Denver Divorce Attorneys
Denver Divorce Attorneys Skilled in Complex Divorce Cases
Divorce actions that involve complex financial matters require an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who can recognize and address the intricate issues involved. Our Denver divorce attorneys have years of experience in resolving and litigating actions involving complex financial matters. The professionals at our firm know how to analyze the intricate issues that often arise in high-asset divorces, Colorado common law marriage, and other complex matters.
At Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton, our highly experienced and skilled Denver divorce attorneys can handle even the most complex cases with ease. Because of our extensive knowledge of family law in Colorado, you can rest assured that you’re in good hands. To arrange a consultation with us, please call 303-951-4506 or fill out our online intake form.
Divorce in Denver, CO
The following conditions must be satisfied in order for a Colorado court to dissolve the marriage and give permanent decrees resolving all issues.
- At least one spouse must have been a resident of Colorado for no less than 91 days prior to filing a petition for divorce.
- At least 91 days have passed since one spouse was served with the summons.
- Colorado has jurisdiction over the respondent spouse.
- If the case involves children, the state of Colorado has been their home for at least 181 days.
As long as the first two requirements are satisfied, the court has subject matter authority to issue a dissolution or legal separation judgment. If one of the latter two are lacking, the court may lack jurisdiction to split marital assets and debts, issue parenting orders, or force the respondent spouse to pay child support or alimony, even if the court may enter a decree of dissolution of marriage.
There are several methods to enter into a marriage in Colorado, and there are several ways to dissolve one as well, all of which require a court order. A dissolution of marriage, or divorce, is the most conventional and by far the most popular option. Couples can, however, acquire a legal separation or, in some instances, an annulment.
Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, but because they are all controlled by the same set of laws, the regulations and processes are quite similar. Finally, the court will decide any outstanding matters, including child custody, marital estate division, maintenance, and child support. Speak with our Denver divorce attorneys to better understand the process of divorce in Colorado.
Understanding the Process of Divorce
Most divorces in Colorado take around 6 to 9 months to complete, depending on the problems at hand and, in particular, whether or not they are disputed. Because the essential stages will depend on the unique circumstances in your situation, there is no one set of processes that will apply to every instance. The first thing you should realize is that nothing is legally binding unless a court order is issued. Keep this in mind moving forward.
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The first step is to get the papers ready to file with the court. There is no advantage or disadvantage to being the Petitioner or the Respondent, except for potential concerns about 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 initiated the divorce. It only matters how the caption is stated on the pleading.
After the first petitions are filed, the other spouse must either be served with the documents or sign a waiver of service, which begins a formal 91-day clock before the court may issue 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, where all disclosures have been completed and agreements signed, and they’re only waiting for the court to issue the decree on day 91.
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 everything is agreed upon, these first financial disclosures are required 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 unconscionable before approving it.
Initial Status Conference (ISC)
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 lasts approximately 10 minutes, and the spouses will only have minor speaking roles, if any at all.
If both spouses have legal representation, they can file a Stipulated Case Management Plan in which they set their own timelines. This eliminates the need for anyone to take a break and appear in court. If one spouse does not have legal representation, the ISC is required and cannot be avoided with a stipulation.
If there is a suspicion that an asset has vanished, there are concerns about where debts originated from, or there is a need to look at a spouse’s educational or job history to determine an acceptable income to impute, a spouse may require further disclosures or information. Below, we list some of the information you can ask for.
- Questions, or interrogatories, that each party must answer.
- Requests for the production of documents, generally served along with the interrogatories. These often include requests for credit card or pay stubs, medical records, and more.
- Inspections then occur for the purposes of appraisals or taking inventory.
- In rare cases, spouses ask for a second opinion about the physical or mental condition of their spouse. This usually occurs if one spouse claims the inability to work.
Discovery requests cannot be submitted until after the Initial Status Conference if there is no agreement. 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.
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 place 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.
This last step of the case usually occurs around 6 to 9 months after it begins. If your case is undisputed but you have children and one spouse does not have counsel, you will be forced to have a quick uncontested permanent orders hearing in front of a judge where the court will evaluate the agreements. Both spouses will testify under oath. Typically, around 6 months after the case begins, an uncontested permanent orders hearing is held.
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, including time for additional witnesses, a parenting expert, and so on. A full-day hearing is possible, but it requires both counsel 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 takes around 9 months from the start of the case, whereas a full-day hearing can take up to a year.
Because Colorado favors settlement over litigation, the spouses will be compelled 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.
Do You Have to Attend a Divorce Hearing?
It is possible to get a divorce decree in Colorado without ever entering a courtroom. If this is your objective, consulting and working with an attorney is the most dependable method to assure that you never have to go to court. Unless the parties have filed a “affidavit for decree without the presence of parties,” they will still be required to attend a fast, final hearing even if all relevant paperwork has been filed and full agreement has been achieved.
This paperwork simply informs the court that everything has been filed and requests that the divorce decree be issued without anybody having to present in person. If there are no minor children from the marriage, or if there are children, both parties have Denver divorce attorneys representing them in the divorce, this Affidavit can only be used to avoid going to court.
How to Prepare for a Divorce
A divorce choice involves both mental and physical preparations. We recommend the following preparations before undergoing the divorce process.
- Get with your attorney about different strategies. Going to court for a divorce isn’t always necessary. Alternatives such as mediation and collaborative divorce are less stressful.
- Organize your finances. The distribution of assets is frequently the most contentious aspect of any divorce. Choose which assets you want to preserve and where you’re prepared to compromise.
- Prepare your supporting documents. Detailing your earnings, household contributions, pre-marital assets, and so on. If you have a prenuptial agreement, bring it out.
- Estimate the costs of unmarried life for yourself. Consider your financial situation and calculate how much your single life will cost you. Do you have a place to stay or prefer to retain your home? If you have children, alimony and child support may not be enough to cover your new lifestyle. So consider the changes you’ll need to make in the future.
What Is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?
There are significant distinctions between a separation and a divorce. The most obvious contrast is that you stay married during a legal separation, but your marriage is dissolved after a divorce. The following are some further distinctions.
Legal Separation vs Divorce: Differences
- Benefits and health care: Legal separation lets you keep your health insurance and other benefits, including some social security benefits that would otherwise be lost if you divorced.
- Marital status: Legal separation enables you to keep your marital status, which means you are not allowed to marry another until you are divorced.
- Medical and financial decisions: Divorced couples are not considered next of kin and cannot make medical or financial choices for each other.
- Debts or liabilities: In contrast to a divorce, when debts are handled during the dissolution process, spouses may continue to be liable for the obligations of the other.
- Property: Legal separation protects each spouse’s legal rights to property advantages in the event of the death of the other, whereas divorce removes these rights.
- Remarriage: Divorce cannot be reversed. However, formal separation makes reunion simpler. If you desire a legal reunion after a divorce, you’ll have to remarry.
Legal Separation vs Divorce: Similarities
- Maintenance, such as alimony and child support
- Child custody decisions
- Visitation rights for the parents
- Property division based on the specific situation
Collaborative Divorce and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Collaborative Divorce is an alternate conflict resolution method in which the spouses directly negotiate a settlement of all concerns with the help of a team of experts, including an attorney, a coach, and, if necessary, a child specialist and/or financial specialist.
Attorneys that practice collaborative divorce have received special training in alternative conflict resolution, including collaborative divorce. Instead of conventional adversarial litigation, the divorcing parties agree to utilize a collaborative method of discussion and resolution, avoiding unpleasant and expensive court processes. The outcome of the collaborative divorce process is a settlement that is incorporated into the final divorce.
Spousal Maintenance in Colorado
Alimony is divided into two categories: statutory maintenance and contractual and non-modifiable maintenance. Only statutory support, which includes temporary maintenance while the divorce is completed, can be awarded by a judge. Only the divorced parties can agree on contractual and non-modifiable maintenance.
When a judge issues permanent orders and the marriage is dissolved, statutory maintenance is usually given. When a couple formally splits, however, spousal support may be given. According to Colorado law, spousal support is calculated as a percentage of the length of the marriage.
While other states have abolished lifelong alimony except for elderly or handicapped spouses, Colorado has not done so. Spousal maintenance can be given for the remainder of a spouse’s life in marriages that continue longer than 20 years.
Property Division During Divorce
In a divorce, Colorado is not a common property state. If couples cannot come to an agreement on their own, Colorado is an equitable distribution state, which means property will be split by the court in a way that is judged fair to both parties, but not necessarily equal. Colorado is also a dual-property state, which implies that property can be either marital or nonmarital in nature.
There are two categories of property to consider when contemplating property distribution during a legal separation or dissolution of marriage: marital property and separate property. In most cases, marital property is property obtained after the marriage by either spouse. Then, the Court determines how to split the marital property once it has been determined to be marital property. Individual property is retained by the individuals.
In Colorado, marital property is split regardless of marital fault or misbehavior. The Court divides property in an equitable or fair manner, which does not always mean that the property is split evenly. The Court examines all relevant criteria while deciding how to split marital property.
Child Custody and Parental Responsibility
Colorado does not provide for joint or sole custody. The phrase “parental responsibility” is used in Colorado, and it can be shared or primary. You have shared parental responsibility if you share overnight visits with the minor child equally. The other parent is deemed to have main parenting responsibility if one parent has less than 90 overnight visits with the minor child.
Colorado likewise distinguishes between residential and decision-making responsibilities. When a parent has exclusive decision-making authority over a minor child, he or she is empowered to make all significant choices without consulting the other parent. When both parents are responsible for making decisions, this is known as joint decision-making responsibility.
Contact Our Denver Divorce Attorneys Today
If you are facing the dissolution of your marriage, you need a knowledgeable family law attorney to guide you through the process. Contact Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton, P.C., to discuss your case today. Schedule a consultation by calling our Denver office at 303-951-4506 or complete our online form.