Frequently Asked Colorado Divorce Questions Part 7
- What is formal discovery?
With any divorce or case involving child support, each side is required, pursuant to Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 16.2, to provide various forms of financial disclosure, such as a sworn financial statement, pay stubs, bank statements, account information, debt information, and more. General financial disclosure rules require the exchanging of essentially “most recent” statements for these items, such as pay stubs and tax returns for the last 3 months and last three years, respectively. From time to time, cases arise in which the general rules of disclosure just don’t provide enough information as may be needed. As such, statute authorizes the issuance of “discovery,” which is essentially a heightened request for information. Discovery can entail both the providing of actual documents, as well as the answering of certain questions. In a divorce or family law case, the discovery will consist of questions, or “interrogatories,” which will generally require answers related to income, work history, transfers of property, and sometimes child questions. It can also consist of “requests for production of documents,” which will generally consist of requesting information regarding bank accounts, investment accounts, business dealings, credit card statements, and more. Statute sets forth specific, or pattern interrogatories and production requests. Parties are also allowed to ask for additional information in a “non-pattern” fashion, beyond the statutorily prescribed requests.
Discovery must be issued no later than 63 days before your final hearing, and responses are due within 35 days of it being issued. Failure to respond can result in sanctions from the court. Though some attorneys issue discovery as a matter of course, and in a sometimes wasteful manner, we only issue it when there is more information that is truly needed. Such instances might include cases in which someone is self-employed or owns a business or cases in which someone is trying to hide assets or claiming they cannot work. In those instances, normal financial disclosures just don’t provide enough information needed to represent the client. Answering discovery requests can be tedious and onerous, but is, again, necessary. If questions or requests are simply ridiculous or over burdensome, one can raise certain objections with the court. Our experienced Denver divorce lawyers can assist with both determining when and if discovery is needed, as well as with determining how discovery issued by the other side should be addressed.
- How long will I have to pay alimony with the new law?
As indicated above, maintenance has always been a grey area in terms of what judges might order. This has included determinations of how long one might pay or receive maintenance. Each judge has his or her own beliefs on what is a proper length of time. For a 30-year marriage, the parties might be financially attached for life. For a 10-year marriage, maintenance might run for 5 years, just as easily as the court could order 3. Most Denver area family law attorneys have strived to come up with rules or norms for answering this question. A general rule of thumb has been that half-the-length-of-the-marriage is what a court might do. Though court’s still have discretion to deal with the issue of how long maintenance shall run, the legislature has enacted a guideline, or table, which sets forth that if parties have been married for “x” months, maintenance shall run for “y” months. For example, the statute indicates that if parties have been married for 144 months (12 years), maintenance should run for 71 months (just under 6 years). As the number of months of marriage goes up or down, the time percentage for maintenance to be paid goes up or down. Ultimately, the new table can lead to maintenance being paid for well over half the length of the marriage. Under the statute, judges are not required to follow the table as relates to duration. However, in their rulings, if they don’t follow it, they must explain why not.
- How much alimony will I owe under the new law?
Colorado alimony laws changed on January 1, 2014. These changes include statute setting forth a formula for what amounts of alimony should be paid or received. This formula has nothing to do with length of marriage. As with the issue regarding the duration of alimony, the amount of alimony to be paid is currently discretionary with the court, and grey. Though the amount to be paid, as per the formula, will still be discretionary, courts must explain why they have not followed the formula, if such is the case. Thus, many experienced Denver area divorce lawyers believe that the easiest path for the court will be to just follow the formula. The specific formula will be 40% of the higher income earner’s monthly income, minus 50% of the lower income earner’s income. For example if the payer makes $10,000 per month and the payee makes $5,000 per month, the monthly maintenance amount would be $4000 minus $2500, or $1500 per month in maintenance. The new version of C.R.S. 14-10-114 does indicate that the formula will only be applicable to families with a combined gross income of $240,000 per year or less. Statute is unclear on what will be done in those cases. As such, for higher income families, the grey-area approach from prior statute may still be in effect.
- Does the new law change when alimony ends?
Under Colorado’s alimony statute, alimony can be terminated in a few ways: according to any contract established by the parties involved, when one party passes away, or if the party receiving alimony remarries. In alimony cases after January 1, 2014, alimony may also be suspended, modified, or terminated if the party receiving maintenance is living with a romantic partner for a period of six months or more. In this case, upon proof, payors may be able to suspend or even terminate alimony. It can also be reinstated if the cohabitation ceases.
- Is there a court fee for filing divorce?
Yes. Pursuant to Colorado statute, there is a $230 fee required for filing a divorce. This fee is paid for essentially all the case. When the case if filed by your divorce attorney, the firm will bear the initial cost from the state, which will then be passed onto you through billing. Just as there is a cost to file a divorce, there is also a cost to respond. Specifically, the response fee set forth in statute is $116. Likewise, this will also initially be billed to your attorney. There are also fees charged by the courts for filing motions for modification of orders, whether for child issues or child support. Specifically, the fee is $105. Beyond the statutory filing fees, most courts in the Denver area require attorneys to file documents or court pleadings electronically, through a state system called ICCES. Sadly, each filing with the court will bring an ICCES fee of somewhere between $6 and $13 depending on the document(s) filed.
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