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Divorce Dictionary

Affidavit

A sworn statement in writing. Many documents filed in a domestic relations case must be accompanied by an affidavit.

Alimony

See “Maintenance”

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Action

An action which deals primarily with parental responsibilities of a minor child. These actions may be filed by parties who were never married and who have minor children together. Other non-parents may sometimes file these types of actions depending on the particular circumstances. An allocation of parental responsibilities action generally addresses child support, parenting time, decision-making, and attorney’s fees. These actions are filed in the county’s District Court and are normally handled by the same judicial officers assigned to dissolution of marriage actions.

Annulment

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Arbitration

Arrearage

Best Interests of the child

Child and Family Investigator (CFI)

A court-appointed investigator whose role is to collect relevant information needed to make an informed recommendation concerning the best interests of the child. A CFI can be a mental health professional or an attorney. In Colorado, CFI’s are normally subject to a maximum rate which they may charge for their entire investigation. Therefore, a CFI’s investigation is normally more abbreviated than the investigation of a “PRE.”

Child Support

A payment from one parent to another parent of minor children as a contribution to the ordinary expenses associated with the care and support for the child. In Colorado, child support is calculated using child support guidelines (calculator app). The Court can vary from the guidelines, but most Courts, including the Denver Courts, will not vary from the guidelines without an extremely compelling reason.

Civil Protection Order

Commonly referred to as a “restraining order,” civil protection orders are issued to protect victims of domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault, child abuse, and sexual abuse. Civil protection orders have two phases, a temporary protection order and a permanent protection order. A party must first seek a temporary protection order. The victim must first prove to the court that imminent danger exists to the person or persons seeking the protection. These hearings are normally held with only the victim and judge or magistrate present. After a temporary protection order is issued, the victim (“protected person”) and the restrained person are required to return to court for a hearing. The court determines whether the temporary protection order should be made permanent. If a civil protection order is issued during an active domestic relations case, the protection order matter is often consolidated in the domestic relations matter.

Common-law Marriage

Colorado recognizes common-law marriage. A common-law marriage is treated just the same as a marriage in which the parties “formally” married. If the parties do not agree that they are common-law married, the court determines whether a common-law marriage exists. A common law marriage is established by both parties intent to be husband and wife, evidenced by their conduct, and followed by their mutual and open marital relationship. If two people want to be husband and wife and therefore live together, commingle their finances as husband and wife, and hold themselves out to the public as husband and wife they may create a common law marriage.

Custody

Custody has been replaced with the term “parental responsibilities,” which encompasses both parenting time and decision-making.

Decision-making

The ability of parents to make a binding, major decision concerning the child. Courts will allocate decision-making authority either jointly to both parents or solely to one parent.

Deposition

A method of discovery in which a party gives sworn testimony outside of court. The answers can later be used in court for various different reasons. Depositions are uncommon in domestic relations cases, but may be used.

Discovery

Discovery is the formal process of gathering information in litigation. The primary methods of discovery are interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, and depositions. Domestic relations cases in Colorado automatically allow certain types of discovery. It is common to request and produce documents and answers to interrogatories.

Dissolution of Marriage

The legal term for “divorce” in Colorado. This term is symbolic of the no-fault modern approach to dissolving a marriage.

Domestic Relations

A general term for legal actions involving dissolution of marriage, legal separation, and allocation of parental responsibilities.

Domicile

This is the legal term that is used to define a person’s permanent or primary home in which that party intends to permanently remain.

Early Neutral Assessment (ENA)

A blend of collaborative law and traditional mediation which provides couples a new way to resolve their divorce. Instead of meeting with a single mediator, the parties meet with a team of two evaluators. One is usually a mental health expert and the other is usually an attorney experienced in mediation that has had no prior involvement with the case. The combined expertise of a mental health expert and an unbiased attorney can help parties settle their differences quickly and amicably.

Equitable Distribution

The Courts must divide marital property “equitably” which does not always mean equally. The property rights and debts between spouses during a dissolution of marriage shall be divided equitably. Such division can be done by a negotiated agreement or by a court order.

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)

An individual appointed by the court to appear in a case on behalf of a child or an incompetent person. A GAL represents the best interests of the child or incompetent person.

Initial Status Conference (ISC)

The parties to a dissolution of marriage or legal separation action are required to attend an Initial Status Conference within 42 days of a filing for dissolution of marriage or legal separation. Generally, all parties and their attorneys have to attend the ISC. The purpose of the ISC is to advise the parties of the case management and legal process and to identify any issues that the parties need resolved by the Court. In some jurisdictions, the court may enter interim orders. Every jurisdiction handles ISC’s a little differently. Refer to the case management order for the specifics in your case.

Interrogatories

A method of discovery in which one party issues a set of written questions to the opposing party. Interrogatories are a common form of discovery in domestic relations cases.

Legal Separation

In Colorado, obtaining a decree of “legal separation” must address the same issues which must be addressed in a decree of dissolution (divorce). Therefore, after a decree of legal separation has been entered, the parties shall be separate people financially except for the responsibilities contained in the decree of legal separation. The parties must complete the same procedural requirements of a dissolution of marriage action. Either party may request a decree of dissolution of marriage after the passage of six months from the entry of the decree of legal separation.

Maintenance

Formerly known as “alimony,” maintenance is financial support given by one spouse to another which is paid as a result of divorce or legal separation. The length of maintenance may be a set length of time or may be permanent subject to a future change. The amount of maintenance may be contractual and non-modifiable or subject the future modification. Maintenance may terminate upon remarriage of the receiving party, death, or upon a change in circumstances. The receipt of maintenance is not guaranteed. The duration, amount, and terms of maintenance vary from case to case.

Marital Agreement/ Prenuptial Agreement

Known as a “prenuptial agreement” or “marital agreement.” This is a contract or agreement that is entered into before marriage to attempt to resolve issues of maintenance, property division and other issues in the event the parties divorce.

Marital Property

All property acquired by either spouse between the date of the marriage and the date of the dissolution or legal separation regardless of who owns or has title to the property. Marital property includes but is not limited to: real estate, stocks, bonds, motor vehicles, home furnishings, pensions, profit sharing plans, bank accounts, businesses, insurance, 401(k)’s, and cash. Any increases or decreases in the value of a spouse’s “separate property” is normally considered marital property. There are some exceptions to the general rule that all property acquired during the marriage is marital property. An example is property acquired by inheritance which has not been comingled with marital property. Marital property in a divorce or legal separation, is subject to “equitable distribution” by the court.

Mediation

Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party (“mediator”) tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution without seeking court intervention. Colorado courts almost always require parties to domestic relations case to participate in mediation prior to a hearing. The mediator assists the parties in coming to a resolution. If the parties cannot agree, the mediator has no authority to issue binding decisions on the parties.

Motion

A written request asking the court to grant a particular request. Either party may file a motion. In a domestic relations case, certain motions require permission from the court prior to filing. Nearly all motions require the parties to confer (try to reach an agreement) prior to filing with the court. Some motions may be ruled on by the court without a hearing. Other motions require a hearing. The most common motions in domestic relations cases are those relating to modification of child support, parenting time, and maintenance.

Parental Responsibilities

Refers to decision-making authority and parenting time, which are two distinct concepts in a case involving minor children.

Parental Responsibility Evaluator (PRE)

Performs a parental responsibility evaluation which is similar to the investigation of a CFI. A PRE, however, must be a licensed mental health professional. A PRE’s investigation may include mental health evaluations and substance abuse evaluations. A parental responsibility evaluation’s cost is not governed by a presumptive cap as is the investigation of a CFI. Therefore, a PRE’s investigation may be more thorough and assess the impacts of a wider range of issues on the children’s best interest. As with a CFI, the purpose of the PRE is to assist the court in making its orders concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities in the best interests of the child or children.

Parenting Plan

A legal document which outlines the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time between the parties and the minor children. Parenting plans can be entered into by agreement of the parties or by order of the court. The court must find that a parenting plan is in the best interests of the children or child. Parenting plans are entered as orders of the court and are enforceable as court orders.

Pattern Discovery

In Colorado domestic relations cases, a common set of “requests for production of documents” and “interrogatories” have been approved by the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Pattern discovery is the most common type of discovery used in domestic relations cases.

Permanent Orders

The final disposition of the subject matter of a dissolution of marriage. Permanent orders are orders respecting all issues of the marriage such as allocation of parental responsibilities, maintenance, child support, attorney fees, and division of property. Permanent orders may be entered by agreement of the parties or by order of a court. In Colorado, permanent orders can be entered once the court finds that one of the parties has been domiciled in Colorado for at least 91 days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceedings, that the parties’ marriage is irretrievably broken, and that at least 91 days has elapsed since the court acquired jurisdiction over the responding party.

Permanent Protection Order

see “Civil Protection Order”

Petitioner

The party presenting a petition to a court to institute a civil action. In dissolution of marriage actions, this is the spouse who files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Prenuptial Agreement

Known as a “prenuptial agreement” or “marital agreement.” This is a contract or agreement that is entered into before marriage to attempt to resolve issues of maintenance, property division and other issues in the event the parties divorce.

Presumption of Paternity

A presumption of paternity arises in Paternity Actions filed in Juvenile Court. A man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if: the man who was married to the child’s mother when the child was conceived or born OR, has acknowledged paternity of the child in a writing filed with the court OR, married the mother after the child’s birth and agreed to either have his name on the birth certificate or to support the child, OR held the child out as his own. A presumption of paternity may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence.

Pro Se

A party who represents oneself in a court proceeding without the assistance of an attorney.

Qualified Domestic-Relations Order (QDRO)

An order entered by a domestic relations court that provides for the transfer of all or a part of a qualified retirement account from one party to another party incident to a dissolution of marriage. QDROs are required to satisfy ERISA rules. The drafting of QDROs is very technical. Many practicing attorneys opt to have these orders prepared by professionals specializing in the preparation of QDROs.

Requests for Admissions

A type of formal discovery where the asking party requests that the other part either “admit” or “deny” a statement.

Requests for Production of Documents

A type of formal discovery in which the asking party makes written requests to the other party requesting specific documents or other items for inspection and copying.

Respondent

the party against whom a civil action is brought. In a dissolution of marriage action, this is the spouse who is served the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Separate Property

Property which is not subject to the court’s division in a dissolution of marriage proceeding. Separate property may include property owned by either spouse prior to entering into the marriage or after the marriage is dissolved. Separate property may also include property received during the marriage as a gift or inheritance. Any increase in the value of a spouse’s separate property is considered “marital property.” Separate property may loose its separate characterization if it is commingled with marital property.

Separation Agreement

A written agreement to resolve all issues in the dissolution of marriage or legal separation which contains provisions for maintenance, the disposition of any property owned by either party, and the allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, and parenting time for the children. A separation agreement is entered into rather than litigating a permanent orders hearing.

Service of Process

This refers to legal notice required to commence an action and to appropriately notice other parties to an action of pleadings. This is the general term for the manner in which a lawsuit is commenced and the court asserts its jurisdiction over the parties. The appropriate manner and timing of service is governed by the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.

Temporary Orders

In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or allocation of parental responsibilities, either party may request that the court enter orders regarding “temporary issues.” These issues may include (if applicable) temporary use of property, temporary payment of debts, temporary maintenance, temporary parenting time, and temporary attorney fees. The purpose of temporary orders is to maintain the “status quo” and to govern the parties until the case is fully resolved. Temporary orders may be entered into by agreement of the parties or order of the court.

Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

The UCCJEA is a statute that provides uniform methods for determining interstate parental responsibility orders. The UCCJEA is the basis for determining which state has the ability to enter parental responsibility orders where a child has connections to more than one state. The UCCJA seeks to be in conformity with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and the Violence Against Women Act.

Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)

UIFSA is a statute adopted in Colorado which establishes the process by which a child support order issued by one state can be enforced in another state. The purpose of UIFSA is to make interstate child support more consistent, effective, and efficient by requiring all states to consistently recognize and enforce support orders issued in other states. This concept is different than UCCJEA and provides a different basis for jurisdiction regarding support.

Venue

Venue refers to the proper place for a lawsuit to proceed, which normally refers to the county in which the case should be filed and litigated. In a domestic relations case, venue is normally the county in which all the parties and children live.

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