Common questions, concerns, and misunderstandings
While divorce is difficult, it does not have to be devastating. We offer both detailed legal advise and common sense support.
We’ve lived together for over seven years so we’re common law married?
Not necessarily. Common law marriage is a legal status in Colorado that can only be conferred by a District Court if the parties disagree as to the status of the marriage. The Court must review a range of factors–such as whether the parties filed taxes as married; whether the parties stated in public documents (such as children’s school documents) that they were married; whether both parties referred to themselves as married—in order to determine if the parties presented themselves publicly as married and are therefore declared to be married. If not married, parties do not have a legal right to shared assets or debts or to spousal support.
What happens to my retirement benefits? To our debts?
Colorado is not a community property state, and the Court’s requirement is to first divide up marital assets and then assess if either party needs to receive spousal support (i.e. maintenance or alimony). Most Courts begin with the assumption that marital assets and debts will be shared equally, but the Court is not obligated to make a 50/50 division. Much depends on the relative “economic circumstances” of the parties.
I received an inheritance that I have kept in a separate account. Does my spouse get half of that?
Inheritances that have been kept segregated from marital or family accounts are considered separate assets, however any income generated by the inheritance is a marital asset. And the existence of such an inheritance may be considered as part of the economic circumstances of a party.
The maintenance worksheet says my spouse owes me $x-amount in spousal support. Isn’t that what the Court is going to order?
Not necessarily. Colorado case law makes it clear that while a Court must review the maintenance worksheet calculations, the worksheet is a guideline only and the Court may deviate from that with good cause.
Can’t we just go to mediation and settle everything?
A third-party mediator can often assist parties to talk through issues and find a solution that is mutually acceptable. However, a mediator does not make decisions, does not generally give legal advice and cannot advocate for either party’s legal position. If you do use a mediator, you should also have an attorney at least look over the proposed agreements before you commit yourself. It is much more expensive (and sometimes impossible) to try to fix an issue later than to get it right the first time.
Do we have to go to mediation?
Most Courts require parties to attend mediation prior to attending a hearing on disputed issues. These mediations are typically done with parties in separate rooms and the mediator going between rooms in a sort of “shuttle diplomacy.” A mediation can lead to full, partial or no settlement of the issues. Every judge in every court is grateful for whatever agreements can be reached, so don’t hesitate to look for even the smallest area of agreement.
Can I make the other party pay for my attorney fees?
Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-119 allows the Court, upon request of either party, to determine if the economic circumstances of the parties are such that requiring one party to pay all or some of the other party’s legal fees is justified. This usually occurs when there is a great disparity between the parties, or when one party has significantly more personal (i.e. non-marital) assets than the other party.
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