Initial Status Conference (ISC):
When you file a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage, most courts will immediately set a court date for the Initial Status Conference (ISC). This first hearing may be set even before your spouse has been served. If you are the respondent to a divorce case, meaning you are the party being served, it is important to check with the court clerk immediately following service to determine if the court has already scheduled a date for your ISC.
It is important to be prepared for your first hearing. Generally, the court will want to see your completed Sworn Financial Statements and a Stipulated Case Management Plan. Although most courts will not issue child support or maintenance orders during the initial hearing, it is still wise to come to the hearing prepared to discuss these issues.
The court may determine at the ISC that your case requires a Temporary Orders Hearing to issue interim orders for child support, parenting time, maintenance, the payment of marital debt, and/ or the payment of attorney fees. Interim orders are valid until they are replaced by permanent orders at the final hearing.
The State of Colorado has a 90-day waiting period following service of the Petition before the court can grant a divorce. Following that period, the divorce court may set your case for a permanent orders hearing, where the court will listen to testimony, consider evidence, and issue findings of fact and conclusions of law. Finally, the judge will sign a Divorce Decree and your marriage will be dissolved.
In a Colorado divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities cases, either party may ask the court for a temporary orders hearing. This hearing will generally take place 2 to 4 months from the date of filing. The issues usually include temporary visitation, temporary support, temporary payment of marital debt, and/or the temporary use of the marital home. The conclusion to family law cases can sometimes take over a year in some jurisdictions,so it is important to have temporary orders in place to protect you and your children while the case is in progress. Although the orders entered at this hearing are not supposed to define the parameters for permanent orders, they can have an effect on the final outcome. In most jurisdictions, temporary orders are issued by a magistrate, not a judge, and therefore the court cannot rule on issues that include final custody or the final division of property. Those issues are for the judge to decide at the permanent orders hearing.
The final stage of the Colorado divorce process is the permanent orders hearing. This is when the judge will determine the final division of marital assets and debt, the amount of a maintenance award (spousal support), and the allocation of parental responsibilities (child support, parenting time, and decision making). The separation of marital property, debt division, and orders regarding parenting time and child support are binding. This is also the time that the judge will rule on the payment of the other party’s attorney fees.
In general, a permanent orders hearing takes about take a half day to complete, but sometimes can take two days or more to reach a final conclusion. Following the permanent orders hearing, and when the final orders are in writing, the court will enter the decree of dissolution of marriage, and formally terminate the marriage.
In many divorce cases, some or all of the issues are resolved prior to the permanent orders hearing. Even if a hearing has been scheduled by the court, the parties can get avoid appearing before the court by filing a full agreement. However, in instances where one or both parties are unrepresented by counsel and there are children involved, the parties will be required to attend an uncontested permanent orders hearing. At this hearing, the court will consider the agreement, and determine if it is fair and in the best interest of the children before ruling.
The Harris Law Firm
If you have an upcoming hearing, or are at any stage of a Colorado family law matter, call The Harris Law Firm to arrange for a consultation with one of our lawyers in our Denver or Fort Collins offices. We are happy to assist you.