Frequently Asked Questions

The divorce or legal separation process is not something most people go through on a regular basis. It is usual for clients to have questions regarding the process. The following information may answer some typical questions.

How do I minimize fees and costs?

I will do everything possible to provide all the support and help you need to help you through this process. Every client is different and comes into the process with different knowledge and a different set of skills. If you need more assistance, my staff and I are here to provide it. However, I also understand that fees and costs are a significant issue in resolving a case; therefore, I can offer the following suggestions for keeping your costs down:

  1. Provide as much of the information we request from you as soon as possible, and use the forms we give you to provide that information. I am happy to assist if obtaining information is necessary, but it is more cost-effective for you to obtain as much information as you can access. The forms I provide are designed to complete the pleadings used in my office. The state form, your notes, or a spreadsheet may contain the same information, but it will take additional time for my office to put that information in the proper form.
  2. If you have questions that are not urgent or time-sensitive, group your questions and ask them together at a meeting, during a phone call, or in an e-mail. Again, you need to do what is most comfortable for you, but it can take me more time to respond to five separate e-mails vs one.
  3. Certain issues that are frustrating may be better vented to a friend or therapist if they do not relate to a legal issue or negotiation in your case. I believe having a relationship with my clients is important for me to help you achieve your goals through this process. However, keep in mind that you are billed for my time. If your frustrations relate to a legal issue that needs to be addressed, of course it is important that you share them with me. Just keep in mind that regular calls regarding your soon-to-be ex’s frustrating behavior can get expensive.
  4. If you can obtain copies for less than the amount listed in my fee agreement, provide copies and not original documents unless specifically requested. Be aware that we often have to make additional copies to provide to the other party or an expert, so there may still be some copy costs
  5. Be open to involving additional professionals, such as financial or parenting experts. In many cases, doing so actually keeps costs down, as some professionals’ hourly rates are less than the attorneys. If you and your spouse can agree on a neutral expert these costs can be shared, also keeping costs down. Finally, if a separate order to divide a retirement fund or other asset is required, I may hire an attorney that specializes in that area to prepare the order to save time and fees.

Court Requirements

The Court system and Colorado law require certain steps to complete a divorce or legal separation:

  1. The Court must have jurisdiction over both parties before any orders can be entered. If you file a case, your spouse must sign a document called a “waiver” acknowledging receipt of the initial documents or be handed the documents by a process server.
  2. Within the first 40 days after filing a case, both you and your spouse must complete and file a financial statement with the Court and provide documentation verifying your income, expenses, debts and assets. All of the information must be exchanged between you and your spouse. The purpose of this disclosure is to ensure that both parties have complete information before they make decisions regarding a final settlement. The Court will not enter a final order unless each of you has filed a financial statement.
  3. The Court also requires that you attend an Initial Status Conference to set deadlines for your case. (e.g. deadlines for filing of your financial statement, completion of the parenting education class if appropriate). If possible, I try to work with your spouse or his/her attorney to agree on these dates so that we can file an agreement with the Court and avoid the cost of attending the Initial Status Conference.
  4. If there are minor children involved, both parties are required to attend the Children and Families in Transition class provided at the courthouse.
  5. Either spouse has a right once the case has been filed to request a “temporary orders” hearing. This is a hearing before the Magistrate assigned to your case to enter orders that will be in effect until a final order enters. The most common reasons to request these hearings are to obtain child support; spousal maintenance; allocate debt between parties; decide who should move from the family residence if the parties have not agreed on separation; or to confirm the interim parenting plan that is best for the children. A minimum amount of time is allotted for these hearings (usually 1 hour) and the goal of the Court is to provide order and resolve disputes so that both parties’ positions can be heard and determined at the time of final hearing. The majority of times, parties are able to reach agreement on these issues, and the case does not go to hearing. The agreement is reduced to writing, filed with the Court and the Judge enters the agreement as an Order.
  6. Once all of the preliminary financial information has been exchanged, we will evaluate whether any experts are needed for your case. If you and your spouse do not agree on the value of the family home for example, we may need a market analysis or appraisal of the property. If you or your spouse own a business, we may need an accountant to value the business. Colorado law requires that we try to select a joint expert, rather than each side obtaining his/her own expert. I will make recommendations regarding experts that will be a good fit for your case and then will propose candidates to your spouse or his/her attorney. The Court also requires that we file a notice with the Court of any experts who will be involved with your case.
  7. Once information has been exchanged, we have enlisted the help of any needed experts, and resolved any temporary orders issues, I typically start working with you on the development of final settlement options. Colorado law requires, and I strongly support, the use of alternative dispute resolution options. Usually, I will schedule your case for mediation, mediation-arbitration or settlement conference. We will meet as needed prior to this date to further discuss your goals and options for final resolution. Most family law cases do not proceed to hearing, but are finalized in this stage of the process.
  8. The earliest that your divorce or legal separation can be final is 90 days from the date that the waiver is signed or the non-filing spouse is served with notice of the pending case. You can reach an agreement prior to this date; however, the Court will not enter your Agreement as an Order until this required waiting period has passed. Your case does not have to be finalized by this date. The following circumstances might cause your case to take longer than 90 days: high degree of conflict between you and your spouse; need for expert opinion regarding a parenting plan or business valuation; delay in either spouse providing the basic financial disclosures; your spouse hires an attorney who is difficult to work with or is non-responsive.
  9. If your case proceeds to final hearing, the date is often 60 to 90 days out due to the Court’s calendar. The El Paso County courthouse is one of the busiest in the State, and we are limited with how quickly we can obtain a final hearing date by the Court. If it appears that your case will be one that needs a final hearing, I usually recommend obtaining this date early on in your case to avoid delays.
  10. Colorado law and our local judges have special requirements before a case proceeds to hearing. We will be required to file written verification that you have attended the parenting class if you have minor children and that you have attended at least one mediation prior to final hearing. Most divisions require that we appear one month prior to hearing for a pre-trial readiness conference where we advise the Judge assigned to your case of the issues in your case and any legal issues that need to be resolved prior to hearing. We will be required to file a trial management certificate 10 days prior to hearing that lists all agreements; disputed issues; witnesses to be called and exhibits to be produced. We are required to prepare and finalize all exhibits and file them with the Court and provide copies to your spouse and his/her attorney prior to hearing.

Timeline:

Everyone’s case is unique and will have a somewhat different timeline. The following are two different timelines showing how two different cases could proceed:

  1. Petition filed
  2. Waiver signed
  3. Spouse retains counsel
  4. Financial Statements completed and documents disclosed
  5. Parenting Class completed
  6. Attend Initial Status Conference or file stipulated Case Management Plan
  7. Exchange proposals
  8. Meet to finalize Agreement
  9. File Separation Agreement with Court
  10. File Parenting Plan with Court
  11. File Affidavit for Decree, Decree and Support Order with Court
  12. Judge or Magistrate signs Decree

A more complicated case could look like this:

  1. Petition filed
  2. Service on other party or Waiver signed
  3. Other party retains Counsel
  4. Financial Statements completed and documents disclosed
  5. Parenting Class completed
  6. Attend Initial Status Conference or file stipulated Case Management Plan
  7. Request Temporary Orders Hearing
  8. Retain CPA as expert or neutral
  9. Attend Temporary Orders Hearing
  10. File Motion for Child Professional
  11. Request Vocational Evaluation of Spouse
    (Cost and time)
  12. Have house appraised
  13. Have business appraised
  14. Attend Mediation
  15. Set Case for Final Orders or Mediation/Arbitration
  16. Prepare for Hearing or Med/Arb
    (meetings, exhibits, preparation of experts)
  17. Attend Hearing or Med/Arb
    (Judge or Arbiter has power to rule)

As you can see, the time and cost can vary greatly depending on the complexities of the case and the agreements made between the parties. I will do everything I can to keep your case moving and bring it to resolution, but the time it takes to finalize your case will depend on the complexities of your situation.

Other Issues to keep in mind:

  1. I have 30 years of experience and continuing education in the legal filed specifically geared to divorce. I will give you my professional opinion as to what I believe is best for your situation. While your friends and family may have gone through a divorce and have your best interests at heart, every case is different and the advice they give you may no longer be correct and may not be relevant to your case or best for you. In some incidences it can even be counter productive, as you may waste time with incorrect information. Feel free to ask me about issues brought up by those who are concerned for you, but please be careful with information from people outside the legal field, however well intended. I will recommend you talk to a tax adviser, financial planner or other professional if you need assistance with specific issues and can provided contact information for trusted professionals in the area.
  2. There is no dumb question. As I mentioned before, the average person does not deal with divorce regularly. I want you to understand and feel comfortable with the process. If you do not understand why something is happening, please ask.
  3. I do my best to respond as quickly as possible to my clients. Sometimes I will be in Court or mediation, or out of the office and it will take more than a day to get you a response. I may have my support staff contact you to speed the response process. You may always request that my staff set a phone call if you want to discuss an issue with me directly.
  4. I will do my best to move your case along at the appropriate speed and obtain the best outcome possible for you. Please keep in mind that I have no control over your spouse or their counsel, and can not control the timeline or process on their end. If Court deadlines are being missed or Court orders not complied with I will discuss with you your options, the possible costs of those options, and how best to proceed.
  5. I also have no control over the Court’s calendar. Each Judge and Magistrate at our courthouse has a different docket and it can take much longer to obtain a hearing in some divisions than others. We are randomly assigned a Magistrate and Judge and have to work with their calendars.