Orders Hearing while other courts will set temporary orders on their own motion. A Temporary Orders is a chance to get the court to issue interim orders, like child support, parenting time, maintenance, payment of marital debt, or attorney fees. Interim orders are orders that are valid while you wait for your permanent orders hearing.
Colorado has a 90-day waiting period following service of the Petition before a family law court may grant a divorce. After the 90th day, the divorce court may set your case for a permanent orders hearing, where the judge will listen to testimony, view evidence and issue findings of fact and conclusions of law. Finally, the judge will sign a Divorce Decree and the marriage will be over.
Will I Be Okay?
This question lurks behind all the others. We want to know that life will go on after our divorce. We want to know that we’ll be able to raise our kids, enjoy retirement, or have a roof over our heads. So much change occurs during a divorce, and at such a fundamental level, that it’s absolutely reasonable to fear the future and what it may bring.
Life does move past divorce. Whether it moves in positive and exciting new directions, or spirals into conflict is, to a large extent, your choice. You can control the coping mechanisms – health and fitness, or self-destructive behaviors. You control many aspects of the conflict and even in the worst of situations, positive choices designed to move forward, can only help.
The quick answer to this question is, “yes, you will be okay.” But you’ll need some help and support and good counsel.
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