COVID-19: We continue normal operation with meetings by phone or video chat. Courts have limited operations.
What We Do
Divorce in Colorado
The legal term for "divorce" is dissolution of marriage. This is the term you will see on the paperwork involved. The basic steps in a typical dissolution of marriage case are:
File a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and complete service of process.
Attend the Initial Status Conference and schedule deadlines in the case.
Request and pursue a hearing on any Temporary Orders needed.
Exchange Mandatory Disclosures and conducting any additional discovery.
Attend mediation & negotiate settlement of any agreed upon issues.
Prepare and Attend Permanent Orders Hearing for a judicial determination of remaining contested issues.
The ease or complexity involved depends on the unique needs of each case. The dissolution of marriage process is designed to accomplish the purposes of:
Dissolving the marriage
Determining ownership of assets, liability for debts, and
Allocate parental responsibilities of children.
Colorado is a “no-fault state,” which means that neither spouse has to provide a reason for ending the marriage. Bad acts by either spouse leading to the failure of the marriage (i.e. infidelity) are mostly irrelevant to the case, except to the extent they include economic fault, such as accumulation of debt or waste of assets. Bad acts can also matter to the extent they negatively impact parenting.
Questions to Discuss with an Attorney:
Are you actually married so that you need a divorce? Colorado recognizes common law marriage. Whether you are married under common law is a highly fact-specific question to be answered by an attorney.
Is Colorado the correct place to file your dissolution of marriage case? If you've recently moved to or left Colorado or your spouse has moved or left Colorado, Colorado may or may not be the correct state for your case. There are similar considerations for the residence of children involved.
What are your primary concerns about proceeding with dissolving your marriage? Be prepared to discuss your financial and parenting concerns and wishes for the future after splitting from your spouse.
What are the assets and debts involved that must be divided? Absent a valid marital agreement, most assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered marital. Marital assets and debts are subject to allocation by the court regardless of whose name is on the title to the asset or debt. The attorney can help assess your claims regarding these items.
Are there immediate issues to be addressed? Issues of immediate concern include safety of children with a parent, disputed parenting time arrangement during the pending case, determination of financial responsibilities and spousal support during a pending case. These issues are dealt with through reaching an agreement with your spouse or through a Temporary Orders hearing where they are determined by a judge.
The legal determination of parental responsibilities includes parenting time and decision-making. Historically, these principles were referred to as physical and legal custody. The court has authority to determine parental responsibilities in dissolution of marriage cases (for married parents) and allocation of parental responsibilities cases (for non-married parents).
Best Interests Factors
In determining parenting time and decision-making, the judge is required to consider the best interests of the child standard. These include the following factors:
(I) The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;
(II) The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;
(III) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
(IV) The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
(V) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
(VI) The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;
(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
(VIII) The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;
(IX) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect under section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or under the law of any state, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence;
(X) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of domestic violence, which factor shall be supported by a preponderance of the evidence;
(XI) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.
Best Interest Factors In Practice
Each one of these factors has a dearth of background history in cases that will be assessed in relation to the facts of your case by your attorney. It is important to note that though the wishes of the child are a factor, it is very rare for a child to be directly involved in the case. It is a common misconception that children get to decide which parent to live with at some age. There is no such law or age in Colorado. The law provides that a child’s wishes are considered over age 12, but are far from determinative. The judge is to consider the child’s maturity in relation to their wishes. In practice, the wishes of children below teen years are almost completely unpersuasive. Even the wishes of teens are mostly inconsequential as well unless backed by good reasons, such as a showing of a better relationship with one parent. Teen’s wishes are often disregarded for favoring the less strict parent.
Child and Family Investigators
There is difficulty in even presenting evidence to a judge of a child’s wishes. Children are generally not allowed to testify in the case and very rarely may be interviewed by a judge. There is no option for a child to provide their wishes to a judge in writing either. Usually the only way to present the child’s wishes to the court is through an investigation by a Child and Family Investigator (CFI).
A CFI is a third-party who conducts and investigation by interviewing the parents, the child, contact’s familiar with the family, teachers, therapists, and any other parties familiar with the family. The investigation usually includes home visits to each parent’s residence. The CFI is often a lawyer or a therapist. After investigating, the CFI prepares a report to the court with their suggestions on parenting time and decision-making. The statutory fee for a CFI’s investigation is $2,750.00. This is usually split between the parties. There are additional fees to have the CFI testify at a hearing.
The best interest factors are applied to determine appropriate parenting time. In recent years, Colorado courts have shown a strong tendency toward 50/50 parenting time orders when safe and practical. There is no presumption in favor of a mother or father. Important facts to secure parenting time include the ability to show a history of safe, active parenting of the child and the ability to provide safe, quality parenting time in the future.
The best interest factors are applied to determine the apportionment of decision-making. Decision-making involves the responsibility to make major decisions about the child’s health and education. Decision-making is either joint between the parents or granted to one parent. In the absence of domestic violence or child abuse, the most common order is joint decision-making. If parents have joint decision-making responsibility, they must get agreement from the other parent before making major health and education decisions related to the child. The most common decision affecting co-parenting is school choice. If parents cannot reach agreement, they must present the issue to the court or seek a change in decision-making authority. The court will require mediation prior to any hearing. Changes related to decision-making are not a quick process, so must be filed well in advance of a time-sensitive change.
Parental responsibilities can be determined by a juvenile court judge in dependency & neglect (D&N) cases brought by child services as well. Our firm does not handle D&N cases. The foregoing only relates to district court proceedings.
The amount of child support is determined by a specific calculation. A child support order can be obtained as part of a dissolution of marriage case, an allocation of parental responsibilities case (APR), or through the state’s Child Support Enforcement Agency.
Attorneys and judges use child support software to calculate the amount. A free version is provided by the court here. The calculation is roughly intended to provide the child the same financial resources the child would have if the parents were together.
In general, the child support calculation pools together the parent’s combined incomes, accounts for the number of overnights the child spend with each parent, and then produces an equalization payment to the lower income parent. The biggest factors are income and number of overnights of each parent. There are multiple credits and deductions involved for health insurance paid for the child, childcare for the child, support obligations for non-joint children, and extraordinary medical expenses for the child. There are also varying requirements on what counts as income for child support calculation.
The law on child support requires a judge to order the amount owed unless there are exceptional circumstances shown. Child support is considered to be for the child, not the parent. This means that if the calculator indicates a child support obligation is owed by one parent, the judge usually issues an order for child support even if the receiving parent would agree not to receive it.
Changes in child support can be requested through filing a motion to modify child support if a substantial, continuing change in circumstances has occurred dictating at least a 10% change in the child support obligation. The viability and practicality of requesting a child support modification can be discussed with an attorney.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
He took as much time as I needed to feel comfortable making decisions, listened carefully, advised me professionally and with compassion, and helped me reach a settlement by communicating effectively with the opposing lawyer. I would highly recommend him for family law matters.
- Family Law Client 11/13/18
We worked with both William and Emily Ellison for a custody case. They are extremely professional, but also get to know your situation personally. They listened to everything we had to say and gave us wonderful advice. They are both very knowledgeable. They had us more prepared for our hearing then we ever thought imaginable and we won our case. I highly recommend them for family matters. I would also use them again if ever needed. Wonderful people!!
- Family Law Client 1/2/19
Emily did a wonderful job with my divorce. She was very compassionate and understanding during a time that is otherwise very stressful.