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Things to Consider When Thinking About Divorce
If you are considering getting a divorce, you probably have a million questions running through your mind. Going through a divorce can be emotionally draining, financially challenging, and legally complex. Keeping a few key considerations in mind can keep you focused during this difficult time.
Can I get divorced in Colorado? How long do I have to wait?
Colorado has three requirements for divorce 1) that either you or your spouse have lived in Colorado for 90 days before filing, 2) that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and 3) that you wait a 90 day mandatory “cooling off” period, meaning the soonest you can receive a divorce decree is 90 days after filing. Most divorces take longer than 90 days, depending on the circumstances of the marriage. The more prepared you are ahead of time, the less time the process should take.
What are sufficient grounds for a divorce?
Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning that you can seek a divorce so long as you or your spouse wants a divorce. This also means that marital misconduct, such as an affair, has no bearing on the divorce.
What can I do before filing to protect myself financially?
Find out as much information as you can about the family finances, savings accounts and insurance accounts before you file for divorce. Make sure that you will have access to credit, savings, and an income source.
Refrain from making any large purchases, such as a new car or a new home. If you received any gifts or inheritances during or before the marriage, or entered into the marriage with any property, put together documentation showing where each item came from, that way the property does not end up being treated as marital property. If you own a business, consider having a business valuation report prepared by a financial analyst. Email, social media, and separate bank accounts passwords should all be changed, taking care to use passwords that your spouse cannot easily guess.
Consider putting together a list of all marital property (furniture, appliances, jewelry, etc.) and marking the items you want to keep and the items you have to keep. Then, if you or your spouse moves from the marital home, you will have a list ready to review. This can make negotiations about who gets what, much easier. Try to be rationale about what is important to you – you want to avoid arguments over things like who gets to keep season three of Seinfeld. It also is a good idea to make a visual record of everything in the home. If you decide to make a tape, make sure to inventory the entire home – opening drawers and cupboards so the inside items are visible – and make sure the video is date stamped. Store your list and tape outside of the home.
Whatever you do, do not misuse any marital property. You are obligated to disclose all debts and assets during a divorce and if you misuse any marital property (e.g. go on a cruise with your new partner, or buy them jewelry) your spouse could use that as evidence against you in court in dividing up the assets and liabilities.
We have talked about divorce, now what?
The immediate upheaval you will face after you tell your spouse that you want a divorce will be difficult to deal with. After all, the world will not stop simply because you are going through a divorce.
Before you file, you and your spouse should try to come to an agreement regarding temporary arrangements during the divorce. Things to think about include: living arrangements; access to accounts; bills; insurance coverage; household items; maintenance payments (commonly known as alimony); and, if you have children, parenting time and child support. It is best to put together a list ahead of time so that you are fully prepared. What is on your list will depend on your unique circumstances. If you and your spouse disagree regarding any issues, you can ask the court to enter temporary orders.
It is important to note that once proceedings begin, you and your spouse will be under an automatic order not to cancel, modify, terminate, or allow to lapse for nonpayment of premiums, any of the following that list you, your spouse, or your children as being covered or as a beneficiary: health insurance; homeowner’s or renter’s insurance; automobile insurance; or life insurance policies, unless fourteen days advance notice is provided to the other party and there is written consent from the other party or an order of the court.
What if one of us wants to move with the children in the future?
If you have children and think you may want to move in the near future, make sure you have a solid plan in place before you file for divorce. The court will look at the locations you and your spouse intend to live when making the initial determination regarding parental responsibilities. Make sure your plan is unambiguous so the court does not question whether and where you will move. Keep in mind that it is generally more difficult to obtain court approval to move after a divorce is final and a parenting plan has already been put in place.
If you think your spouse wants to move, and you do not want your children to move, you should consider filing for divorce sooner rather than later and you should start gathering as much evidence as possible to show that staying put would be the best thing for your children.
Whatever you do, do not move out-of-state with your children before you file, unless you have your spouse’s written consent. There is a very real possibility that the court could order you to return the children to Colorado and you could jeopardize your future parenting time.
I am so angry, what should I do?
No matter what happened during your marriage, keeping your head straight now will result in a much better future for you and your family. Consider going to therapy, hitting the gym more often, or taking up a new hobby. It may be difficult, but actions based on emotion could significantly hinder you during a divorce, especially if you have children. For example, one of the many factors the court looks at in determining parenting time for your children is your ability to encourage a relationship between your children and your spouse. If you trash-talk your spouse or make it impossible for your spouse to see the children, not only are you doing a disservice to your children, you also are hurting your case since you will likely be facing evidence of your actions before the judge. You absolutely will benefit in the long run from being the bigger person.
Should I hire an attorney? Can I afford to?
At the risk of sounding cliché, the question should be can you afford not to hire an attorney. If you have children, require child support, spousal maintenance, or own a home or other joint assets, a do-it-yourself divorce without benefit of some legal counsel can be risky. Many couples who divorce without a lawyer eventually end up having to hire an attorney to renegotiate improperly structured separation agreements, parenting plans, or maintenance arrangements. The financial decisions you make today will impact you and your children for years to come.
Even if you ultimately decide not to hire an attorney, you should definitely consider talking to one. An experienced family law attorney will explain to you what you should expect and the considerations you should think about for your unique situation. Hiring a good family law attorney will, without a doubt, make the process of going through a divorce much less stressful.
Glen B. Goldman
Emily T. Roberts
Douglas A. Thomas