Common Family Law Questions
Family law cases bring many questions. Here are some questions we hear on a regular basis.
Do I need a lawyer?
You are not required to have a lawyer represent you in a divorce or child custody case. However, it is important to know that the court is required to hold “pro se” (unrepresented) parties to the same standard as a lawyer. You must be prepared to comply with all procedural rules and deadlines, both in case filing and preparation, as well as in presenting your case to a judge at trial.
How long does the divorce process take?
By law, a court cannot enter a decree of dissolution (divorce) any earlier than 91 days after the opposing party is served (or 91 days from a joint filing). However, a divorce can only be complete in the 91 days if every required document is filed, there are no disputed issues, and the parties have filed full and complete settlement documents as to their finances, children (if applicable), and spousal/child support (if applicable).
In most cases, a divorce takes significantly longer than 91 days. In our experience, a reasonable estimate of the time frame is approximately four to eight months, but this time frame can vary greatly depending on your circumstances and the disputed issues in your case.
Can my children pick where they live?
The short answer is, “no, but they might have a say.” Parenting time in Colorado is decided in the discretion of the court in the child’s best interests. One of the issues the court must consider is the child’s wishes, so long as the child “is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule.”
If your child is expressing a desire to change the parenting time schedule, it can be difficult to present his/her wishes to the court; as courts are generally reluctant to allow children to testify. One of the more common mechanisms to introduce a child’s wishes is through a Child and Family Investigator (CFI) or Parenting Responsibilities Evaluator (PRE). CFIs and PREs are appointed by the court to investigate/evaluate child custody disputes. If you have such a dispute, you should speak with your attorney about whether a CFI or PRE is appropriate for your case.
How is spousal support determined?
Maintenance (spousal support) in Colorado is based upon a multitude of factors, including the parties’ gross incomes, the marital property apportioned to each party, the financial resources of each party, the reasonable financial need of each party and the duration of the marriage. After considering these factors, the courts are encouraged to apply advisory guidelines to determine whether to award maintenance.
Parties should be aware of these factors, as well as the advisory guidelines, when it comes to “predicting” maintenance (especially without the benefit of an experienced family law attorney). Maintenance is a complicated, and sometimes convoluted, issue that is difficult, if not impossible, to simplify without the benefit of an attorney reviewing your case with you.