In the course of our practice, certain questions arise again and again. While there are some general guidelines, in our opinion Domestic Relations is one area of the law where the answers to most frequently asked questions are singularly dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each case. In family law matters, consumers should be very suspicious when presented with pronouncements of “the law” which are seemingly at once completely certain, utterly definitive, and entirely general. Such simple answers are often unreliable in the fact driven context of Domestic Relations. Accordingly, the following comments are not intended to be legal advice. We offer these comments to provide only the most general information. If you have specific concerns, please contact us to arrange for a consultation. As they say in the disclaimers, “Your mileage may vary.”
Click on Questions for the Answers, shown below:
Everyone in a divorce faces a combination of emotional and financial issues unlike any other situation. Your lawyer should have a thorough understanding of the law, as well as an understanding of you. Once you speak with a lawyer, ask yourself the following: Did the lawyer listen to me? Did they understand what I was saying? Did he or she give clear answers to my questions? Were they willing to explain things I did not understand, and were the explanations understandable? Do they have experience dealing with the sorts of issues I am facing? Do I like his or her personal style (i.e. mannerisms, patterns of speech, points of view)? If the answers to these questions are yes, you have probably found a good lawyer.
How much will a divorce cost?
This is one of the most important questions to ask, and one of the most difficult to answer. In general, the answer is, the more difficult it is to come to a resolution, the more it will cost. This is why it is important to approach the divorce with realistic expectations. A good lawyer can help you define these. At our firm, hourly rates for attorneys range from $150 to $350 per hour. There are ways that you can help minimize your fees, and we will be happy to discuss these with you.
Will I need to pay a retainer?
We typically request a retainer of between $2,000 and $7,500. The level requested reflects our opinion of the amount of legal work which will be required. There are instances when the retainer is more or less than this range, depending on circumstances. However there are other approaches available when a retainer is not, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the case. Ask your lawyer if they offer any alternatives, such as unbundled legal services, at your initial consultation.
I am not working. If I leave, how will I pay my bills?
In Colorado, as in all other states, there are legal mechanisms in place for the protection of both spouses. One of these is the ability to quickly obtain orders for financial support. If you are a spouse who does not earn enough to support yourself, you can request spousal maintenance. If there are children, child support will be ordered.
Will I have to pay maintenance?
In general, if you earn substantially more than your spouse and he or she is unable (through work or earnings from assets) to support himself, you can expect to pay some amount of maintenance. The amount and duration of the obligation varies widely depending upon the facts, so a detailed conversation is necessary to give meaningful advise about this subject.
How does a judge decide who cares for our children?
The legal standard for deciding how much time each parent spends with the children, and how decisions are made for them, is known as “best interests.” The specific situation of the family is to be considered, and parental rights and responsibilities divided accordingly. Colorado courts are now much more willing than in the past to order joint decision-making. However, the specific personalities and needs of parents and their children have to be weighed. In general, the courts will attempt to maximize each parent’s time with the children. Of course, this can mean that each parent’s time is reduced, since even 40% of the time is less than the 100% enjoyed when the family lived together.
I want to move with our children to another state. Can I do that?
Most parenting agreements forbid such a move without consent of both parents or order of court. This is one of the most difficult situations to resolve, since it transforms the inevitable separation of divorce into a separation of children from a parent by hundreds or thousands of miles. The parent suggesting the move must show that it is in the children’s best interests, and that they will not be harmed by the separation from the other parent. Sometimes a resolution can be reached through a significant restructuring of parenting time (for instance arranging for the children to spend all or most of their summers and school vacations with the other parent).
What does “no fault” mean?
In 1972, Colorado adopted the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act. The Act describes only one basis for dissolution of marriage, called “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. This means that if one spouse believes the marriage is broken in a way that is final, the court will grant the divorce. Previous grounds of divorce, for adultery, cruelty and so on, are no longer recognized by the courts and do not affect the division of property, maintenance, child support and other divorce matters. Of course, if a parent’s behavior which would previously have been a ground for divorce adversely affects a child, that behavior can be considered in making decisions in the child’s best interests. Otherwise, the behavior is not considered by the court.
How much time will I be able to spend with my children after the divorce?
The standard for parenting time is best interests of the child. Generally, this means the court will provide as much time for each parent as possible given the child’s need for stability, predictability, and a close relationship with each parent. The actual arrangements vary widely between different families. One good predictor of how much parenting time occurs after the divorce is how much occurred before the divorce. In other words, how active has the parent been with the child while the family was still together? The more active and committed the parent, the more parenting time is likely to be ordered.