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10 Legal Questions Everyone Should Ask at the Start of their Divorce.

1. Timeline (How long will it take to get divorced)

-What are some factors impact the timeframe for a divorce:

A. Waiting period 

In Colorado the Court can’t issue a Decree until 91 days have passed from the date you filed or got the other party served, whichever day comes last (this can vary by state)

B. Which Judicial District you file in

Depending on how a judicial district sets their docket, you could move relatively quickly or it could take a year or two

C. How contentious the case is

If you have full agreements on everything prior to filing, it could go relatively quickly; if you disagree about significant issues, it probably will take more time

D. How complex the case is

If you need to complete valuations of any businesses or property or if you need to hire other experts related to property or children, the case will likely take more time

2. What the entire process looks like

-File a Petition and get the other person served.

-In Colorado, there will be an Initial Status Conference required

-Permanent Orders Hearing

-You will be required to attend mediation

-Temporary Orders can be requested and ordered, but don’t occur in all cases

-If you reach a full agreement at any point, and under certain circumstances, you can file an Affidavit for Decree without Appearance of Parties

3. What information the Court will and will not consider

-People often think going to a hearing will be satisfying in terms of getting their story heard, and then are disappointed that much of what they want to tell the Judge is considered irrelevant. You should discuss with your attorney what is considered relevant or not.

-For example, if you live in a no fault state, such as Colorado, the Judge won’t hear testimony about the what caused the divorce, if there were affairs, etc.

-Additionally, the Court typically won’t do a full accounting of who spent money on what throughout the marriage

4. What types of information you will be required to provide to the Court and the other party

-In Colorado:

A. There is a list of required documents that each party automatically has to provide to the other party, including, but not limited to income documentation, tax returns, insurance information, retirement statements, bank statements, etc.

B. Additionally, in certain circumstances, additional discovery may be appropriate and more documents may be requested

C. Each party has to file a Sworn Financial Statement with the Court and provide a copy to the other party

5. What types of property is divisible and how the Court will divide property

-It’s important to know what types of property the Court can divide

-In Colorado, this is determined based on if property is considered marital or separate property. Marital property (or debt), regardless of whose name it is in, basically boils down to if the property was acquired during the marriage, it is martial, with a few exceptions for gifts and inheritance. If property qualifies as separate, the only marital portion is any increase in value over the course of a marriage.

-There are other nuances to this, such as comingling, that you should discuss in detail with your attorney.

-It’s also important to know how property is divided. In Colorado, the Court is required to divide property equitably, which is not the same thing as equally.

6. How issues related to children are handled 

-It’s important to find out how the Court will approach issues surrounding your children and whether one parent has priority for obtaining time with the children. 

-In Colorado, we do not have custody, we have allocation of parental responsibility, which is divided into three parts:

A. Parenting Time- who has time with the children and when

B. Decision-making- who makes major decisions for the children regarding education, religion, and health care, and 

C. Child Support

-It’s also critical to ask questions around if your child will be allowed to testify, who can and can’t testify, and what types of experts could be appointed

7. How support is handled

-There are typically two different types of support, known commonly as child support and alimony  

A. Child Support

-You will want to discuss different factors that determine the amount of child support owed

-In Colorado, there is a formula that the Court uses to determine child support, and some of the factors the Court uses include number of children, gross monthly income of each party, number of overnights each party has, costs and contributions of daycare and health insurance

B. Alimony 

-In Colorado, this is referred to as maintenance

-There is a formula that the Court can consider in calculating maintenance, based on income of both parties and length of marriage, but the Court is not bound by this formula

-This is one of the greyest areas in terms of predictability for

resolution, and you will want to discuss the ranges of amount and duration

8. What the Court will consider for income for each party

-It’s important to discuss with your attorney, what types of income are included to calculate gross monthly income (in Colorado this can include more than just your salary, including rental income, income on investments, etc.)

-If you or your spouse are either self-employed, unemployed, or underemployed, there may be additional items to consider, such as hiring a vocational expert, reviewing past employment records, and/or reviewing business documents

9. Fees and Costs

-You will want to discuss with your attorney the attorney fee’s and costs

-You many want to explore if your attorney offers unbundled services

10. If there are any specific situations that you may need more information on

-Examples: Common law marriage, legal separation and what that means, if you live in different cities or states, if a party may be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, if there are any issues of domestic violence

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