THE REPRESENTATION YOU NEED IN ORDER TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY
Posted in Divorce on October 21, 2020
The division of property is one of the main issues during a divorce case in Colorado. Colorado is an equitable distribution divorce state. It uses a common law doctrine rather than one based on the laws of community property. Instead of dividing property 50/50 in a divorce case, the Colorado courts will divide marital property, assets and debts in a way that is equitable, or fair, based on the factors of the unique case. Understanding what the courts consider marital property versus separate property can help you know what to expect in terms of property division during a divorce in Colorado.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
During a divorce in Colorado, the courts will only have the jurisdiction to divide marital property. The courts cannot touch a spouse’s separate property. The difference between the two is when the spouse acquired the property. Anything you owned before your marriage will remain separate property, unless you commingled the asset during the marriage. If you combined your bank accounts into a joint account with your spouse, for example, you commingled this asset and turned your separate property into marital property. If you do not commingle separate property, your previously owned assets will remain separate property.
- Homes or real estate
- Bank accounts
- Retirement savings
- Stocks and bonds
- Art and other valuables
- Debts, including student loans
Under Colorado law, gifts and inheritance given specifically to an individual will remain separate property. If a relative of yours died and gave you an inheritance, for instance, this inheritance will remain your separate property. Your spouse will not have a claim to your inheritance or a gift given to you, even if you were married at the time of its receipt.
It can be difficult to draw the line between marital property and separate property during a divorce case, especially if you have been married to your spouse for many years. You may need to hire an attorney, an accountant or another type of professional to analyze your property and organize it into categories during a divorce case.
How Do the Courts Divide Marital Property in Colorado?
You will only need to focus on marital property during a divorce case in Colorado. You do not have to share your separate property with your spouse after a divorce. A divorce lawyer can help you make a list of each type of marital property you and your spouse own together. Then, you can either work together with your spouse to divide the property yourselves (achieve a divorce settlement) or take your case to court.
If you cannot agree with your spouse on how to divide property and handle the rest of your divorce case, including child custody and spousal maintenance, these issues will go before a judge. Under Colorado’s equitable distribution law, a judge will divide property based on what he or she deems fair for the situation rather than splitting it down the middle. In general, the higher-earning spouse in the marriage will receive a larger portion of the marital property than the lower-earning spouse. To make up for the earning disparity, the courts may award the lower-earning spouse child support and/or alimony.
A judge will consider many factors when determining how to divide marital property. These include the length of the marriage, the number of assets owned, how much each spouse brought into the marriage, how much each spouse contributed to the marital assets and debts during the union, the depreciation or appreciation of each spouse’s separately owned assets during the marriage, and the economic circumstances of each spouse after the divorce. If you need assistance creating a property division settlement with your ex-spouse – or going up against your ex at trial – contact a divorce lawyer in Colorado.
A marriage should be entered into by two people who have all of the information they need to make an informed decision about the union. Unfortunately, some people enter into marriages under misconceptions borne from deceit, misrepresentation and fraud from the other party. These marriages are invalid in the State of Colorado. If you believe fraud or false representation induced your marriage, you may be eligible for an annulment.
What Is an Annulment?
An annulment can effectively end your marriage, but it is not a divorce. It is a legal decree stating that you were never married to begin with since the marriage was not valid. With a successful annulment, your status will return to what it was before your marriage. You will not be a divorced person; rather, you will be single, as if your marriage never happened. Annulments are much less common than divorces and legal separations. Some people prefer annulment to divorce, however, for religious or personal reasons. To have your marriage annulled in Colorado, you must show you have grounds proving the invalidity of your marriage. One of these grounds is fraud.
Reasons for Annulment in Colorado
Fraud is the intentional misrepresentation of facts with the purpose of deceiving someone for personal or financial gain. Fraud in marriage could refer to many misrepresentations, such as someone lying about already being married, having terminal cancer or being able to have children. False representations of age or citizenship status could also qualify as fraud. To have grounds for an annulment, the fraud must apply to an essential aspect of the marriage. Couples in Colorado can also file for annulments based on other grounds.
- Lack of consummation of marriage
- Lack of age of consent (or parent/guardian permission)
- Mental incompetence
- One or both parties agreed to the marriage as a jest or dare
- One or both parties were under duress
- The marriage is void due to polygamy, incest or other reasons
Fraud may affect the essential foundation of your marriage if your spouse tricked you into the union through a false claim. Fraud could involve false representations of potency, pregnancy, an illness, financial status, identity, citizenship, feelings or intentions. Lawfully, a person does not have to disclose certain things, such as a criminal background, to a spouse. Failure to disclose this type of information may not constitute fraud. If a spouse directly lies about something such as a criminal background, however, it may be fraud. A lawyer can help you identify fraud in your specific case.
How to Get an Annulment in Colorado
If you believe you have grounds to file for an annulment in Colorado based on fraud, speak to an attorney right away for advice. A divorce lawyer can give you the facts on annulments and review your case to see if you have the necessary elements. If so, your lawyer can represent you during an annulment case to help you prove to the courts that you entered into the marriage due to fraud. You or your lawyer will need to show that the other party was fraudulent and that this is what induced the marriage.
You will need to file annulment paperwork with the family court in your county to start the legal process. Do so as soon as possible after learning of the fraud, as a deadline will apply to your case. You will have six months from the date of learning of the grounds for annulment if you wish to base your claim on fraud, duress, mental incompetence or jest/dare. A lawyer can help you file the legal paperwork and work through related processes. If the courts accept your claim, a judge will grant the annulment and your marriage will disappear from the record. If you cannot get an annulment, you may have to file for divorce instead. Speak to an attorney for more information on annulments for fraud in Colorado.
You have multiple options for ending your marriage in Colorado. Divorce is not your only avenue. The family courts in Colorado also offer other solutions, such as legal separation. Understanding the difference between divorce, dissolution and legal separation can help you choose the right option for you.
Divorce vs. Dissolution
Divorce and dissolution of marriage are often used interchangeably. They are similar, but not exactly the same, in meaning. Both terms describe the legal termination of a marriage. Both paths will lead to a judge signing a divorce decree and lawfully ending the marriage. Technically, however, these terms differ in meaning on a legal level.
Divorce refers to enlisting the court’s help to end your marriage. A dissolution of marriage, on the other hand, is an agreement between you and your spouse on how to resolve questions such as child custody and property division, without a judge intervening. Both a successful divorce and a dissolution of marriage will end in the same outcome: an order that ends the marriage and sets rules for the split. The difference lies in how a couple comes to this conclusion.
You may be able to dissolve your marriage instead of going to court by keeping an open mind during negotiations with your ex-spouse. You will both have to agree on every detail of the marriage dissolution, including parenting time, property and debt division, child support, and alimony. A mediation lawyer may be able to help you and your ex-spouse work together to agree on everything and dissolve the marriage.
A dissolution can provide better peace of mind for you and your family while ending your marriage. It could also save your family time and money on legal proceedings. You may need to file for divorce and bring your case to the courts, however, if you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on its terms. Filing for divorce means enlisting a judge’s assistance in setting orders for both parties to follow. Most couples start by attempting a dissolution of marriage. Then, if this does not work, the couple will file for divorce to terminate the marriage instead.
Legal Separation in Colorado
Divorce and dissolution both share the same outcome: termination of the marriage contract. Legal separation, however, does not end or terminate a marriage. Instead, it puts things on pause for an amount of time the couple decides. Legal separation in Colorado means that on paper, a couple is still married; however, the couple has divided their assets and are living separately.
Legal separation is a common in-between for couples who need to take action to resolve their issues but are not sure something as final as divorce is the right choice. At any point during a legal separation, the couple can decide to either reconcile and end the separation or move forward with a divorce/dissolution.
Legal separation might be the right choice if you want to separate from your spouse but remain legally married for some type of benefit. If you must remain married on paper to keep health benefits given to you by your spouse’s employer, for example, legal separation could be an effective solution. Other couples choose legal separation instead of divorce for religious reasons. If you think reconciliation is a possibility, legal separation could also be more suitable than divorce. If you get back together with your spouse, it is much easier to end a legal separation than to reverse a divorce decision or remarry.
It is important to assess all of your options for ending a marriage in Colorado. What is right for someone else might not be ideal for you. Discuss all of your options with a divorce attorney for tailored legal advice.
Annulment is not the same as divorce or separation. It is a plea for the courts to rule the marriage invalid rather than dissolving it – striking the marriage from the record as if it never happened. Some people choose to file for an annulment in Colorado instead of divorce for a simpler legal process and to avoid the negative stigma. Others do it for religious purposes. Annulment is only possible in Colorado if your marriage was never legal or valid in the first place.
Colorado Statutory Law on Annulment
Although Colorado does not have a statute specifically on annulment, it has a few that describe what it takes to invalidate a marriage. The most important, Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-111, defines what makes a marriage invalid in the State of Colorado. This statutory law on the declaration of invalidity states that a court in Colorado will find a marriage invalid if entered into under specific circumstances. It then lists seven different circumstances in which the state will not recognize a marriage as valid. Two additional laws – Section 14-10-110 and 18-6-301 – may also be important during an annulment case for defining a prohibited marriage and incest.
What Is Required to Get an Annulment in Colorado?
If you wish to get an annulment in Colorado, you will seek what is called a declaration of invalidity. This will effectively nullify your marriage. You must prove the invalidity of your marriage based on one of the circumstances listed in Statute 14-10-111.
- Lack of capacity. The inability to consent to a marriage based on issues such as lack of mental capacity or mental infirmity, as well as intoxicating drugs or substances.
- Impotency or failure to consummate. The failure to consummate a marriage within one year could give a spouse grounds to file for an annulment. The same is true if one spouse is impotent and the other party did not know this prior to marriage.
- Lack of age of majority. Both parties must be 18 in Colorado to legally consent to marriage, except with legal consent from parents or legal guardians.
- Fraud or misrepresentation. Some type of lie, scam or misrepresentation of fact by one party that led the other to marry.
- Marriage under duress. Threats, intimidation or another form of duress by a third party that forces one or both parties to enter the marriage.
- Jest or dare. A marriage entered into as a joke, jest or dare by one or both parties.
- Bigamy or incest. A prohibited marriage by law due to the couple being closely related (by half or whole blood) or one spouse already being married.
Proof of one of these circumstances may come in the form of witness testimony, documents, photographs, other materials or experts. You must have lived within the state for at least the prior 30 days to initiate an annulment proceeding in Colorado unless you got married in the state.
The Annulment Process in Colorado
If you qualify for a declaration of invalidity, you or your family law attorney will need to fill out and submit the appropriate forms to the family court in the county where you live. Act quickly, as a deadline to file may apply to your annulment request. You have just six months, for example, if you are filing due to lack of capacity to consent, fraud, duress or jest. Other reasons could give you one to two years to file. You or your lawyer may have to prove grounds for annulment using evidence. If successful, your marital status will change from married to single, not divorced. The annulment will declare that you were never married, as your marriage was never valid.
Talk to an Expert Attorney
A successful declaration of invalidity could free you from a fraudulent or invalid marriage. Speak to an annulment attorney in Fort Collins if you wish to pursue this course of action. A lawyer can help you navigate the state’s related laws and protect your rights as you seek a declaration of invalidity from the family law courts in Colorado.
Posted in Divorce on August 12, 2020
A divorce can be difficult or messy depending on the couple and the circumstances. One spouse may need to search for private information on another spouse’s electronic devices in a contested divorce case, for example, to prove something such as hidden assets, lavish expenses or an affair. In Colorado, it is legal for one spouse to subpoena another’s phone records during an official divorce proceeding.
Subpoenas and Divorce Cases
A subpoena is a legal order demanding someone to produce documents or records or appear in court. Divorce attorneys use subpoenas to gain access to information that could be important to the case. This includes private information such as personal emails or text messages. In a divorce case, both sides of the divorce can use subpoenas to force the other to produce information, including cell phone records.
What Takes Place During the Discovery Phase?
Subpoenaing cell phone records from phone companies often takes place during the discovery phase of a divorce. This is the step right before a divorce trial, in which both sides have the chance to learn what the other side knows. Each spouse can obtain information, evidence and documents from the other side, often through subpoenas and depositions. The discovery phase can better prepare each side for what to expect during the trial.
How Cell Phone Records Can Be Used in a Divorce
Subpoenaing cell phone records in a divorce case can serve several purposes during a contested divorce case. Many spouses do this as a means of proving an affair, for example. Although Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, meaning adultery will have no grounds in establishing fault for a divorce, one spouse could use proof of an affair to prove a point during decisions such as child custody or spousal maintenance. Another common way to use cell phone records during a divorce is to prove the spouse’s financial status. Cell phone records could reveal offshore accounts, hidden assets or extravagant spending by a spouse who is claiming not to have much money, for instance.
Where to Look for Evidence
If your lawyer is subpoenaing your spouse’s cell phone records during a divorce case in Colorado, he or she could be looking for evidence of infidelity, fraud, hidden marital assets or other misconduct in several key places. The most common are text messages, social media accounts and photographs. Your lawyer can demand full cell phone records that show the phone’s entire history – including deleted items – in most cases.
Today’s cell phones are extremely advanced and capable of keeping a great deal of data. Text messages are a mainstay when using a person’s cell phone records during a divorce case. Texts between your spouse and someone else could provide incriminating evidence, such as suggestive texts alluding to an affair or texts about vacations or gambling. Your lawyer may also search through emails, group chats and instant messages. It may be useful to look at the spouse’s photographs, videos and social media accounts for possible evidence of wrongdoing as well.
Secondary Cell Phones
If your spouse is knowingly doing something wrong, he or she may try to hide the misconduct by purchasing and using a second (secret) cell phone. You or your lawyer should look for a second phone line in your spouse’s name and subpoena these records as well.
How to Protect Yourself
You cannot fight a subpoena during a divorce case in Colorado. You lawfully must comply with the court order to produce documents such as your cell phone records, or else be held in contempt of court. The best way to protect yourself is to keep your phone secure and regularly change your passwords so your spouse has no choice but to issue an official subpoena to access your information.
Consult With Your Divorce Attorney
Colorado divorce cases can be difficult to navigate on your own – especially if you or your spouse wishes to subpoena cell phone records. If you are going through a divorce in Fort Collins, contact an attorney near you for assistance. A divorce lawyer can help you protect your rights.
The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has created different challenges for different people. The virus has affected families and individuals in unique ways based on their jobs, living situations and legal matters. Divorced couples, for example, may encounter issues related to their government-issued stimulus checks. On March 26, 2020, the Senate approved a $2 trillion stimulus package granting $1,200 per adult and $500 per child in economic impact payments. As someone who is divorced or in the middle of a divorce, learn how your familial situation could affect your stimulus check.
Who Gets the Settlement Check in a Pending Divorce Case?
The U.S. Treasury is using American citizens’ direct deposit information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to distribute stimulus checks. If the IRS has a bank account on file for your family from the last time you did your taxes (for 2018 or 2019), this is the account that will receive the stimulus check. If the IRS does not have a bank account on file for you, it will send your household a check instead.
If you and your spouse still share a joint account while your divorce case is pending, you may divide the stimulus check yourself equally. If, however, one of you took over the account that used to be your joint account, that person could receive the full value of the stimulus check. Your ex-spouse may hand over your portion of the check if you ask. Otherwise, be sure to list the lost stimulus payment as part of what your spouse owes you during the division of your marital assets.
Notify the IRS of the update to your filing status right away if you have not yet received your stimulus check. It might not be too late to tell the IRS about your divorce or separation and receive a separate stimulus check. Change your filing status through the IRS.gov website. Then, submit your 2019 taxes – filing as separated or single – as soon as possible if you have not already done so. Updating your filing status could help you avoid your ex-spouse receiving your stimulus check.
How Are the Payments for Children Allocated to Co-Parents?
Through the stimulus package, each household with children who were under the age of 17 as of the 2019 tax filing season will receive an additional $500 per child. Unfortunately, both co-parents will not receive $500 each. Each couple will only receive one $500 payment per child, delivered into the account of the parent with physical custody of the child, in most cases.
The parent who will receive the $500 child stipend is the one who listed the child as a dependent on his or her last tax return. If the wrong parent received the $500 payment for childcare, you will hopefully be able to work it out with your spouse. If not, you may take the matter to court electronically or via mail in Larimer County.
How Can Child Custody or Support Be Impacted?
COVID-19 may create cause for concern for many parents over the safety of their children as they travel from one household to the other. In most cases, parents can work out a temporary arrangement that is in the child’s best interests, such as skipping in-person visits and making them up at a later date, or continuing with the normal agreement with extra safety precautions. With a new temporary agreement, parents should submit the request to a judge to make it official. It is against the law for one parent to withhold custody from another parent, even during COVID-19.
COVID-19 also does not automatically release a parent from his or her child support responsibility. If the coronavirus has impacted a parent’s ability to work, resulting in a lack of funds to keep up with child support payments, it is that parent’s responsibility to submit a child support modification request to the courts. If a parent is behind in child support payments, the government may seize or garnish that person’s stimulus check to pay off the debt owed. For more information regarding the stimulus check and your particular situation, speak to a family law attorney near you.
Every divorce case is unique. Your divorce will not look like anyone else’s. You may be able to predict what to expect from your divorce, however, if you understand your divorce type. In general, your divorce in Colorado will either be contested or uncontested. If you believe you have an uncontested divorce, take some steps to prepare yourself and your family for the process ahead. One of these steps may be hiring a lawyer, depending on the situation.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
Contested vs. uncontested is an important distinction that could affect what the rest of your divorce case looks like. An uncontested divorce is typically the simplest kind, while a contested divorce can be complicated and lead to a legal battle at court. An uncontested divorce means you and your ex-spouse either agree to the terms of the divorce right away or can work together to eventually agree.
Uncontested divorces are most common among couples who are open minded and able to compromise with one another. If you and your former spouse have animosity toward each other, are prone to fights or are unwilling to compromise, an uncontested divorce might not be possible. Many couples can achieve uncontested divorces by working with lawyers and mediators.
An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse will ultimately be able to reach a divorce settlement agreement – a legal contract outlining the terms of your split. If you can achieve a settlement agreement, you and your ex-spouse will not have to take your divorce case to trial in Colorado. Instead of bringing the matter to a judge and having him or her rule on the final terms of your divorce, you will remain in control.
A settlement agreement during an uncontested divorce should include detailed descriptions of how you and your former spouse wish to settle asset division, child custody, child support and/or alimony. If you have children, your settlement must include a parenting plan that breaks down physical and legal child custody, as well as issues such as holidays and vacations. A divorce lawyer in Colorado can help you prepare a fair settlement agreement.
Preparation of a Judgment of Divorce
The divorce judgment packet is the final bit of paperwork you will receive during your uncontested or default divorce case. It finalizes your divorce and sets the terms you and your ex-spouse agreed upon into motion. It will contain official forms and declarations finalizing all the issues related to your divorce case. If you and your former spouse drafted your own judgment of divorce, a lawyer can review it for accuracy before submitting it to a judge for approval. It will be difficult to rectify a judgment once the judge finalizes the order.
Seek Help From an Expert Lawyer
You and your ex-spouse may be able to handle an uncontested divorce case on your own, working out the details of property distribution, custody and other matters between yourselves. Many couples, however, benefit from the professional advice of an unbiased third party. Hiring a Colorado divorce attorney could facilitate conversations and compromises between you and your ex-spouse, improving the odds of a successful uncontested divorce that does not have to go to court.
If you have not yet begun the divorce process but wish for a simple uncontested divorce, a lawyer may be able to help you work together with your spouse to avoid conflicts. Working out the terms of the divorce together, with assistance from a divorce attorney, could save you time and money by enabling you to avoid trial. Your lawyer can help you work through complicated matters, such as high-value assets or child custody, while protecting your rights. Use a lawyer for your uncontested divorce case for the best possible outcome.
Posted in Divorce on May 4, 2020
It is an unprecedented time for couples around the world as the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic continues to alter life as they know it. If you are dealing with anxiety related to COVID-19 on top of the stress of a divorce, you might feel like you are floundering. Luckily, help is available. You are not alone in how you feel – nor do you have to tackle a difficult divorce case by yourself during the pandemic. Help from the right professionals, plus a few unwinding techniques, could help you get through this tough time.
Make Your Health and Well-Being a Top Priority
It can be easy to overlook your needs in the midst of a pandemic…especially if you are a parent. It is normal to put your children first. While it is important to ensure the well-being of your kids, make time for self-care as well. You cannot give your children your best version of yourself if you are feeling anxious, stressed or worn out because of the coronavirus or your divorce. Do what you can to take some time for yourself, even if it is only 15 minutes a day.
For instance, take time in the morning, before your kids are awake, to read or write in a journal. Try self-care techniques such as taking a bath, using a relaxing face mask, exercising at home or connecting with friends (virtually, of course). Do something you enjoy for at least a few minutes a day to fill your cup before you try to fill the cups of others. Even if you only have time to think of a few things you are grateful for each day, this habit can help carry you through quarantine, a divorce, job loss and many other challenges that may feel insurmountable.
The coronavirus does not have to interfere with your ability to speak to a mental health professional. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, stressed or simply like you need to talk to someone, you have many different online options available. Set up an online therapy program such as Talkspace or Betterhelp to speak to a real licensed therapist over live chat and video conferencing. You can speak to a specialist for a variety of mental health needs without leaving your home. Do not wait to get the help you need from a professional, especially if you are also dealing with the added stress of a divorce during COVID-19.
Focus On Your Children
Once you take care of yourself, you will be better equipped to take care of others. When pressures involving your job, loss of a job, finances or your divorce feel overwhelming, focus on your children. Create a routine to help your kids have greater stability during this uncertain time. A routine can also give you some respite during your day while your kids are occupied with online lessons or homework.
Do your best to keep life as normal as possible for your children. Try not to argue with your spouse in front of the kids or take out the stress of your divorce on them. If you are concerned for the safety of your children in a domestic violence or abuse situation, reach out to a national hotline or your family law attorney for immediate assistance. An attorney can help you with emergency protection orders to help ensure your child’s safety and well-being.
Seek Help From a Professional
COVID-19 might prolong your divorce timeline. Try not to let it get to you. Divorce is a big decision you should not rush. The extra time might even have positive effects, such as giving you and your spouse a chance to cool down enough to agree on the terms of your divorce rather than having to go to trial. Stay in touch with your legal team. Contact your divorce lawyer and ask for regular updates if he or she is continuing your divorce case virtually. Staying in the know could help you combat stress and anxiety related to your divorce. Speaking with your lawyer can also help you realize you are not alone during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if it feels like it sometimes.
The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching implications. It has affected most aspects of life…including marriage and divorce. Couples quarantining together have given rise to speculation of divorce rates increasing, while couples in the middle of divorces are wondering how the virus will affect their cases. Take a look at how the coronavirus has affected divorce for an idea of what to expect.
Is COVID-19 Leading to Higher Divorce Rates?
Several news reports from around the world have confirmed what many divorce lawyers have suspected: lockdowns, self-isolation and quarantine have strained marriages past the point of reconciliation for thousands of couples. One article from the New York Post quotes lawyers from NYC confirming an uptick in the number of divorce cases related to COVID-19, while another from Business Insider reports a spike in divorce cases filed in Xi’an, China upon the lift of its mandatory lockdown.
Divorce lawyers and relationship experts speculate that the rise in divorce petitions has a few different reasons. Couples that might normally have spent more time apart are now stuck with each other for weeks, leading to an increase in stress, frustration and fights. Co-parenting while the family is quarantined may also present new challenges or issues that parents may be unable to overcome. Some couples were already on the brink of divorce, only to have issues related to the coronavirus finally push them past the breaking point. Financial problems connected to job losses are also adding to marital stress and an increase in divorce rates.
How Has the Coronavirus Changed the Divorce Process?
On top of increasing the number of divorces, the coronavirus has also altered the legal process. Most courtrooms in Colorado have temporarily closed or significantly reduced the number of cases accepted, leading to longer wait times than usual for a couple to have a judge hear a divorce case. If your divorce requires a trial, you will most likely have to wait until your county lifts its social distancing requirements and the courts are back in regular session to complete your divorce case.
If you can work out a divorce settlement agreement with your spouse, however, it might be possible to get a divorce without going to court. Some courts have implemented technologies to allow couples to file documents electronically and attend court sessions via videoconferencing. Most divorce lawyers in Colorado are also offering telephone consultations, online document collection and e-signatures on legal documents to help initiate and/or complete divorce proceedings virtually. Many judges are ruling on petitions remotely to finalize them. Ask an attorney if it will be possible to file for divorce or continue a case you filed before COVID-19.
Can I Start Divorce Mediation Now?
The pandemic might have a significant impact on your divorce timeline depending on the circumstances. Many couples trying to divorce during the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving notices from their lawyers explaining that they will have to wait until the country lifts its social distancing regulations to file or continue a case. Others, however, are having good luck with telecommunications and virtual proceedings. Each case and county are unique. Call a lawyer in your county to find out if you and your spouse can start divorce mediation now.
How Will This Affect My Children?
The coronavirus might impact child custody by making it impossible or unsafe for co-parents to take turns with the kids according to their custody agreements. It might be necessary for you and your spouse to work out a temporary custody modification to accommodate social distancing or quarantine requirements. Make sure you do this with help from a lawyer rather than making a verbal agreement. The same is true if you need to modify a child support agreement. If you lost your job because of COVID-19 and can no longer pay child support, contact a lawyer to submit an official modification request. Working closely with a lawyer during this unprecedented and uncertain time can help you get trusted answers to your questions.
Divorce mediation is not the same as a court trial. It is a pre-trial meeting in which you and your spouse – with or without legal representation – work out the details of your divorce agreement without a judge’s intervention. You will have the power to agree or disagree with the terms of the divorce during mediation. You are not under oath to tell the truth during mediation. Lying during mediation, however, could have negative repercussions on your divorce case. If a judge finds out you lied in divorce mediation, this could affect decisions such as child custody and support.
You Will Not Face Criminal Charges
Lying during divorce mediation is generally not a crime. In most situations, it will not come with criminal repercussions like lying under oath during a trial (perjury) could. Perjury is a crime in Colorado in which a person knowingly lies while under oath or authorized by law to tell the truth. The penalties for perjury can include prison time of up to six years, as well as fines of up to $500,000. Perjury is a Class 4 felony in Colorado. Lying during divorce mediation is not perjury, however. Prosecutors typically cannot charge you with a crime if someone catches you lying during mediation. Yet you could face other significant consequences, such as being held in contempt of court. Contempt of court can lead to expensive fines and potential jail time.
You Could Lose Your Case
Even if lying during divorce mediation does not constitute a crime in Colorado, a family law judge could take strongly to the deception. A judge could use proof of a lie during mediation as evidence that you are not a fit parent or do not deserve certain awards, such as spousal maintenance (alimony). The judge can see lying behaviors as a negative against one spouse when making other important decisions as well, such as where a child should live.
It is up to a judge’s discretion during child custody hearings in Colorado to determine the fitness of each parent to have physical and/or legal parenting responsibilities. A parent’s fitness can involve many factors, including his or her relationship with the child, ability to care for the child, history of domestic violence, criminal convictions, and alcohol abuse. It could also involve the parent’s willingness to lie during court processes. Proof that one parent lied could give a judge a reason to award primary child custody to the other parent.
The severity of your lie can determine its consequences during divorce mediation. If you lie about your income level, for example, this could have serious penalties. Your income level can decide matters such as how much you will owe your ex-spouse in child support. If the issue you lied about impacts your children, a judge will most likely take the lie very seriously. A major deception could impact the outcome of your divorce hearing. Minor deceit, however, may not play a role in the future of your divorce case.
How to Prove Your Spouse Lied During Mediation
If you believe your spouse is guilty of lying during divorce mediation, find evidence that supports this belief. Hire a divorce attorney to help you investigate your spouse and obtain proof of deceit. Proving to a judge that your spouse lied during mediation could work in your favor during discussions regarding child custody, child support and spousal maintenance. Seeking the truth could lead to a higher child support amount if your spouse was lying about his or her income, for instance. It could also lead to penalties against your spouse if he or she told a major lie.
If you believe your spouse lied during divorce mediation, find evidence of the lie to present to the courts rather than fighting back with deceit or inappropriate actions of your own. Proof of a lie could come in the form of asset and debt documentation. This may include bank statements, income tax returns, credit card statements, pay stubs and household bills that prove your spouse lied about his or her financial status during mediation. Formal discovery techniques with help from a divorce mediation lawyer could produce these documents and others that may help you prove deceit. You may also hire a private investigator. Working with an attorney could yield the best outcome possible for your divorce case.