Dissolution of Marriage/Divorce/Legal Separation
Colorado is a “no-fault” divorce/Dissolution Of Marriage State, and all determinations are made “without regard to fault.” You must have been a resident for at least ninety days preceding the filing of a Petition For Dissolution of Marriage, and at least ninety days must have elapsed following the filing, until the Court is able to issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. During the time between the filing of the Petition, and issuance of a Decree you will be required to participate in alternative dispute resolution, or mediation, to resolve all issues by agreement.
A Legal Separation addresses the same issues, in the same manner as a divorce/Dissolution of Marriage proceeding. The only “real” difference is the decree is issued as a Decree of Legal Separation. Six months after the decree is issued, either party may ask the Court to convert it to a Decree of Dissolution.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
If you have minor children, what used to be known as “custody,” but now is referred to as “decision-making responsibility” will be decided. Parents do not have “custody,” implying possession or ownership, but rather have an obligation to make “responsible” decisions for their children. This will either be joint, or sole depending on each individual set of circumstances, and includes medical, educational, religious, and extra-curricular activity decisions for the children.
You can divorce your spouse, but your children are forever, and in any proceeding involving children, Bill pays particular attention to this aspect of your case.
Just like decision making responsibility, what used to be known as “visitation,” is now referred to as “parenting time.” Children do not “visit” with their parents until adulthood, but rather when they are younger enjoy time with both of their parents, or parenting time. Schedules can vary depending on the individual circumstances of each individual set of circumstances. Regular, i.e., during the school year, holiday, and summer parenting time schedules will all be addressed. While there are a limited number of circumstances where parenting time may be limited, restricted or supervised, it is important to recognize that a meaningful relationship with both parents, despite their impending divorce is the optimal outcome for your children.
Depending on the parenting time schedule, each parties’ income, or ability to earn income, day care, after school care, extraordinary expenses, among other factors, a child support Order will be entered directing one parent to contribute to the support of their children while in the other parent’s care. There are guidelines which direct, and suggest the correct amount of support.
Just like child support, depending on the length of the marriage, both parties’ income, the reasonable needs of the party seeking spousal support, and the party required to pay support ability to pay, among other factors, a spousal support Order, may be entered. There are guidelines which direct, and suggest both the amount, and the term, or length of such an Order.
Colorado is an “equitable” property division state as opposed to a true “community” property division state. To divide a marital estate, one begins by assessing either the marital or separate nature of property that was acquired during the marriage, and then accurately establishing its value. There are many ways to do this, and in some cases, appraisals, business, and retirement account valuations are necessary. After accurate, and reliable valuations are obtained, an equitable division will occur.
The same process is followed for debt division.
Post Decree Modification
No one can foresee everything. And truth be told, you probably never envisioned yourself seeking legal help to dissolve your marriage, or protect your children. But you are, and if circumstances change in ways that dictate a change in either your Separation Agreement, Parenting Plan, or financial orders, Colorado allows for modification of those provisions.