Separation & Divorce Attorney
Filing the Divorce
A divorce or legal separation case is commenced by filing a petition for divorce or legal separation in the district court of the county in which the Petitioner lives. The petition contains basic information such as the residence of each party, the date and place of marriage, the names, ages and address of any children of the marriage, whether the wife is pregnant, and any agreements as to child custody, visitation, child support, maintenance and other issues. The respondent must either be personally served with a copy of the Petition or must sign a waiver of service. The respondent then has 20 days (30 if he or she lives out of state) to file a response. The main purpose of the response is merely to correct any misstatements in the Petition and to request additional relief, if desired, from the court.
How Long Does it Take?
By law, the Court cannot issue a final decree of divorce or separation until 90 days after the Respondent is either personally served with the petition or signs a waiver of service. See below, “Jurisdiction: Can I File in Colorado?” Contested divorces or separations often take longer because the Court may order the parties to mediate or may schedule a temporary orders hearing to resolve important issues prior to the final hearing such as child custody, visitation, and child support.
Major Stages of Most Divorce or Legal Separation Cases
- File the Petition for divorce or separation
- Serve the Petition on the respondent (or respondent signs waiver of service)
- 90 day “cooling off” period begins
- Case Management Order is issued by the clerk or by the Court
- A temporary protection order goes into effect preventing the parties from harassing each each other, taking children out of state or disposing of joint assets.
- Initial Status Conference
- Parenting Class
- Parties with children under 17 separated for 2 years or less must attend a half-day parenting class (separately)
- Exchange financial documents and disclosures
- Such as taxes, bank statements, and paycheck stubs
- Temporary orders hearing
- Settlement / Mediation
- The Parties can avoid the permanent orders hearing and potentially expedite the divorce if they agree on all issues and have no children by the marriage or are both represented by counsel.
- Mediation is non-binding dispute resolution. It may be court-ordered. The parties may also voluntarily agree to mediate.
- Permanent orders hearing.
- Mini trial over all contested issues.
- Hiring a real trial lawyer is strongly recommended in all contested cases.
- Final decree of divorce or separation is normally issued at the hearing.
Jurisdiction: Can I File my Case in Colorado?
To decide a Colorado divorce case, the Court must have both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction if one of the parties (even just the respondent) has been domiciled in the State of Colorado for 90 days immediately preceding the filing of the Petition.
The Court automatically obtains personal jurisdiction over the party filing the petition (the “Petitioner”). The Court obtains personal jurisdiction over the other party (the “Respondent”) if he or she is personally served anywhere in Colorado or submits to the jurisdiction of the Court, for example, by signing a waiver of service or by filing an answer without challenging personal jurisdiction. The Court can even obtain personal jurisdiction over out-of-state respondents if they established a marital residence in Colorado and the Petitioner still resides here or if a child of the marriage might have been conceived in Colorado.
Issues in Divorce
Numerous issues must be resolved to obtain a final decree of divorce or legal separation. They may include protection orders, paternity, child custody, visitation rights, child support, enforcement of any prenuptial agreement, maintenance (alimony), division of property and debts, allocation of attorney fees and costs, restoration of the previous name of the wife, and other issues.
A divorce case is uncontested if the parties can agree on all major issues. Settling all of some of the common divorce issues may result in a quicker, less expensive and easier divorce. The court is likely to enforce the parties’ agreements as long as the terms are not unconscionable and appear to be in the best interests of the child(ren), if any. Settlement can be accomplished informally or through mediation, which can be entered into voluntarily or which may be court ordered. Your first objective in any divorce or separation should be to identify the issues that can be settled, negotiate those terms and put any agreements in writing. We’ve settled or mediated hundred of cases. Bring our experience to the table with you.
A substantial number of divorces are contested, which simply means that the parties cannot agree upon all of the issues. These disputed issues must be decided by a judge after a permanent orders hearing. The permanent orders hearing is essentially a short trial, and may include opening and/or closing statements by attorneys, sworn testimony from witnesses including expert witnesses, cross examinations, introduction of exhibits and, where appropriate, legal objections to proposed testimony, exhibits or other evidence.
If your case is contested, you are well advised to hire a real trial attorney who knows family law. You really only get one chance to present your case-at the permanent orders hearing. Appealing the court’s permanent order is difficult at best. The appellate court will not overturn the factual findings of the trial court unless they are “clearly erroneous” which means, essentially, not supported by any evidence. Moreover, “discretionary” decisions of the trial court are rarely overturned on appeal. Yet, discretionary decisions include both procedural and substantive rights-almost anything worth appealing: discovery issues, attorney’s fees, evidentiary questions, division of property, maintenance (alimony), child support, custody, and parenting time, and other critical issues.
The moral is this: hire a real trial attorney to represent you if you have a contested case. Trial attorney, William Thode, personally handles all permanent orders hearings in our clients’ cases. Click the “About Us” tab for more information.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer?
To answer this question, consider both the potential costs of a bad divorce and the benefits of having quality legal representation. What is the true cost of a bad divorce? At the very least, it may take you and your children many years to recover financially and psychologically. Moreover, if not properly handled, battles over child support, maintenance, custody and visitation can continue long after the divorce decree is issued. On the other hand, an experienced family lawyer will help you identify the issues, describe your legal rights and options, negotiate or mediate a settlement and, if necessary, present your strongest case to the court. The value of quality legal counsel regarding a major life issue such as divorce far exceeds the mere cost of the representation.
Call us today for a free evaluation of your divorce or legal separation. There is no obligation.