Hoping for it to be an Amicable Divorce – Next Steps
Going through a divorce is never easy; it can be daunting, stressful, and confusing. Efforts to make it an amicable process can alleviate many of the difficulties. Keeping your divorce as amicable as possible will benefit your finances and mental health, lower stress, and lead to a faster conclusion.
Here, you will learn steps to take for the best chance of an amicable divorce, including assembling your team, educating yourself on the law, how to gather records and take inventory of assets accurately, and what litigation options you can pursue.
Assemble your Team
Once you have started the mental process of divorce, assembling a team of people for support and experts for advice on the many facets of divorce will lessen the burden on your shoulders.
Regardless of amicability between you and your spouse, the process of a divorce can feel lonely. Enlisting a key confidante, such as a family member, friend, or co-worker, can provide you with support and an outlet to speak freely on this difficult process. The best confidantes actively listen, offer advice when you ask for it, and ultimately support your decisions regarding the divorce.
While enlisting a key confidante can lessen the feeling of loneliness, it can be challenging to share entirely with someone who knows you on a deeply personal level. A therapist or life coach can provide a safe, unbiased environment to discuss your emotions and aid you in getting your life back on track after the divorce.
To round out your team, a lawyer's expertise can significantly reduce the mental stress associated with your divorce. Lawyers who specialize in family law can help with every stage of the process and ensure you are getting a fair and just separation. A lawyer can also speak on your behalf to your spouse or their lawyer, which may increase the likelihood of it staying amicable. Another expert you may consider is an independent financial advisor. Advisors can assist in the complex financial disclosure requirements and provide you with a clear picture of your post-divorce finances.
Once you have assembled your team, you should begin educating yourself on Colorado divorce law. This will provide you with a foundation on necessary procedures and what to expect. It will also combat popular misconceptions, or "word on the street" assumptions, surrounding divorce and child custody.
Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning no fault is assigned and alleged bad behavior of one spouse is not a consideration. Colorado also follows an equitable division of marital property, which authorizes the court to determine what division is fair to both parties rather than split it 50/50. Similarly, alimony is based on the ability to pay and earning capacities, length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and the age, health, and financial resources of each spouse. An amicable divorce can simplify these procedures and grant more say from the parties rather than the court.
Additional education is required when children are involved, specifically in child custody and child support. Child custody is based on the best interest of the child. It requires a detailed parenting agreement on childrearing, parental responsibilities, and the child's schedule with each parent. Child support in Colorado follows a specific formula based on both parents' income and time spent with the child.
Lastly, it is important to be wary of "word on the street" assumptions of divorce proceedings. Property is split 50/50, mothers always get primary custody of children, and kids can decide where to live are common examples. Educating yourself on Colorado divorce law will help you identify other "word on the street" assumptions and alleviate stress they may cause.
A crucial step for divorce proceedings is to gather records for your financial, medical, and property records. If children are involved, you also need their education and medical records and information on any extra-curricular activities. Records become particularly important when there is a dispute over asset division, alimony, and child support.
A complete and accurate depiction of your financials is required by law. Gathering your financials includes tax returns, pay stubs, bank account records, joint account records, retirement records (pension, 401(k), etc.), and any other record reflecting monthly expenses (car insurance, loans, etc.). If you have online accounts, you will also need to gather login information and passwords. Additionally, you may be required to disclose medical records if they pertain to outstanding bills or a medical issue relevant to the case, such as workers' compensation.
You will also need to take inventory and gather records of all assets and debts acquired during the marriage or purchased with marital funds before marriage. These records include any documents on real estate, such as mortgage statements, purchases or sales, etc. Additionally, records relating to marital debt are necessary for an informed and equitable division. Taking photos of all property will help with this process.
Cautions to Keep in Mind
Even if your divorce begins amicably, there are cautions to consider regarding finances and disparagement that can quickly change it into a contentious one.
Often the point most at risk of contention is finances and assets. It is important to be transparent at the start regarding your finances and assets because hiding information is a penalty under the law and could increase your spouse's benefits. It would be best if you also cautioned making major financial moves pre-divorce, like buying or selling real estate. Such changes prior may also result in a more significant award for your spouse.
A financial caution to consider during divorce proceedings is attempts made to evade maintenance or child support obligations. This may be a change in employment with less pay or refusing a promotion with the intent to evade obligations. If voluntary evasion is a concern, the court may evaluate their earning ability, capacity, and opportunity. The court may order them to pay the amount assessed rather than what they currently earn due to the evasion.
Aside from financial cautions, a once amicable divorce can turn sour if one spouse disparages the other. A common issue here is social media when one spouse publicly disparages the other online. Social media statements may be used as evidence and harm attorney-client privilege, so it is crucial to refrain from making these statements.
Separating spouses should avoid disparaging the other parent. This damaging conduct can be a significant barrier to obtaining a favorable child custody award from a Colorado judge. Again, this type of conduct is considered part of the children's “best interest” analysis under Colorado law. It is common to include a non-disparaging provision in a settlement agreement that orders spouses to not engage in this behavior or be at risk of being found in contempt.
Learn about Litigation Options
An amicable divorce provides more leeway on litigation options. Good lawyers tend to favor mediation or settlement conferences. Mediation is a cheaper, more informal setting than court. A third-party mediator meets with both spouses and their lawyers to facilitate discussion and resolve any issues. A settlement conference is similar to mediation. Both parties meet with a third party to resolve issues; however, a settlement conference involves a more structured negotiation to reach a final settlement agreement to avoid trial.
Litigation options for those who do not wish to have a lawyer or cannot afford one may represent themselves as a pro se party. The requirements for divorce proceedings are the same, and a pro se parties are held to the same standard as a licensed attorney. While this option may be effective for truly amicable divorces, you risk being taken advantage of by your spouse's attorney and a longer, potentially more expensive process.
When going into a divorce with the hope of amicability, it can be helpful to outline with your spouse what you can and cannot agree on beforehand. This can promote open communication, speed up the process, and highlight what requires further discussion. This should only be done if it can be done safely and without escalation or coercion.
For more information on keeping your divorce as amicable as possible, the Colorado Revised Statutes provide specific laws on divorce. You can also review Colorado court websites for court-specific details and forms. For further assistance, experts at The Harris Law Firm can help with every step for a smoother process.