Frequently Asked Questions
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How do I find the right attorney?
Working with an attorney on a family law issue will likely be an emotional process, and therefore, a difficult one at times. So it is important for you to feel trust in your lawyer, and to be able to work with her or him. Lawyers understand that you may need to visit with more than one to find the right fit before you hire a family law attorney.
Note when you visit with a potential attorney whether you are comfortable speaking with them. Ask whether they have dealt with similar issues in other cases. Feel free to ask questions to gain a fuller understanding of who they are. Be sure you feel that an attorney is listening to you, understands your objectives, and can suggest strategies for accomplishing them.
Be sure you discuss business terms for an engagement. Ask what an attorney will do for you, what help and input they will expect from you as your case moves forward, and what the best mode of communication will be for assuring prompt transmission of information between you. In most cases, an attorney will not be able to tell you how much your case will cost to resolve at a first meeting, but will be able to speak to a range of possible paths your case could take and the relative costs associated with each. It is fair to expect monthly invoices with narrative descriptions of the tasks that have been undertaken on your behalf so that you know why your case is costing the amount it is. Cost may be a factor that drives changes in the course of action you are pursuing, and can be part of on-going dialogue you have with your attorney.
Do you offer a free consultation
Yes, I will meet with potential clients who want to interview me to see if we will be a good fit for working together, and I will not charge you for a 30-minute interview to help in your decision making process.
If you would like an assessment of your case, however, I do charge for rendering my professional opinion on the facts of your case. I track my time in 1/10th of an hour (6 minute) increments, and you are only billed for the time you spend consultating with me about your case.
How much will my case cost?
Because each case is unique, it is impossible to determine what any given family law case will cost to complete. Many different factors influence the total expense, from the complexity and novelty of the issues presented, to the way the opposing party, and their lawyer, approach the case. Sometimes cases that begin simply become complex as parties move through the process. Be sure to ask questions of your attorney so you fully understand the basis on which you are going to be charged, and review the written fee agreement, documenting those terms in writing, which you will be asked to sign and abide by.
What is a retainer?
A retainer is similar to a down payment you might make on a house or a car; it is a fee that allows an attorney to begin providing legal services to you as the client.
A retainer is different than the legal fee associated with your entire case. There are many factors involved in the overall cost of your case, many of which are impossible to predict at the beginning of your case. If your case is completed, and there is still money left from your retainer at completion, this amount is returned to you in full.
Can my spouse and I use the same attorney to save money?
It is against the professional code of ethics for lawyers licensed to practice law in Colorado to represent both parties in a family law case. The parties are deemed to have different legal interests, which presents an inherent conflict for any attorney trying to represent both at the same time. So no, you cannot save money by hiring only one attorney, and any attorney who implies that you can is not acting in an ethical manner.
How else can I keep my costs low?
Be clear and cooperative. Any family law case will proceed more smoothly (and be less expensive) when I have all of the information I need promptly after I ask for it. In addition, when appropriate, I may discuss alternatives to litigation, like mediation or an alternative dispute resolution process, which can significantly save costs frequently associated with a traditional divorce that is resolved after court hearings.
What if I don’t want to go to court?
Colorado offers many alternatives to a litigated divorce including mediation and the Collaborative Model for divorce. If you and your spouse agree that you’d like to avoid the courtroom, I will provide guidance to ensure that you do.
Should I represent myself?
You have the right to represent yourself in court, and it may be a good decision for you to do so if you and your spouse or partner don’t have significant joint real or personal property, don’t have children, and if you agree on all of the issues regarding how you are going to separate from one another.
Even if you do represent yourself, it may still be a good idea to have an experienced family law attorney review your agreements before submitting them to the court. I offer unbundled services and can act as a final check on your agreements. Working with an attorney on even a limited basis can help you avoid inadvertent mistakes with potentially costly results.
Do I have to be from Colorado to file for a divorce in Colorado?
No, but there is a 90-day residency requirement for at least one spouse, meaning that you or your spouse must have lived in Colorado continuously for at least 90 days before you file for a divorce in Colorado.
However, if children are involved, it’s possible that you may not get orders regarding your children unless they have also lived in Colorado for at least 6 months before Colorado courts are asked to approve a Parenting Plan or make other orders regarding your children.
What if my spouse doesn’t live here?
Assuming that you have lived in Colorado continuously for at least 90 days, you can file for a divorce in Colorado even if your spouse is living in another state.
What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?
Generally, as long as one party believes that their marriage is irretrievably broken, the divorce action can proceed. Because Colorado is a “no fault” state, the specific reasons you are seeking to divorce your spouse may be largely irrelevant to the court. The court does not make any findings about who is at fault for the breakdown of your marriage. The only inquiry the court makes is whether your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” with no possibility that marriage counseling or trying harder will make it work. A marriage that is irretrievably broken can be dissolved, and a decree of divorce will be issued even if one party to the marriage does not want a divorce.
How long will it take to get a divorce?
Once you have filed the Petition to initiate your divorce, the minimum wait is 90 days. A judge does not have jurisdiction to enter a Decree of Dissolution of your marriage until the 91st day after your spouse has been given notice that you filed the Petition. However, the judge will not finalize any divorce until all relevant issues are resolved, and it may take longer than 90 days to resolve all of the issues in your case. Notoriously, some divorces have taken years, but the length of time it takes for your divorce is a function of the time it takes to resolve the issues in your case, whether through settlement or a Final Orders Hearing.
Can I compel my spouse to leave our house during the 90-day process?
If the house has been where your family lived during your marriage, and if your spouse does not agree to leave, you need to obtain a court order to compel your spouse to find alternate living arrangements while your divorce is pending.
What kind of property can be divided in a divorce?
Property subject to division in a divorce proceeding may include any assets acquired by you and/or your spouse during your marriage, what is defined as “marital property.” This may be true regardless whether both your names are on title to the asset. Marital property is subject to a fair and equitable division between both parties.
“Separate property” is anything that you owned before you got married; property you or your spouse received as a gift during your marriage; property you or your spouse inherited during your marriage; or property that was defined as “separate property” in a formal written agreement – a prenuptial or marital agreement entered into before you contemplated a divorce.
Note, however, the amount of the appreciation in the value of separate property after its receipt and until you divorce may be “marital property” that is subject to division.
If you have questions about what property is “marital property” versus what is your “separate property,” it is wise to ask an experienced family law attorney about your specific circumstances.
How is maintenance or alimony calculated?
Maintenance is meant to provide financial support for a spouse who is not able to support him or herself. Although there is some discretion afforded a judge in making a maintenance determination, for divorces filed after January 1, 2014, Colorado has enacted a formula that provides guidance to judges. I can help you better understand the range of maintenance you are likely to receive or to be required to pay based on your specific situation.
At what age can a child decide which parent s/he wants to live with?
There is no Colorado law that states a specific age at which a child’s preference is determinative. Judges may consider the wishes of children, and generally as children reach their teenage years, judges frequently do give their views more weight, but there is no guarantee that a child’s wishes will be determined by a judge to be what is in your child’s best interests. The judge must always consider what is in the best interests of your child when making decisions about him or her.
How is child support calculated?
Child support in Colorado is determined by a formula based on the incomes of both parents, taking into account the number of overnights children spend with each parent, and making adjustments for certain kind of expenses, like health insurance premiums and day care. The formula calculates the net monthly amount that one parent pays to the other.