Family Law FAQ
1. How long will my divorce take?
Under Colorado Law, a divorce decree may not be entered prior to 90 days after the parties have been personally served with the Petition and Summons for Dissolution of Marriage. The 90 day time limit is a “cooling off” period which allows the parties to gather necessary information related to the divorce, negotiate a settlement, or prepare for the trial. In some cases, a spouse may request a court order for temporary use of property or temporary financial support while their case is pending. If a Husband and Wife reach an agreement on all issues prior to the expiration of the 90 day time limit, they may divide their property before 90 days, however, the Judge will not review or approve the final decree until the deadline passes.
2. Who will get custody of my children?
Custody of the children is one of the most difficult issues in a divorce case. In Colorado, custody is referred to as an “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Parental responsibilities includes decision making authority, parenting time, and the payment of child support. When allocating parental responsibilities, a Judge will carefully examine several factors, including the lifestyles of the parties, the wishes of the children, and any evidence of prior child or spouse abuse. The ultimate determination must be based on what is in the best interests of the child.
3. What is a paternity action?
A paternity action involves an allocation of parental responsibilities for a child whose parents were never married. The paternity action is started the same was as a divorce, with the filing of a Petition and Summons. However, a paternity case involves additional procedures for the determination of birth parents, usually through DNA testing. Once the birth parents are identified the Court will proceed with establishment of decision making authority, parenting time and child support, based on what is in the best interests of the child.
4. Will I have to pay alimony / Will I receive alimony?
In Colorado, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance.” When considering a spouse’s request for maintenance, the Judge will review several factors, including the duration of the marriage, a party’s level of education, a party’s job skills, and a party’s health condition. Maintenance may be awarded for a fixed period of time or indefinitely. Maintenance is taxable as income to the recipient and deductible by the payor. A maintenance award may be amended or modified following the divorce if warranted by a change in the party’s financial circumstances.
5. How is marital property divided?
In Colorado, marital property includes all property (tangible or intangible) acquired by either party between the date of marriage and the date of the divorce decree. Marital property also includes the increase in value of any separate property during time of the marriage. However, marital property does not include inheritance or gifts received by a spouse during the marriage. There is no set formula for dividing marital property in Colorado. The Judge’s role will be to determine what items qualify as marital property, the value of those items, and how to split the items between the parties in an equitable fashion. Property division is particularly important when the couple owns a home, has a business, or maintains a pension, IRA, or 401(k).
6. What happens to the marital debt?
Marital debt is determined and divided in the same manner as marital property. A spouse may agree to take on a greater share of the marital debt in exchange for a greater proportion of the marital property. Generally, the Court will divide the marital debt equally between the parties in an effort to avoid placing a financial hardship on either spouse. The goal in every divorce is to minimize the debt and allow the spouse to start with a clean financial record once the final decree is entered.
7. How much child support will be ordered?
In Colorado, the amount of child support is based on the income of the parties and is determined by a formula under the child support guidelines. Other variables included in the child support calculation include health insurance premiums, day care costs, the child’s primary residence, and parenting time. Child support is payable until a child turns 19 or is emancipated. Child support arrears accrue interest at the rate of 12% and there are several methods available for the collection of back support. Parents may request a modification of child support at any time during their case, provided they can show a substantial and continuing change in the financial circumstances of either party.
8. What about my legal fees and costs?
The Colorado Courts have the discretion to divide and assign legal fees and costs between the parties in family law cases. When dividing fees, the Court will consider the disparity between the spouses’ incomes or any misconduct by a spouse during the case. While an award of costs and fees is not guaranteed, a party must reserve the request for fees early in the case or the possibility for reimbursement will be forfeited.