Divorce Primer 101

Students writing testWe all probably remember being in high school and having to write a report on an assigned book, and realizing late in the game that the report was due the next day and that we had not read the book! I still have nightmares on occasion about being late for an exam or failing to turn in a paper when due, and this is after 30 years. I know that I sometimes resorted to using the Cliff Notes version of whatever book I was to have read. You might think if this is all I have nightmares over that my life must be pretty boring, but let me assure you I have my share of trials (pun intended).  My intent therefore is to give a brief primer on Colorado divorce or family law. Note that what I say here is applicable to most family law cases whether they concern parenting time, dissolution of marriage or a legal separation. And please, I am not giving you legal advice; I am merely outlining some key concepts.

The first question which must be answered is whether Colorado has jurisdiction. For a divorce at least one of the parties must have lived in this state for a period of 91 days prior to filing any action. For a case which involves children they must have been in the state for six months prior to the filing. If the jurisdictional threshold is not met a court in this state cannot act on the matter. It is possible to move a case from another state to Colorado, but this requires speaking to an attorney to see if it is possible. The laws regarding this are complicated and should not be lightly dismissed.

Cases are generally filed where the opposing party is found. Here in the Colorado Springs area this can mean filing in El Paso, Douglas or Teller County.

Once a case is filed the other party must have personal knowledge of the case. This means the other party must be personally served or they must waive service. A party to the case cannot serve the other party. As a general rule I recommend never serving someone at work as it is too embarrassing and often creates resentment.

Once service is made and the case filed the case is at issue. Here in Colorado at least 91 days must pass before the Court can end the marriage. In my experience you should plan for 120 to 180 days for your case to be completed.

After the case is filed, each party is required to make financial disclosures to the other, so that each can make any decisions based upon a complete understanding of the financial situation of the marriage. Do not fail to comply with this requirement; if you fail to disclose an asset the court can divide the property years after the case is closed.

You will be ordered to go to mediation. Mediation simply entails a third party trying to help the parties reach an agreement. The reason for the mediation requirement is that the courts generally believe an agreement of the parties is better than one the court will impose.

If mediation fails the divorce will be heard by a judge. At the conclusion of the hearing the court will enter a decree and will make orders involving a division of property, maintenance or alimony, parenting time and a division of any debt.

The above is simply a thumbnail sketch of how family cases generally unfold, but I can assure you there is much more to these cases than what I have outlined. Can you do this on your own? Yes, you can, but there are pitfalls that can bite you. My recommendation is that you should at least consult with an attorney, and learn for yourself the legal questions at stake. I know I spend more time fixing things than I do filing new cases. If you do not need me I will tell you.  Contact me if I can help.

Next time: Parenting time and Child Support

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