Dissolution of a marriage or divorce is difficult under the best of circumstances, and can be worse when it involves contested issues. Disputes over money and property can heighten the anger and animosity you feel toward your spouse. In cases where children are involved, the process only becomes more difficult.
At Ronald B. Taylor, P.C. we approach your case keeping in mind both the emotional and legal issues involved. We believe that early analysis and communication help you keep focused on the goals and expectations of your case. We also firmly believe that in divorce as in life you must pick your battles, and keep in mind that generally in a divorce no one “WINS”. In the long run, we will help you set objectives and get results that allow you to go on to with your life and minimize the negative impact the process can have on you and/or your children.
Grounds for Divorce:
Colorado is a "no-fault" State. This means the law only requires that the marriage be “irretrievably broken" You do not have to provide any specific reason for the divorce, and your spouse is not required to agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Shortly after the Petition for Dissolution is filed, you must fill out a Financial Affidavit listing information about all of your finances, property etc. This requires full disclosure of assets and liabilities.
At least one of the parties has to have lived in Colorado for at least ninety (90) days prior to filing the divorce action.
Even if you and your spouse both agree you want a divorce, your divorce is only "uncontested" if you agree to every provision concerning parental rights and responsibilities (custody), parenting time (visitation), support, maintenance (alimony or spousal support), and division of property and debts. If any of these matters are disputed and cannot be settled through negotiations, your divorce is NOT uncontested and a trial will be necessary.
If your spouse has been physically violent to you, you can obtain a restraining order from the Court before or after filing for a divorce. You do not need to also file a divorce action to obtain a restraining order, although they can be filed at the same time. The Colorado Bar Association also has helpful information with resources on its web site: www.cobar.org/group/index.cfm?EntityID=dpfvp
Who Should File:
Currently, there is no legal significance with respect to whether the Husband or the Wife files the Petition.
No divorce can be granted until at least 90days have passed since your spouse was served with the Petition, or you file the Petition jointly as “Co Petitioners”. There is no way to predict how long it will take to complete a dissolution (divorce). Uncontested matters MAY be completed three to four months after filing. Contested matters can take 6 months to a year depending on the facts, issues and the Court's calendar. The time that it will take to obtain a divorce varies with each individual case.
The parties will not always have to appear in Court in order to obtain a Divorce. If the parties can agree on all matters, you may obtain a decree/order dissolving the marriage by filing an affidavit and other documents with the Court.
Dividing up Assets (property) and Debts
Dividing Property and Debts:
If you and your spouse agree on a division of property, the Court will usually approve your written agreement. If you cannot agree, the Court will equitably divide your property and debts. Equitable does not always mean evenly between the two of you.
Protection from Financial Problems:
You can protect yourself by gathering as much financial information as possible, including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks, trusts, or life insurance policies, prior to meeting with your attorney. When you first discuss your case with a lawyer, you should come prepared to review with her or him your assets and liabilities. If you have joint credit cards, joint investment accounts, or other joint financial interests, you should be aware that your spouse might access these without your permission or knowledge. If you have concerns about this, you should discuss options with your attorney for closing accounts, freezing them, or requiring joint consent to withdraw funds or access credit.
CHILDREN: Custody, Visitation and Support
In 1999, Colorado changed its laws and now requires that the parties, or the court if they cannot agree, allocate parenting time and the responsibility for decision making. These are collectively referred to as a allocating parental responsibilities. In order to do this, you will generally have to develop a parenting plan that will address all of these issues. If the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan or do not submit one, then the Court will determine the parenting plan for you. This parenting plan process for allocating parental responsibilities has also done away with the labels sole or joint custody for dissolutions on or after February 1, 1999.
Factors the Court Considers in Allocating Parental Responsibility:
If the parties cannot agree, the Court will make the final decision. When allocating parental responsibilities and putting together or approving a parenting plan, the Court considers a number of factors, including the extent to which one parent encourages sharing of love, affection and contact with the other parent. The Court also considers the roll that each parent plays in the child's life, including the parent's involvement with the children's health matters, their extra-curricular activities, religious matters, where and with whom the children have been living, and the interaction between parent and child. The Court may also seek advice from other relevant professionals.
Colorado no longer refers to matters as custody. Instead the court allocates parental responsibilities (decision making authority) and parenting time. However, evaluations regarding the allocation of responsibilities and parenting time still occur. Either party can request an evaluation, and the Court may, in its discretion, order an evaluation. In any evaluation, a private psychologist or mental health expert is generally retained to evaluate the parties and the children, and to provide a written report with recommendations to the Court, for use in making decisions on a parenting plan and allocation of decision making authority. They may interview the parties and children. They may contact people involved in the children's lives. They may determine whether one of the parties is attempting to alienate the children against the other party. If your spouse requests an evaluation and that request is granted, you may ask to have another professional do an evaluation as well. You will be responsible generally for the cost of that evaluation.
Modification of Parenting Plan:
After the Court approves a parenting plan and allocates parenting time and responsibility for decisions, it may be modified if it is shown that facts have arisen since the allocation, or facts unknown at the time of the allocation, have created circumstances such that it is in the child’s BEST INTERESTS that the plan be changed.
Grandparents may have a right to custody or visitation under certain circumstances. You should discuss the details of your situation with an attorney.
Determination of Child Support:
Colorado has Guidelines for determining the amount of support that should be provided for children. The Guidelines apportion child support based on the gross incomes of both parents. The Courts have the discretion to deviate from those guidelines if they result in a support amount that is inequitable or unjust.
Medical Insurance for the Children:
One spouse or the other will have the obligation of maintaining health insurance for any children. While your case is pending, you should not take any steps to alter or terminate the coverage for your children without first consulting with an attorney, obtaining authorization from the Court, or your spouse providing replacement coverage. The cost of the medical insurance allocated to the children is a factor in determining the amount of child support to be paid.
Modification of Child Support:
Colorado permits a modification of the support amount if certain criteria are met..
Bankruptcy and Child Support:
If a spouse who owes child support files for bankruptcy court protection, he or she is still obligated to make the court ordered support payments. The federal bankruptcy law does not allow any child support or spousal maintenance payments to be discharged by the bankruptcy filing.