Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law in Colorado
What to expect in mediation or Family Court litigation
Jeffrey L. Skovron is an attorney who delivers the insight and advocacy you need to overcome obstacles in a divorce or family conflict. When you retain his services, he provides the information and advice you need to make the best possible decisions during divorce proceedings, child support disputes, parenting conflict and related matters. For reference purposes only, our firm provides general information about family law in Colorado. Keep in mind that these answers cannot be a substitute for legal advice and that only an attorney should advise you of your legal rights and options. We invite you to call or contact us to get specific questions answered.
- Why should I hire a lawyer to handle my divorce?
- How much does a divorce typically cost?
- How long does it take to obtain a divorce in Colorado?
- How is the child support amount determined?
- What should I do if I cannot keep up with my child support payments?
- How is property divided in a divorce?
- Will I have to pay alimony?
- How does a judge decide custody issues?
- If we settle all our disputes, do we still have to appear before a judge?
- When should I call a lawyer?
Why should I hire a lawyer to handle my divorce?
The presence of a lawyer can help you to distance yourself from the emotional upset of divorce and to keep sight of what’s at stake — your family, your future and your finances. A lawyer can guide you to the most rational course of conduct. For example, if you are disputing final ownership of the marital residence, it may be that keeping up with mortgage payments may prove impossible on a single household income for either party. Despite the attachment to the home you may feel, it might be better to sell the home and divide net proceeds . Helping to identify and make these types of tough choices is part of what Jeff Skovron can help you do.
How much does a divorce typically cost?
This is a very difficult question to answer because there's no such thing as a typical divorce. There are also numerous factors that can impact the cost, including but not limited to:
- Are there children of the marriage and/or are there disputes over parenting time or parental responsibilities;
- Are there significant assets to divide, and are the assets of easily determinable value;
- Is maintenance (alimony) an issue;
- Can the client provide the required information and documentation without significant oversight by the attorney's office;
- Can the parties settle some or all of their issues through mediation or otherwise, versus going to trial.
That being said, and given that at minimum detailed financial disclosures must be compiled and analyzed, and a Separation Agreement and other documents drafted, it is very difficult to complete a divorce for under $2,000.
It is always my goal to keep fees and costs to a minimum and at the same time achieve the best possible result for the client.
You should also know that the Court has the authority to require one party to pay one or all of the other party’s fees. The Court will look at the relative resources of the parties in making this determination.
How long does it take to obtain a divorce in Colorado?
A divorce typically will take six months from date of initial filing, but it could be much longer if there are numerous issues to be litigated. The minimum time required for a decree of dissolution to be entered is 90 days from the time the Petition for Decree of Dissolution (the initial filing in a divorce) is served upon the Responding party. The divorce can be completed within that time frame if one party defaults (does not respond in the lawsuit) or the parties agree upon all of the issues. Like any litigation, a contested divorce can be settled at any time prior to hearing.
How is the child support amount determined?
Colorado has adopted a formulaic approach to child support, per 14-10-114, Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.). Child support is determined based upon the parties’ respective gross incomes, the number of children, the number of overnight visits with the non-custodial parent, child care expenses and some additional factors. The Court can deviate from the guidelines under special circumstances. Child support is always modifiable as the circumstances of the parties change.
By going to the Colorado Courts website, you can access the electronic child support worksheet which will calculate child support for you. You should understand that an attorney's advice may be necessary to appropriately fill out the form, but it should give you some guidance in a number you might expect. http://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/SubCategory.cfm?Category=Domestic
What should I do if I cannot keep up with my child support payments?
It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as circumstances that prevent one from paying child support arise. Even if you are clearly unable to pay your child support because of changed circumstances, the child support arrears will continue to accrue until you file a Motion to Modify Child Support. The payee can initiate a collection action or seek to hold you in contempt of court for violation of the Order to pay child support. Either action can result in significant ramifications.
How is property divided in a divorce?
The easy answer is that the Court seeks to divide marital property in a fair and equitable manner. The Court generally starts with a 50/50 split of assets, but can vary from that based upon maintenance (alimony) ordered, the relative incomes of the parties, who is the primary caretaker of the children, and other factors. Divorce is what is known as an “equitable” action; the Court is free to fashion any remedy so that the result is fair in its eyes.
A further distinction is that courts presume that property acquired during the marriage is marital, that is, owned by each party equally. Property brought into the marriage can be considered separate, but if there is an indication that it was intended to become part of the marital estate, it can be determined to be marital property as well. At a minimum, any appreciation in value of separate property is typically held to be marital property. Property acquired by one party during the marriage, such as an inheritance, can be determined to be individual property, but it must be kept segregated from marital property.
Will I have to pay alimony?
Maintenance, commonly known as alimony, can only be awarded where one spouse is unable to support himself or herself. If a spouse can obtain reasonable support through suitable paid employment or with the income from property received in the divorce, then by law that person is not entitled to receive maintenance. In practice, however, the Court often grants maintenance for a period of time if there is an economic disparity between the parties. The period of maintenance tends to be proportional to the length of the marriage. If maintenance is a possibility, it is often desirable to settle so that the parties agree on its amount and that it can never be modified. On the other hand, if the Court orders maintenance, the award is modifiable in the future.
How does a judge decide custody issues?
The term custody is no longer used by the courts. The issues to be determined are parenting time — the time the children spend with each parent — and parental responsibilities — decision- making about the children’s education, medical care, religion and the like. The overriding concern is the children’s best interests. There is a presumption that it is in the children’s best interest to spend time with each parent. There is also a presumption in favor of joint parental decision-making. However, if the parties cannot demonstrate an ability to make decisions jointly, the Court can award decision-making to one parent. Other potential issues concerning children include child support, college education, sports and vacations.
If we settle all our disputes, do we still have to appear before a judge?
In most cases, if the parties agree, the divorce can be granted just by the filing of certain documents. The most important document is the Separation Agreement, which details all of the rights and obligations of the parties. A Parenting Plan is also important if there are children of the marriage. It is crucial that these documents be drafted with skill and consideration of potential future events. Separation Agreements are ordinarily not modifiable; child support and decision making responsibility and parenting time for the children are always potentially modifiable, with some limitations.
When should I call a lawyer?
If you are considering divorce, please contact a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can walk you through the process of pre-divorce planning. These steps can make sure you are fully prepared and protected, and that your rights and obligations are clearly spelled out before initiating divorce proceedings.