Frequently Asked Questions
- How much will this cost?
- How can I keep track of my legal fees?
- Do you take cases on a "flat fee" or "contingency" basis?
- How can I keep costs to a minimum?
- Will the firm represent both spouses in a divorce or legal separation proceeding?
- Does The Harris Law Firm offer mediation services?
- What are the residency requirements for Colorado before I can file for divorce?
- What if my spouse lives in another state?
- Does it matter who files first?
- Can I get an annulment?
- What if my spouse does not want a divorce?
- What is a retainer?
- What should I look for in choosing a divorce lawyer?
- How long does it take to get divorced in Colorado?
- Should I represent myself?
- Should I leave the marital home?
- At what age can a child decide which parent they want to live with?
- How is child support calculated in Colorado?
1. How much will this cost?
Legal costs depend upon the complexity of your case. During the initial consultation, your attorney will discuss fees, including the amount of the "retainer" that will be required to begin your case. (A "retainer" is a quoted amount of money that is deposited into a trust account and withdrawn monthy to cover the costs of your case.) While we make every effort to provide an estimate for you, please be aware that unforseen circumstances can affect the final cost.
2. How can I keep track of my legal fees?
The Firm will send you an itemized statement each month detailing the costs associated with your case. We make every effort to provide clear and accurate invoices, and will answer your billing questions free of charge at any time.
3. Do you take cases on a "flat fee" or "contingency" basis?
Colorado family law does not allow contingency cases, and we have found that the most cost effective family law case is one that is billed only for actual hours spent on your case. There are many ways we can keep your costs to a minimum, which is contrary to a "flat fee" arrangement.
4. How can I keep costs to a minimum?
While The Harris Law Firm will work to keep your costs to a minimum, there are many things that you can do to manage your legal fees. Your direct cooperation in getting all pertinent information to your attorney in a timely manner will help to keep your costs down. In addition, noting the significant costs associated with going to court, we have found that it is essential to continually explore all settlement options. When it is your best interests to proceed to court, however, every effort will be made to manage the expense.
5. Will the firm represent both spouses in a divorce or legal separation proceeding?
The Harris Law Firm considers it to be a conflict of interest to represent both sides, even when the parties are in agreement. We do, however, make every effort to work amicably with your spouse, and attempt to settle your case whenever possible.
6. Does The Harris Law Firm offer mediation services?
Attorneys, Margaret Walker and Carrie Eckstein, at The Harris Law Firm handle mediation. If you believe you and your spouse or ex-spouse can negotiate the issues in your dispute directly with each other, you may save money, and you may develop a more acceptable resolution than if you leave the issues up to the Colorado court. Mediation often costs less than litigation because direct contact between the parties, or contact facilitated by a neutral party, streamlines the negotiation process. Mediation can also give you more control over how long it will take to resolve your dispute. More Information on Mediation
7. What are the residency requirements for Colorado before I can file for divorce?
In order to file for divorce in Colorado, one of the spouses must have lived in this state continuously for at least 90 days. It is not necessary that you become a resident as long as the 90-day requirement is satisfied. Thus, if you are living outside of Colorado and your spouse has been living here for the past 90 days, you can file for divorce in this state. However, if children are involved, it’s possible that you may not get orders regarding the children unless they have also lived in Colorado for at least six months.
8. What if my spouse lives in another state?
Assuming you meet the residency requirements described above, you can file for divorce even if your spouse is living in another state, or if you don’t know where your spouse is located. The question of where you can file will depend on the facts in your individual situation, as divorce laws vary from state to state. If you file in Colorado, the other spouse must be served with the paperwork, or if you cannot locate your spouse, you can still proceed with the divorce by publishing an appropriate notice in a newspaper.
9. Does it matter who files first?
There is no advantage or disadvantage to the party who files first. The person who files first is known as the “Petitioner,” and the other person is known as the “Respondent,” and the only difference is for record-keeping purposes.
10. Can I get an annulment?
When you seek an annulment, you are requesting that the court declare that your marriage is invalid. The result differs from that of a divorce because when a court grants an annulment, it means that you were never legally married. An annulment can be sought for a number of reasons that include a marriage that was entered into fraudulently, one of the parties is already married, or that one of the parties was unable to consent to the marriage. There is a six-month deadline for filing for an annulment, so if you’re interested in this option, it’s important to act on it as soon as possible.
11. What if my spouse does not want a divorce?
Generally, as long as one of the parties wants to obtain a dissolution of marriage, a divorce action can proceed. While it may be possible to get court-ordered counseling, if therapy not successful, the Judge will not force the other spouse to stay in the marriage. "No Fault” divorce is applicable in the State of Colorado, which means that the reasons that the marriage failed are irrelevant to the court and it does not matter who is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Similarly, infidelity is also considered irrelevant, and the Colorado courts will not compensate the other party for any emotional issues that result from the break up.
12. What is a retainer?
A retainer is a down payment paid to an attorney to begin providing legal services for you. The retainer isn’t any kind of guarantee as to how much your case is going to cost overall, though. There are many factors involved in the overall cost of the case, many of which are impossible to predict at the beginning of the case. If your case is completed, and there is still money left from your retainer, this amount is returned to you.
13. What should I look for when choosing a divorce lawyer?
Most importantly, you should look for an attorney with whom you can have a good working relationship. You should be comfortable with and be able to trust the person you’re working with throughout your case. Specifically, you should look for an attorney who specializes in family law so they will be up to date on the recent changes in Colorado law.
It’s also important to learn about the philosophy of your attorney: Will they encourage settlement options? Do they consult with you prior to undertaking expensive litigation strategies? If children are involved in your case, will your attorney consider their best interests?
14. How long does it take to get divorced in Colorado?
There is a minimum 90-day waiting period after filing for divorce. This means that if you have resolved everything and have a written agreement filed with the court within 90 days, then any day after the 91st day the court can sign off on your divorce. However, the Judge will not finalize your divorce until all issues are resolved, either by the court or in a separation agreement. Thus, even though the 90-day waiting period may be up, the court won’t finalize your divorce until all issues have been resolved. Overview of the Legal Process
15. Should I represent myself?
You may consider representing yourself in cases where there is no property to divide, no children to consider, or when you and your spouse agree on all the issues. However, even in cases where you agree, it is always wise to have an attorney review or prepare your final written agreement before submitting it to the court. When there are children involved however, you should consider an initial consultation as the complexities inherent in parenting plans can be difficult to navigate on your own. Financially it may be less expensive initially for you to represent yourself, but inexperience with the court system and divorce and custody laws may lead to difficult results. In situations when it becomes necessary to hire an attorney to help you out of the predicament that occurred when you were pro se, this often becomes more expensive than if you had just hired an attorney during the initial stages..
16. Should I leave the marital home?
The decision to leave the marital home should be made on an individual basis after you have consulted with your attorney, as there are a number of issues to consider. Maintaining the stability of the children is an important factor, and it may be preferable for the primary caretaker of the children to remain in the home with the children. There may be domestic abuse involved in which case it may be possible to get a court order excluding the perpetrator from the marital home.
Another consideration is the ability of each spouse to support themselves, as there will be less money to go around now that two households are being maintained. Additionally, the decision to leave the home may be temporary in the case where two spouses can’t live under the same roof anymore, but haven’t decided who will permanently stay in the home. In the case of a temporary decision to leave the home, the spouse moving out isn’t waiving his or her rights to the equity in the home or moving back into the home at the conclusion of your divorce.
17. At what age can a child decide which parent they want to live with?
In the State of Colorado, there is no statute that references a specific age at when a child can determine the parent with whom they wish to live. A parent can file a motion with the Court requesting a modification to the parenting agreement, in which case the child’s wishes can be considered by the Court, but there is no guarantee the Judge will rule in favor of the child’s request. To what extent the Court takes the child's wishes into consideration completely depends on the child' maturity, the reasonableness of the request, and to what extent the Court perceives the child's wishes as his own and not a request that has been influenced by the parent.The Court will always rule in regard to what the Court considers to be the best interests of the child.
It is possible, however, that a child’s wishes can either be presented to the court as part of a Special Advocate’s report (a special advocate is a neutral, third-party appointed by the court to investigate and make recommendations to the court about parenting time), or the Judge may actually sit down and talk to the child, legally known as an “in camera interview.”
18. How is child support calculated in Colorado?
Child support is determined by a formula based upon state statute. The philosophy behind Colorado’s child support laws is that the child should be entitled to the same standard of living had the parties stayed together. Basically, child support is determined based on the gross incomes of the parties and the number of overnights the children spend with each parent. Adjustments are also made for items like daycare and health insurance for the kids.
The main idea behind the child support calculation is that if both parents earn the same amount of money and spend equal amount of time with the children, and both contribute equally to expenses such as medical insurance and day care, then there should be no child support paid from one parent to the other. However, if in the same situation one of the parents pays 100% of the daycare, that will be factored into the child support calculation, and the other parent will accordingly be obligated to pay child support to the other parent as reimbursement for the daycare costs.
To view the child support calculator, go to http://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm/Form_Type_ID/94
and choose "Forms", the "Family Law" section, and access the "Calculation for Child Support" spreadsheets.