Points to Consider Before You File for Divorce
How The Harris Law Firm Can Help
Divorce is a legal process with many implications for your life and your future. If you are considering a divorce in Colorado or are unsure about how the divorce process works, The Harris Law Firm is available to answer your questions during an initial consultation.
Backed by over 250 years of combined experience, our attorneys provide comprehensive counsel in a range of divorce and family law matters, and proudly serve clients across Colorado from multiple office locations. We also offer unbundled legal services to those looking to control costs by representing themselves through our LawYourWay℠ program.
Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers. You can also review the important information we’ve compiled below as you evaluate your situation and prepare for divorce.
Key Considerations Before Filing for Divorce
1. Marriage Counseling
While counseling may not be appropriate for all situations, including those involving domestic violence, it can be a meaningful way to explore options for reconciliation and ways to save your marriage, even if filed for a legal separation or are already living separately.
Couples who seek counseling services and forms marriage and family therapy may find that their perceived problems are not insurmountable. In addition to re-connecting with a spouse and re-defining what each person wants from the relationship, counseling can equip couples with effective tools and strategies to communicate better, interact in a more supportive manner, and provide a healthy environment for their children.
2. Choosing the Right Attorney
When divorce is inevitable, choosing the right attorney can make all the difference. An experienced attorney can guide you through what is an often-unfamiliar process and serve as the knowledgeable advocate you need to protect your rights and interests.
Because you’ll be working closely with your lawyer during the process, you’ll want them to be someone whose insight and legal opinion you can trust. Good attorneys not only help clients handle the intricacies and legal work associated with their cases; they also provide the insight they need to make informed decisions about personal matters that are important to them.
To find the right lawyer, consider interviewing several potential candidates before you hire counsel and remember that most reputable family lawyers will charge a consultation fee. It’s worth paying this nominal fee to find an experienced and trustworthy lawyer.
If you’ve already retained counsel but are unsatisfied with the service you’ve been provided, you should also know that you have the right to hire a new one. If you do change counsel, your new attorney can help you with the process; but be aware that changing lawyers too far into a case may not be feasible or permitted if the court refuses your request for substitution of counsel.
3. Understand Your Finances
Divorce is as much the end of a personal relationship as it is the unwinding of one financial household into two. As such, you’ll need to have a solid understanding of your family’s financial situation and your needs and obligations should you divorce.
As part of the second stage of your divorce, the Court will need to know what income, assets, and debts a couple has so they can be equitably divided in divorce. This means you’ll need to complete and submit Mandatory Financial Disclosures and other related documents that report things like:
- Separate and marital property
- Homes, vehicles, and other tangible assets
- Retirement accounts and pensions
- Loans and debts
- Other investments and obligations
In some cases, you may need to work with financial or tax professionals to gain a better understanding of your finances and your financial goals. A tax professional can also discuss the tax implications of divorce, including capital gains, child support and alimony / maintenance, and the separation of retirement assets.
4. Keeping Your Separate Property "Separate"
Under Colorado law, judges are required to equitably divide “marital” property. In general, there is a legal presumption that marital property is all property acquired during your marriage except for property acquired by gift, inheritance, or in exchange for a gift or inheritance. Marital property also includes the accumulation in value during the time of the marriage of any separate property.
If you wish to keep pre-marital or separate property from being subject to division in your divorce or legal separation, you may be able to protect yourself by taking some simple precautions.
First, while this step alone isn’t conclusive, it is helpful to keep separate assets titled only in your name. Changing the title to joint name could cause the judge to assume that you have made a “gift to the marriage” and created marital property.
Second, do not use marital funds to maintain your separate assets and do not comingle your separate funds with marital funds.
Third, consider getting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Drafted appropriately, a “prenup” or “postnup” may protect your separate assets in the event of a divorce.
5. Create a Highly Specific Parenting Plan
The more specific you can be regarding parenting time, i.e.: pick up and drop off times, vacation, holiday schedules, etc., the easier the process will be for all concerned. Your relationship with your spouse regarding the children will change after you divorce, and the plan you agree on now can prevent misunderstandings in the future.
A specific parenting plan is also beneficial to your children because it will create an anticipated routine for them and prevent unnecessary chaos.
6. Keep Accurate Records
It is the payor's responsibility to prove that child support has been paid, so you must maintain accurate and ongoing records of all child support payments to avoid the possibility of duplicate payments. Maintain receipts, cancelled checks, and/or photocopies of all of your child support payments, or make your payments via the Family Support Registry, so that they can keep track of the payments for you.
7. Insure Settlement Assets & Ongoing Payments
If you receive child support, maintenance, and/or a continuing property settlement, insist that your former spouse maintain life insurance on the amount owed. Insuring the payments will ensure that they do not cease in the event that the payor passes away. You can also purchase your own life insurance on your future ex-spouse to ensure that you are protected.
8. Have Realistic Expectations
Divorce is similar to marriage in that it requires both parties to compromise. Many people enter divorce proceedings and expect that even their most exaggerated demands will be met. When your finances, children, property, a business or retirement assets are in dispute, have realistic expectations and focus on problem solving
Having realistic expectations also means knowing what’s realistic for your situation. Whether you’re discussing divorce with friends or hearing or reading about someone else’s divorce, you’ll discover that everyone’s case is different. From parenting plans and maintenance to the division of property, you shouldn’t expect or even strive for a certain outcome just because it worked that way for someone else. Divorce is immensely fact specific and orders for important issues depend on the specific circumstances of your case.
An experienced lawyer can help you better understand the possible outcomes in your matter, and the steps you can take to pursue certain outcomes.
9. Be Patient
Even though the divorce process may be lengthy and stressful, remember that you will likely regret it if you make unfavorable agreements regarding your children, or your property. It is important to remain patient throughout the process in order to obtain the best possible settlement.
10. Post-Divorce Modifications are Handled in Court
Though you and a former spouse may be on good terms and able to accommodate unexpected events, changes to agreements established in divorce should be filed with the Court. Verbal or written agreements signed by both parents, will not necessarily be upheld and will not supersede Court Orders.
After your divorce is final, make sure that you file any additional or subsequent agreements regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities with the Court.
Proven Attorneys For Your Divorce
For Over 25 years, The Harris Law Firm has grown into one of Colorado’s largest family law practices because we care about our clients. Driven by values, we provide personalized support to help our clients make informed decisions about their cases and their futures.
If you would like more information about working with our team, contact us to speak with an attorney.