General Steps in Divorce Process
The general steps in the divorce process may vary slightly, depending on the circumstances of the spouses who are getting divorced. When a couple has been married for a short time, and there are no kids or debts, the divorce will likely be quicker than a divorce after a couple has been married for a lengthy time, has accumulated property together, and has minor children. When a couple can agree about most aspects of the divorce, such as how to divide property and with whom the kids will live, the divorce is also likely to be simpler. However, there are many acrimonious relationships that make it much more complicated and stressful to get a divorce. At Plog & Stein, our Denver divorce attorney aim to take some of the stress out of this process, providing professional and zealous advocacy to help you protect the interests of your family and you.
General Steps in the Divorce Process
The first step in the divorce process is filing for divorce. Colorado is a state in which you must state that the marriage is irretrievably broken in order to get a divorce. Fault is not included in your initial petition. In order to file, your spouse or you must be domiciled in Colorado for a minimum of 91 days. In some cases, it may be easy to streamline the divorce process and procedures. However, many couples are unable to agree on one or more aspects of the divorce, including child custody, child support, alimony, or property division.
When you agree with your spouse about every issue, you can draft a settlement agreement expressing the terms on which you agree. The spouses may file a joint petition. The divorce may become final in 91 days, which is the statutorily prescribed waiting period. More often, however, a divorce takes longer. In most contested cases, the process will take several months from start to finish.
Often, one spouse files the divorce petition and serves it on their spouse, and then that spouse has 21 days to file a written response. Within 42 days, the spouses and their legal representatives attend an initial status conference with the court. Sometimes this is with a judge and sometimes with a “family court facilitator,” depending on the county the case rests in. At the conference, the court will set important dates and wade through the relevant issues. If the ISC is in front of a judge or magistrate, the court might also be willing to hear requests for emergency relief or temporary orders, such as related to child and spousal support. If not, most courts will allow the setting of a formal temporary orders hearing, to take place at a later date.
Both spouses are also supposed to exchange financial information during the 42-day period after the petition for divorce is served. The initial disclosures include information about income, assets (retirements, bank accounts, real estate, etc.), debts, and monthly expenses.
Once disclosures are made and the status conference is held, there might be temporary orders hearing. Temporary orders may be needed to provide a measure of financial security to one of the spouses or to establish a custody and visitation routine while the divorce case is pending. Temporary orders end when final orders are entered and are not “prejudicial” to either spouse when it comes time to litigate those final, permanent orders.
In some cases, the spouses serve discovery in the form of written requests for documents and other information. Discovery requests may include interrogatories, which are questions answered under oath. Discovery might be issued for purposes of gaining more information from the other party and can be both financial or child related. This information can then be used for either assessing settlement or preparation for trial.
In most cases, the court will require the parties to engage in good faith settlement discussions and to attend at least one round of mediation. The hope is that agreements can be reached and court intervention can be avoided. However, not all parties are able to ultimately agree on the issues, and settlement cannot always be reached. When couples still disagree on certain terms, the next step is a hearing for permanent orders, meaning a trial to the court. Trials may be extremely complex and taxing, both emotionally and financially. At a trial, the judge hears evidence from both spouses and has the power to make a decision for them as relates to both financial and child custody issues. At the conclusion of the permanent orders hearing, a decree of dissolution of marriage and substantive orders will be entered. Having an attorney experienced in both trial practice and preparation can make the difference when it comes time to resolve your divorce case.
Consult a Knowledgeable Divorce Attorney in the Denver Area
If you want to know more about general steps in the divorce process, call us. At Plog & Stein, our family law attorneys in Denver are understanding of our clients’ needs and provide dedicated advocacy to protect their interests during and after a divorce. We have competitive retainer rates. Contact Plog & Stein at (303) 781-0322 or via our online form for an appointment. We also represent people who need an alimony lawyer or guidance in other family law matters in Aurora, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, and Castle Rock, as well as other areas of Denver, Douglas, and Arapahoe Counties.