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Can You Avoid Going to Court During a Divorce?


One of the most daunting aspects of a divorce is the possibility of going to court. Standing in a courtroom and having a judge make life-changing decisions for you is something that you most likely want to avoid – not to mention the cost, stress and time of a divorce trial. You can avoid going to court during a divorce case in Colorado by resolving your divorce through alternative dispute resolution. A Fort Collins divorce lawyer can help you avoid conflict and move through your case as smoothly as possible.

When Will a Divorce Case Go to Court in Colorado?

California family law does not require you to go to court to get divorced. It is possible to fill out your divorce papers, file them, reach a settlement with your ex-spouse and have a judge sign off without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. A court appearance might be necessary, however, if you and your ex cannot come to a settlement agreement on the pertinent issues of your divorce.

All couples have the opportunity to work together to decide the terms of their divorce before a judge will intervene. A divorce case in Colorado will only go to court if the couple cannot reach a settlement. A settlement is an agreement between both parties on major issues, such as property division, child custody and child support.

Achieving a settlement will give you what is known as an uncontested divorce. This is a much simpler process than a contested divorce. It leaves you and your spouse in control of your divorce decree. It allows you to avoid going to court by having a judge sign off on the settlement created by you and your spouse (and your attorney). If you cannot agree on all of the terms of your dissolution of marriage, however, your case will have to go to trial.

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

You and your spouse will have a few different opportunities to work things out between yourselves before having to take your divorce case to court in Colorado. If simple conversations between you and your ex are not productive, you can try alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for outside help that does not take away your power to make the final decisions.

There are three different types of ADR available in Colorado:

  1. Mediation is encouraged between divorcing couples in Colorado. It is a meeting between both parties and a mediator, who is an unbiased third party such as a lawyer or a retired judge, who is trained in conflict resolution. The mediator does not have the power to issue a judgment; he or she is simply there to facilitate compromises. Mediation does not have to result in a settlement – both parties can walk away without a resolution if desired.
  2. Arbitration is often the next step if mediation fails. Arbitration is also performed outside of the courtroom. It involves the two parties, their attorneys (if desired) and an arbitrator. Unlike a mediator, an arbitrator has the power to make a judgment. However, the couple can decide whether or not to use the judgment (binding vs. nonbinding arbitration).
  3. Collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce process uses a combination of mediation and negotiation to achieve a settlement. It is only available for couples who have agreed to work together in a collaborative process to reach an agreement on the critical terms of their divorce. Collaborative divorce often involves lawyers to help each party protect their rights and advocate for their desires.

Alternative dispute resolution has better odds of succeeding and allowing your family to avoid a courtroom if you hire a divorce lawyer to represent you. A lawyer will have the training and experience to help you work through complicated matters such as custody, visitation, and dividing your assets and debt. Your lawyer will help you come up with creative solutions to reach a settlement that works for your family. Discuss your case in more detail with a divorce lawyer in Fort Collins today.

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