As you might have learned from our Colorado divorce timeline, there is no one way of going through the process. When preparing for divorce, Colorado courts usually require a hearing in a dissolution or post-dissolution matter for one of two reasons: (1) where the parties are unable to resolve the issues in their case such as parenting time or asset division, or (2) where one or both of the parties is not represented by an attorney and the couple has children.
Looking at these reasons together, it is notable that a divorcing couple can almost certainly avoid a hearing if they are able to agree on the issues in their divorce or if they have children, retain attorneys for representation. Even if the couple does not have attorneys and they have children, if they have agreement on all issues, the required hearing will likely take only fifteen to twenty minutes. The main purpose of such a hearing is to allow the judge to review the parties’ parenting plan, property settlement, and child support provisions.
Thus, you should focus on resolving the primary issues in your case, such as: (1) how decisions regarding the children will be made, (2) how the parents will divide time with their children, (3) how your assets and debts will be divided, and (4) whether one of the parties will pay maintenance to the other.
There are many ways to arrive at an agreement on these issues. One method is direct negotiation between the parties. An advantage of direct negotiation is that it does not involve the expense of attorneys to do the negotiation, or the cost of a third party neutral, such as a mediator, to help create an agreement. Disadvantages of direct negotiations include the fact that because the parties are divorcing, their communication may not be up to the task of dealing with emotionally sensitive or legally complex issues. Additionally, since the parties likely have limited knowledge of the law, they may not know whether the agreement they reach is fair and protective of their individual rights.
Using a mediator, particularly a mediator who is also an attorney, is useful for providing the information necessary to determine whether an agreement will meet the fairness standards the court will apply. Because mediators usually have experience with many divorces, the mediator can also help divorcing couples create solutions to issues they may be having trouble negotiating.
Retaining attorneys will also address the fairness issue, and will provide the parties with information about their rights in divorce. Using both attorneys and a mediator may be helpful in the same divorce, where the parties want to be certain their rights are protected, but also want direct involvement in the negotiation.
The key to limiting whether a hearing or hearings will be necessary, therefore, is negotiating an agreement the parties can live with, rather than leaving it up to the court. Using either a mediator, or attorneys, or both, should limit the likelihood a hearing will be necessary.