By: Jessica A. Bryant
The goal of this series of blog posts is to help people who have not been through a family law court hearing anticipate what questions they may face from the judge, opposing counsel, or the opposing party during that hearing. Part 1 of this series focused on what questions may be asked during a hearing on supposal and/or child support. In Part 2 of this family law article, focused on what questions may be asked during a hearing regarding child-related issues (decision-making and/or parenting time). This last part will focus on what questions might be asked during a divorce hearing regarding issues of property/debt allocation, attorney’s fees, and other miscellaneous questions that may be faced.
For a hearing regarding the division of property in a divorce, and debts, you may be asked some of the following questions:
– What is the value of your home?
– Where/how did you come up with such value (i.e., was it appraised, is it just based on Zillow, the county assessor’s site, etc.)?
* Keep in mind, if it is based off an appraisal, unless both parties agree to the value, you would need the appraiser in court to testify as an expert about his or her report. You cannot just ask the court to read the appraisal without either having an agreement to do so or the appraiser to testify.
– Was the house purchased during the marriage?
– If not, what was the value on the date of marriage and how was it calculated?
– Whose name(s) is/are on the title?
– Is there a loan?
– What is the outstanding balance of the loan?
– Is the loan jointly held or only in one party’s name?
– Are there any joint bank accounts?
– What is the value of each?
– How should those be divided?
– Are there any accounts in your individual name?
– What is the value of those?
– Did you have those prior to the marriage?
– What was the value at the time of marriage?
* If you are trying to claim there is separate value in a separate bank account, you have the burden to trace the funds back to the date of marriage and prove they have remained in the account during the marriage, do not just expect the other party or the judge to ask you for this type of information.
– Do you have any life insurance policies and, if so, is there a cash value?
– Do you have any retirement accounts and, if so, what is the value?
If you are self-employed, you may be asked about the value of the business and how such was calculated. A business can have a value beyond what is in a bank account and the property it owns. To determine the “goodwill” and market value of a business, an expert would be needed.
– For any credit card debt you have- you may be asked when such debt was incurred and the purpose in order to determine what was used for marital expenses.
– For any other debt, such as student loans, tax debt, etc., you may be asked the outstanding amount, when it was incurred, who has been making the payments towards it, and if the other party benefitted from it.
– What are you requesting in terms of the overall division of property and debt?
– Do you think that is an equitable division?
– Why or why not?
– Did both parties contribute to the household during the marriage and, if so, how?
There are two bases on which one party could be ordered to pay the other party’s attorney fees. The first basis is if there is financial disparity such that the court thinks an award of attorney fees would be fair or equitable. For this type of attorney fees request, you may face the following questions:
If you are the party requesting attorney fees:
– You may be asked about your income situation (see the questions regarding income from Part 1 of this series)
– What financial resources do you have available to you?
– Has anyone been paying your attorney fees directly?
– Are you under any contract or agreement to repay them?
– If you have been paying your attorney fees, how have you been paying them to date?
– Provide proof of how much you have incurred in attorney fees, what they were incurred for, and how they were paid.
If you are the party being asked to pay attorney fees:
– You may be asked about your income situation (see the questions regarding income from Part 2 of this series)
– What financial resources do you have available to you?
– Have you incurred attorney fees?
What have you incurred in attorney fees, what were they incurred for, and how were they paid?
Your ability to pay fees for the other party.
The other basis under which a party could be ordered to pay the other party’s attorney fees is if they make an argument that is substantially frivolous, groundless or vexatious. If you are the party requesting attorney fees in this scenario, under C.R.S. 13-17-101, you will need to demonstrate how much you incurred in attorney fees related to the matter and why you think the other party’s argument is substantially frivolous, groundless or vexatious. If you are the party being asked to pay attorney fees, you need to be able to defend the law and facts behind your argument. Since these types of arguments flow on such a case by case basis, including specific questions you may be asked is not feasible in this blog post.
This is not a comprehensive list of all the Colorado divorce or family law related questions you may be asked but it is intended to give an idea of potential questions that may be asked to better allow you to prepare for any potential hearing. Additionally, presenting evidence at a hearing consists of more than just answering questions. You also need to be prepared to prove your answers and evidence to the court through the presentation of exhibits. Information on hearing procedures and what to expect at a hearing, besides the questions, can be found in other blog posts listed on our site(s).