How to Prepare for Divorce
It’s an emotional and exhausting time, whether you and your partner are in agreement about the divorce or not. Being prepared for such a big step can be a challenge. Following the tips below should help you avoid the disputes and delays that plague many divorces.
For many couples in Colorado, the decision to divorce is one of the most important they will ever make.
It’s an emotional and exhausting time, whether you and your partner are in agreement about the divorce or not. Being prepared for such a big step can be a challenge.
However, understanding what’s coming and preparing the necessary documents in advance can make the difference between a long, protracted divorce and a relatively simple settlement process that allows all parties concerned to move on with their lives.
Following the tips below should help you avoid the disputes and delays that plague many divorces.
Preparation of financial/property records
The division of property is always a major bone of contention in a divorce. Who gets what? Who keeps the house and the car? How will the pension be divided? These are typical questions that you need to be prepared for.
If you can, make an inventory of your property, noting items that were brought into the marriage and assets accumulated during the marriage.
This should include:
- Bank accounts
- Stocks, shares, and other investments (timeshares, etc.)
- Property (real estate)
- Retirement accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Vehicles of all kinds
- Collections (e.g. art, wine or jewelry)
- Business assets, if applicable
- Inheritance and gifts
- Any other items of value (e.g. air miles!)
Try to find the current values of the property to the best of your ability. If you cannot locate or do not have access to this information, that is fine because both Parties need to disclose finances during the case, but any information you can secure is better than nothing.
Colorado law states that marital property should be divided equitably between divorcing spouses so it is important to determine what constitutes marital property and its value: assets that you brought into the marriage may not need to be divided but their increase in value (marital appreciation) usually is in some fashion.
As you prepare your inventory, don’t be tempted to hide anything or it could create future problems and delays. Transparency is required for an equitable settlement that holds up in the long term.
If you’re not sure about an asset (whether it is held in your name, your spouse’s name, or jointly), list it and your divorce lawyer can decide if it needs to be considered.
Learn the different types of divorce options
While many people think of divorce cases as long, drawn-out trials in court (largely because of TV depictions) relatively few divorces end up in a trial in Colorado.
Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. So, you and your spouse only need to state that your marriage is beyond repair to begin the divorce process.
From that point on, you have options for how you reach a settlement.
A divorce can be contested or uncontested. If it is uncontested, both partners agree to the divorce and the terms to resolve the case and may file together. They usually work out an agreeable settlement together covering the key issues like child custody, child support, division of marital property, and alimony.
The agreement is generally ratified by a lawyer before going to the Colorado family courts and, if child custody arrangements are acceptable, the judge will sign the divorce decree.
However, a contested divorce is more complicated and will involve some form of legal counsel.
Your options include:
- Collaborative divorce – where you and your spouse hire separate lawyers and agree to share information with the aim of coming to a mutually acceptable agreement.
- Mediation – where you and your spouse hire an independent and professional mediator to help settle the terms of your divorce. This is a voluntary process meaning you are not required to reach agreements, but virtually every county in Colorado will order mediation (at some point) if the case is contested.
- Arbitration – where you and your spouse hire an independent and professional arbitrator and agree to abide by the decisions made. This process, unlike mediation, is not voluntary. If there is an arbitrator making decisions, you are bound to those decisions like a judge.
- Litigation – where you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement through other channels and divorce attorneys represent you in court, where a judge will decide on the outcomes.
Consider contacting financial and legal specialists
While it is tempting for many couples who agree on the major aspects of a divorce to attempt to reach an agreement without legal representation, there are good arguments for seeking professional counsel.
Divorces are rarely straightforward and many amicable agreements come unstuck by a seemingly minor disagreement. This is especially the case when children are involved and emotions are running high.
Likewise, separating assets is generally more complex than it seems. It is important to cover everything and not to miss important aspects of property division or you may end up settling for less than you’re entitled to.
Professional assistance is advisable. If you are not looking to hire lawyers, then financial professionals or accountants should be considered an important step in your divorce preparation.
You might also want to seek professional help to assist with the mental and emotional strain of a divorce – professional therapists and counsellors may be part of your preparation.
Lastly, even if you and your spouse agree on most or all terms, those agreements need to be memorialized in writing and it is incredibly important to have an attorney draft those agreements.
Prepare a list of questions
A final tip: prepare a list of questions that you can work from.
You may have questions to ask your partner and also questions for the divorce lawyer before you hire them.
It will be important to determine the following with your spouse (if possible):
- What does he or she want/expect in terms of custody and parental arrangements?
- What will happen with child support?
- What are the expectations with spousal support?
- Who will remain living in the house (e.g. one of us, both of us)?
Of course, your list of questions will probably go into much greater detail than this.
Most divorce lawyers in Colorado will conduct an initial case evaluation before you retain them. This is an opportunity for you to find out important information about them with questions like:
- Does your firm practice only family law cases?
- How many cases have you represented that are similar to mine?
- How will we communicate during the divorce process?
- Will you attend court with me?
Need assistance with preparing for a divorce?
Divorce proceedings are high stakes for everyone involved and can become complex, especially if children are involved.
While life can throw you many surprises, a little preparation beforehand will provide the best chance of getting the outcome you want from the settlement and being able to move on with your life. Knowledge is power.
The experienced divorce attorneys at Colorado Legal Group in Denver can walk you through the documentation you need to prepare for a divorce in Colorado.
Start with a free case evaluation. Call Colorado Legal Group at 720.594.7360.