Frequently Asked Colorado Family Law Time Frame Questions Part 1
- Do I have to file my divorce or custody case prior to serving the other party?
No. In any new divorce or custody case in Colorado, the other party can be served with the petition and summons (the initiating documents) prior to the case being filed with the court. As a general rule, the Denver divorce attorneys at Plog & Stein will get a case filed right away, and before documents are even sent to our process server for service. However, from time to time, we may serve before filing. In those instances, as pursuant to Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure (hereinafter referred to as “C.R.C.P.”), Rule 3, the petition and summons must be filed with the court no more than 14 days after the other party has been served. Failure to do so can lead to dismissal of the case and a potential award of attorney fees against the original party. So as to not court trouble, it is better to just get the case filed and not wait.
- How long after I am served with custody papers do I have to file a response?
When served in Colorado with a petition for allocation of parental responsibility (custody) or a petition for dissolution of marriage (divorce), a party has 20 days to file a response with the court. This will also include paying a filing fee. If the person being served with a Colorado custody or divorce petition is outside of Colorado, the person has 30 days to file a response. The same filing fee will also be required in that instance. Denver divorce attorneys are aware that a court will not just resolve a divorce in favor of the petitioner if no response is filed on that 20th day. At the same time, they also know that ultimate failure to respond or participate will lead to such. The response is the first step in the non-filing party asserting his or her rights.
- When will my first court date be with a new divorce case?
Pursuant to C.R.C.P. 16.2, the first court date or event will be the initial status conference, which will generally be a meeting with the family court facilitator or a magistrate. This conference is designed for the court and parties to determine what the contested issues are, whether related to custody, property division, child support, or otherwise, and time frames for proceeding. New changes to the rules now dictate that the initial status conference must be held within 42 days of the case being filed. Prior to 2012 the time frame was 40 days. Assuming there are no emergencies that require immediate action, you will first appear before the court within those 42 days.
- I’ve just received a motion to modify child support. How long do I have to respond?
When you have received a motion of any kind, whether modification or otherwise, C.R.C.P. Rule 121(1-15) states that a response must be filed within 21 days of the date of the motion. Prior to 2012, a party had 15 days to respond, plus an additional 3 days, depending upon how the underlying motion was delivered. Failure to file a response to a motion may result in the requested relief being granted without a hearing.
Often times, people presume a court will automatically set a hearing without a response being filed. This is just not true. Motions filed 42 days or less prior to a hearing must be responded to within 14 days. The party filing a motion may also file a reply to the response, which shall be filed within 7 days of the date of the response. A reply is generally a last chance to refute or argue, in written form, issues raised in the response to the underlying motion. The Denver custody attorneys at Plog & Stein have seen instances in which people seek our services well after the 21 days have passed. Failing to respond can be disastrous when related to custody, parenting time, or child support, as it can be quite difficult, or impossible, to rapidly change orders entered based on failure to respond.
- When are my financial disclosures due?
In almost any Colorado child support, divorce, or custody case, the parties will be required to exchange financial disclosures, pursuant to C.R.C.P. 16.2. These disclosures relate to income, assets, debt, and expense and will include the filing of a sworn financial statement. Though most divorce courts in Denver generally like to see financial disclosures exchanges prior to the initial status conference, they are technically due 42 days from service or when the case commences. A court can extend or lessen this time frame as it sees fit and reasonable.
- Do I Have to Disclose Witnesses for My Final Hearing?
Yes. Pursuant to C.R.C.P. 16.2, witnesses, whether lay or expert, must be disclosed 63 days prior to hearing. Up until 2012, the rule indicated 60 days. The purpose behind this rule is so that both parties have a chance to prepare for hearing, including potential examination of the other side’s witnesses. The rules also set forth separate requirements for disclosing expert witnesses, including disclosure of any expert reports 56 days prior to hearing. This rule is applicable to both final divorce or custody hearings, as well as hearings regarding modifications, whether related to child support, visitation, or otherwise.
Failure to disclose witnesses in a timely fashion can lead to delay, or potential preclusion of that witness testifying. As each witness may having something relevant or critical to say regarding a specific issue, this rule is highly important and must be followed. These witness time frames will not generally apply to emergency hearings, contempt of court hearings, or restraining orders, unless expert testimony is involved.
Main Family Law Time Frame FAQs