A contested divorce can be one of the most stressful events of your life. Let the Colorado Springs divorce attorneys at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC that are experienced with contested divorce in Colorado guide you every step of the way.
Divorce can be one of the most stressful and painful experiences of your life. Divorces involve deeply personal and intimate details of your life, relationships, and finances. Years, sometimes decades, of your life get reduced to a few pages of a separation agreement or a few hours at a hearing. The whole experience can feel unsatisfying and unsettling.
For this reason, many people understandably hope to resolve their divorce without going to a court hearing, but what if you can’t? The outcome of a divorce has the potential to permanently and significantly change your day-to-day life. It can impact your relationship with your children and your ability to meet your financial needs. As such, it is important to understand your legal rights and what they afford you in your divorce case.
Colorado Springs Contested Divorce Attorney | CO, Family Law
Colorado is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that, unlike other states, factors such as infidelity, are not considered. In order to obtain a divorce, the court simply has to find that it has jurisdiction over the parties and that the parties agree that their marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
In these situations, it is incredibly important to have an experienced and skilled litigator, like the Colorado Springs divorce attorneys at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC. Our Colorado Springs and Denver divorce lawyers guide you through the process and making important strategic decisions that will determine the outcome of your case. The attorneys at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC pride themselves on their ability to think outside of the box to achieve their client’s desired goals.
Colorado Divorce Process
While the timeline for every divorce case is unique to that specific case, below is a general overview of the process that you can expect to go through. For more specific information about what you can expect in your case, please contact Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC to schedule a free, one-hour consultation at 720-780-8288.
Some information on how these cases proceed may also be helpful.
- File Case: Parties can file either jointly or separately, but official service is required for individual filings. Filing the proper documents initiates the divorce process in Colorado.
- ISC/Financials: Within 42 days after filing for divorce, the parties must appear in court for an initial status conference. At this time they must provide an overview of their stance on property division, alimony, and issues related to minor children. You will also be required to exchange initial financial disclosures to kick off the discovery process.
- Discovery: Each party will have the opportunity to engage in additional discovery to request more details on financial issues. It is possible that you will need to attend a deposition, and your lawyer can notice a deposition for your spouse. In some cases, experts may be necessary for consultation on complex financial issues.
- Negotiations: Based upon the information revealed by financial disclosures and discovery, parties to a contested divorce may still be able to resolve some disputes. You may find value in compromising on what is considered marital property, how to divide it equitably, and what would be fair for alimony. At times, the parties’ respective attorneys can facilitate agreement on some issues because they are able to keep emotion out of the equation.
- Mediation: This type of legal proceeding extends negotiation discussions, but through productive conversations and strategies guided by a trained mediator. These professionals can often help reach a resolution on some disputes.
- Final Orders: If you are unable to resolve disputes through negotiations or mediation, you will need to participate in a contested divorce hearing. The proceeding is similar to a trial, so there will be opening and closing arguments by both lawyers regarding each party’s position. Plus:
- You and your spouse will both testify, and will be subject to cross-examination by the opposing side;
- Each party will have the opportunity to present witnesses, who may also be cross-examined; and,
- Any important exhibits resulting from the discovery process may be introduced in court as evidence.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will determine an outcome.
Appeals: Even the most qualified judges make mistakes that affect the result in a contested divorce case, so it may be possible to have an appellate court look at the case. Keep in mind that the appeals process is not a re-trial of the contested divorce hearing. Appellate judges are limited to reviewing the documentary records of the case. However, appellate review may lead to a reversal or other beneficial result.
Do Both Parties Have to Agree to Divorce in Colorado?
In every divorce case, the court will address the status of the marriage, spousal maintenance (i.e.- alimony), the division of property and debt, and if applicable, attorney fees and costs. If the parties have children, the court will also issue orders regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities (parenting time and decision-making), as well as child support. It is helpful to take a closer look at each of these issues in more detail.
Spousal Maintenance (i.e.- “Alimony”): The issue of spousal maintenance is by far one of the most difficult issues in any contested divorce case. Often, the person who is ordered to pay is concerned that they won’t be able to meet their own financial needs if ordered to pay spousal maintenance to their ex-spouse. The person receiving the spousal maintenance, on the other hand, has the opposite concern about not getting enough money to meet their financial needs moving forward.
This issue can be especially difficult when one party has historically been the “breadwinner” of the family. While the law provides a maintenance guideline formula, the court is not required to follow it. At times, a judge may look at how one spouse may have given up educational or employment opportunities to contribute to the household and family. Another factor is the extent to which a lower-earning spouse can become self-sustaining through employment. When appropriate, a court is likely to order this type of rehabilitative spousal support.
Keep in mind that Colorado does allow for alimony during divorce, so you may request or be required to pay spousal support for the duration of the proceedings.
Division of Property: Colorado is an “equitable” division state, meaning that the court divides marital property in a manner that it deems “fair” based upon the circumstances. In many cases, what is “equitable” is an “equal division,” however, that is not always the case. As part of determining what is equitable, the court considers factors such as the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, the economic circumstances of the spouses, whether one spouse has “separate property,” and the value of the property to be awarded to each spouse in the divorce.
On its face, it may seem simple, however, there are many complicating factors that can be involved in the division of property. For instance:
- One spouse may have separate property, but the other spouse argues that the property has been “commingled” into the marriage. This scenario is common when one of the key assets is ownership in a business when both spouses have contributed financial and other resources.
- The spouses may disagree on the value of certain property and need experts to assist them in resolving their dispute.
- In contested divorce cases, one spouse might be tempted to conceal or misrepresent assets in order to gain an edge in the division of property. A court cannot assess property for an equitable distribution under these circumstances, and there can be serious consequences when one party is hiding assets.
In these cases, it is important to have an experienced attorney who is well-versed in the applicable law and can help you sort through your property disputes. If it is necessary to go to court to fight for your rights, our team has finely tuned trial advocacy skills to promote your interests.
Issues Related to Minor Children: When parents are at odds about child custody and visitation, disputes can also complicate the contested divorce process. These familiar concepts go by the terms “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” under Colorado law, but many of the key points are similar. A court will assess the nine factors itemized in the state statute on the child’s best interests to determine how parents handle decision making on such issues as:
- Education and extracurricular activities
- Participation in religion
- Medical care and treatment
- Many other factors involved with raising the child
Colorado law favors both parents sharing in allocation of parental responsibilities, though the child will primarily reside with one parent. The other can exercise visitation rights through parenting time, another area where the child’s best interests standard applies. A common arrangement involves parents having equal time or alternating weekdays and weekends, as well as alternating holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions.
While it is rare that a court will allocate parental responsibilities to one parent, this may be appropriate when there is a history of threats of violence.
With respect to child support, judges in contested divorce cases are guided by statutory guidelines and formulas to ensure the child enjoys sufficient financial resources. As a general rule, the goal is to put the child in the same position he or she would be if parents remained together.
Contested Divorce Lawyer, Colorado Springs CO
From the above, you can see the importance of retaining skilled legal representation to represent your interests in a Colorado contested divorce. Your future and rights as a parent are at stake, and you put your situation in jeopardy unless you have an experienced lawyer on your side. At Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC, we understand that divorce can be overwhelming. You may not even know where to begin, but you can feel confident that your case is in good hands when you work with our team. We are ready to advise you on your goals in divorce, and we strive to help you achieve them.
If you need assistance with a contested divorce in Colorado, the family law attorneys at Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC are here to help you. Our main office serves the greater Colorado Springs and El Paso County area, and we assist clients at our secondary Denver location. Please call (719) 328-1616 to schedule your first consultation.