Generally, there are three main issues to address during a divorce:
Equitable division of the marital assets (e.g. the martial home, vehicles, securites and retirement accounts, furniture and household goods);
Equitable division of of the marital debt (e.g. credit cards, mortgages, vehicle loans, student loans); and
Maintenance (commonly known as alimony).
If you have children, you will need to address several additional issues:
Parenting time; and
Some couples can easily agree on what should happen with their assets and debts, but have trouble agreeing on issues regarding their children. Other couples are able to agree on what will happen with the children, but cannot agree on how the marital estate should be divided. There are multiple things that need to be considered for each of these issues and it is important to have competent legal advice so that you do not overlook something during this stressful process.
Generally, divorces in Colorado go through the following stages:
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The divorce process in Colorado starts when one party files a petition for dissolution of marriage. The petition starts the divorce process and informs the court of the claims that will be at issue. Once the petition is filed, the other party has 21 days to file a response (35 days if out of state). The same process is followed, whether or not there are children involved.
In the response, the responding party is given the opportunity to correct information and to endorse additional claims for the court to hear. The types of claims that you should endorse will depend on your particular factual situation. It is important to endorse the proper claims. Failing to timely endorse the appropriate claims could foreclose the possibility of the court addressing them.
Mandatory Financial Disclosures
Within 42 days of serving the petition, both parties must exchange mandatory financial disclosures, including a sworn financial statement. There are multiple disclosures that are required and both parties must file a certificate of compliance showing the court that they have completed the mandatory exchange. It is important to make sure you have provided all of the required disclosures as failure to do so could result in additional litigation.
Initial Status Conference
Within 42 days of filing the petition, an initial status conference with the court must be scheduled. The initial status conference is the first time you will go to court. At the initial status conference, you can ask for a temporary orders hearing and/or potentially address any immediate issues. Depending on the county that your divorce action is filed in, the initial status conference may take place in front of a judge, magistrate, or family court facilitator.
If either party requests temporary orders from the court, the court will hold a temporary orders hearing. There are several different issues that can be addressed at a temporary orders hearing. The court can enter an interim parenting time schedule, allocate temporary payment of marital bills, and determine who lives in the marital home on an interim basis, among other things. Not everyone needs a temporary orders hearing, and whether one is requested will depend on the specific facts of your situation.
You will likely be required to attend at least one mediation session. Mediation is where a disinterested third party works with the parties to try and reach a reasonable settlement of the issues. Mediation is an important step in the process and often the parties are able to reach a resolution of some or all of the issues. It is important to select an experienced mediator as mediation can have a large impact on the outcome of your divorce.
If the parties are able to reach a full settlement, the next step is to file a separation agreement and a parenting plan (if children are involved). If the court approves the agreement(s), in most cases the parties will not have to attend any further court proceedings. If the parties have remaining issues following mediation, then the next step is to attend a permanent orders hearing where the court will decide the outcome.
Permanent Orders Hearing
If the parties are unable to resolve all of the issues at mediation, the remaining issues are decided by the court at a permanent orders hearing. Although it is usually in your best interest to resolve your case without going to a permanent orders hearing, there are times when it make sense to go to hearing. Whether or not it makes sense depends on your specific factual situation.
There are many other things that can take place during a divorce. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney at your side to advise you on the best course of action to take in your particular situation.
Divorce Mediation Packages
Madrid Family Law also offers full-service divorce mediation packages for couples seeking to amicably resolve their issues without hiring attorneys. Click here to learn more.