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An Overview of the Colorado Divorce Process

colorado divorce process

Living in Colorado means you face a number of procedures to follow in order to achieve a successful divorce. The Colorado divorce process might seem confusing at first. However, with the help of a skilled attorney, it’ll be a breeze. Our blog provides an overview of the Colorado divorce process, how courts handle the cases, and what issues you may face. Read on to learn more about what you can expect during your divorce process.

Our highly experienced and talented Denver divorce attorneys at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton can handle even the most complicated situations with ease. You may be certain that you’re in excellent hands because of our vast understanding of Colorado family law. Please call 303-951-4506 or fill out our online intake form to schedule a consultation with us.

What Can a Court Order Help Me With?

The first thing to know in the Colorado divorce process is nothing is binding unless you receive a court order. For this reason, court orders help many people with a number of common issues in divorce, including the following.

How Do I Make My Ex Move Out?

In short, you yourself cannot make your spouse move out during the Colorado divorce process. Only a court order can do that. One of the couples may willingly leave to avoid a difficult situation. However, there are occasionally very legitimate reasons for not wishing to leave. These include a fear of not seeing the children or of losing the house.

In the end, if both spouses refuse to depart, a temporary orders hearing is necessary. Alternatively, the spouses may continue to live in the same residence for financial or other reasons. Our practice has seen numerous situations where spouses continue to live together during the Colorado divorce process. It is usually difficult for both parties, but not always.

How Do I Make My Ex Pay Support?

In principle, each spouse has equal access to marital funds for living expenses. However, in actuality, there may be a disparity in access to money. One spouse may not be on any of the accounts, or only one spouse has any income. Although Colorado has support and maintenance rules, they are not “self-executing” and a court order must enforce them.

Most attorneys will at least assess your projected support responsibilities or expectations. They will keep in mind that there may be some planning involved until we obtain financial disclosures. These are, however, just estimations to give you an idea of what to expect in the long term. In the near term, you may need to borrow money to cover your costs for the first 2-3 months. This is until you can secure a temporary orders hearing.

What Can I Do If My Ex Spent Our Money?

Inform your attorney so that they can demand an inventory of the assets during the Colorado divorce process. There is no quick remedy. However, the court may impose an offset for dispersed money if they genuinely took the money without good reason.

My Ex Won’t Let Me See the Kids. What Do I Do?

For parenting responsibilities, you’ll need a court order. In principle, both of you have equal rights to the children. However, in practice, one parent may work while the other does not. This allows the non-working parent to collect the children from school first. Having a daily race to see who gets the kids first is not in the interests of the children. You may feel you’re at the mercy of your partner in the near term. Remember to trust your lawyer to get you an appropriate parenting order in due time.

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

The first step is to get the papers ready to file with the court. There is no benefit or penalty to being the Petitioner (the party that files the initial pleadings) or the Respondent. One thing that matters is potential concerns concerning whether Colorado has jurisdiction over a spouse. Alternatively, you might file as Co-Petitioners. A judge will not treat a spouse who initiated the divorce any less favorably than a spouse who didn’t. It only matters what the caption states on the pleading.

After you retain them, most firms will swiftly produce the opening pleadings. Within a short amount of time, we’ll have everything available for your inspection and signature. There’s also no requirement for you to come in and sign anything. Courts will accept copies or scans of reasonable quality. As of January 2018, court documents require no notarization. It is now possible to self-verify them.

After you file the first petitions, the other spouse must either receive the documents or sign a waiver of service. This begins an official 91-day clock before the court issues a dissolution order. But, as previously stated, most cases take much longer than that. It’s a rare scenario in which both spouses are fully cooperative. When all disclosures have been completed and signed, we only wait for the court to issue the decree.

Missing Spouse and Service by Publication

Don’t worry if you can’t find your spouse. It is more expensive, but attorneys collaborate with detectives who have experience at locating spouses through common connections or other means.

You can serve your spouse by publication if you cannot find your spouse. The procedure is more difficult, costly, and time-consuming than an ideal solution. Finally, because the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the other spouse, it will be unable to issue orders for maintenance, support, debt distribution, or division of property located outside of Colorado. But at the very least, you’ll have a document dissolving the marriage and distributing parental rights and obligations if there are children.

Financial Disclosures

Each spouse must prepare a sworn financial statement and give extensive financial disclosures when the process initially begins. Your lawyer will inform you of the information you must give. Even if you agree on everything, these first financial disclosures are necessary in all situations. This is because, even if the spouses present a complete agreement, the court must still decide that the arrangement is fair and not unreasonable before approving it. CRS 14-10-112 necessitates an examination of the couple’s finances.

Initial Status Conference

The court shall have an Initial Status Conference within 40 days of the petition for dissolution being filed to determine deadlines for disclosures, expert appointments, and, if required, a temporary orders hearing date. The ISC usually lasts around 10 minutes, and the spouses will only have a few minutes to speak. They may be asked a few yes or no questions.

If both spouses have legal representation, they can file a Stipulated Case Management Plan in which they agree on their own timelines. This eliminates the need for anyone to step away and appear in court. If one spouse does not have legal representation, the ISC is required and cannot be avoided with a stipulation.

Discovery Process

If there is a concern that an asset has vanished, doubts about where debts came from, or a requirement to look at a spouse’s educational or career background to establish an acceptable income to impute, a spouse may require further disclosures or information. If you think you need more, go to your lawyer, but these are some of the extra disclosures you might ask for.

  • Interrogatories: These are questions that the other party may be obliged to answer, as the name indicates. A respondent can serve Pattern Interrogatories and up to 10 supplemental interrogatories.
  • Requests for Production of Documents: These are demands for extra evidence, such as many years of credit card statements or pay stubs, medical records, and so on, that are usually issued at the same time as interrogatories.
  • Physical and Mental Examination of Person: Although it is not often utilized in divorce proceedings, it may be beneficial to get a second opinion if, for example, one of the spouses claims to be unable to work.
  • Inspection: An inspection is usually performed to obtain entry to a home for the purpose of valuation or to inventory personal goods. This is less common than interrogatories or production demands.
  • Request for Admissions: It is not so much a discovery technique as a litigation strategy in which one party asks the other to accept or deny the truth of specific facts in order to restrict the issues for trial.

Discovery petitions cannot be submitted until after the Initial Status Conference if there is no agreement. And, from a purely practical standpoint, you should generally wait until you receive the financial declarations of the other spouse before deciding what further information you want.

Temporary Orders Hearing

Remember how I mentioned moving out of the house, not getting support, and not seeing the kids? If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on any pressing concerns and do not wish to wait for the full disputed final orders hearing, the court can issue interim orders that will only be in force until the divorce is complete.

A temporary orders hearing lasts approximately an hour, which means each side has about 25 minutes to present their case, plus time for the court to rule. Because there isn’t much time for direct questioning of our own client and cross examination of the other, other witnesses are rarely called at this point.

Permanent Orders Hearing

The Permanent Orders hearing, sometimes called the Final Orders Hearing, is the final phase in a trial, usually held 6-9 months after it began.

If the case is undisputed but you have kids and one spouse does not have counsel, you will be forced to have a quick uncontested permanent orders hearing in front of a magistrate. This is where the court will evaluate the agreements with both parties who testify under oath. Typically, around 6 months after the case begins, you attend the uncontested permanent orders hearing.

If your case is disputed, you will most likely have a half-day contested permanent orders hearing when the spouses will have extra opportunity to present their case. This includes time for additional witnesses, a parenting expert, and so on. A half day, however, equates to around 3 to 3.5 hours, which will still be insufficient if you have more than one witness. A full-day hearing is possible, but it requires both attorneys to agree, and even then, the court may summon the attorneys for a status conference to explain why extra time is required. A disputed half-day permanent orders hearing occurs around 9 months from the start of the case, whereas a full-day hearing can take up to a year.

Settlement Meetings

Because Colorado favors settlement over litigation, they encourage the spouses to meet and discuss the matter outside of the courtroom before being permitted to take up time on the already-overburdened docket. The same caution as with judicial procedures applies here. Some of these may not apply in instances when concerns are promptly addressed.

  • Settlement Conference: This is a conference between clients and their attorneys that must take place before any disputed hearing may take place. A hearing for interim orders will be held. The goal is to get individuals talking so that they may work out their differences without having to go to court. The conference is usually held after the financial information has been exchanged.
  • Mediation: The spouses will be forced to attend mediation before a disputed final orders hearing. This is a 2-hour session that should take place at least a month before the hearing date. Following the release of any expert reports, a neutral mediator is entrusted with attempting to achieve an agreement. The couples are in different rooms with their attorneys, and the mediator moves back and forth between them, offering recommendations and suggestions to try to reconcile the issues. Keep in mind that mediation is not legally binding.
  • Pretrial Meeting: Another meeting is necessary before a disputed final orders hearing to examine the points in dispute, try to achieve an agreement, and frame the problems for the Court.
  • Informal Negotiations: In addition to these official sessions, the attorneys will usually interact with each other by phone or email throughout the process to discuss concerns, offer remedies, and so on. Furthermore, if the couples get along well, there is typically nothing to prohibit them from speaking directly to one other to resolve difficulties.

Contact Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton Today

If you are considering divorcing your spouse, you will need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. To discuss your situation and better understand the Colorado divorce process, contact Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton, P.C. today. Call our Denver office at 303-951-4506 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.

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