THE REPRESENTATION YOU NEED IN ORDER TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY
Fort Collins Divorce Attorney
The Fort Collins divorce lawyers at the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci have years of experience handling separation, custody and support issues throughout Colorado. If you have no children and minimal assets, you might not need to hire a divorce attorney for an uncontested divorce. However, in a marriage of some duration, with children and various types of assets, fair and reasonable division of marital property and determination of child custody, child support, and spousal support can become extremely complex. In these cases, you should seriously consider having an experienced Fort Collins divorce attorney to guide you through this process. The divorce lawyers at the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci offer free initial consultations to people experiencing a legal separation or divorce.
Contact our Fort Collins office to see how we can help you — we offer assistance in several types of divorce proceedings including:
In this difficult time, having the best possible legal representation can make a great difference in the quality of your life moving forward. While no one can guarantee a totally stress-free divorce, having a supportive, compassionate, and diligent Colorado divorce lawyer working for you can make the process significantly less stressful and rancorous. Call the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci, LLC at 970.900.1800 for the advice and support you need as you work your way through the divorce process.
Divorce Process in Larimer County
Every divorce in Colorado starts with the filing of the claim. Before you can file, you must first establish residency. At least one spouse must have established residence in the state for at least 90 days. “Domicile” can mean a physical presence in the state, but it can also include having a mailing address in the state, a voter registration card, or owning a house or car in the state. Only with domicile in the state for at least 90 days can you file for divorce in Colorado.
If you meet the residency requirements, obtain divorce forms from the correct county court. This can be the county in which either you or your spouse resides. Fill out the form, or petition for divorce, completely and accurately. You can either file for divorce jointly with your spouse, or separately with a court summons. You will have to sign some forms in front of a notary before filing. Bring your completed forms to court and pay the filing fee. Once your spouse receives the papers (“is served”), the divorce process can begin.
Fort Collins Contested Divorce
Each divorcing partner will need to build a case for the Permanent Orders Hearing. The judge in the case will examine both parties’ stories and evidence and decide the terms of the divorce. Many contested divorce hearings revolve around things like child custody, alimony, child support, division of marital assets and debts, property rights, and other issues. If a divorcing couple cannot agree to terms for these things on their own, the judge will hear each person’s case and decide.
Both divorcing partners will benefit greatly from hiring competent, experienced divorce attorneys. An attorney who specializes in divorce will generally help his or her client build a solid case for securing favorable divorce terms. A good lawyer will build a case based on evidence such as:
- Financial records. The court will examine the couples’ individual and shared assets to determine the most just way to divide them. It is essential for both parties to provide complete and accurate records. The court will look very unfavorably toward a divorcing spouse who fails to disclose assets.
- Statements from relatives, neighbors, friends, and coworkers. These individuals may act as character witnesses for the divorcing couple or may provide statements regarding past incidents between the divorcing couple.
- Expert witness statements, such as psychologists or psychiatrists who have provided mental health care to the divorcing couple. These individuals can testify as to the mental stability of the other partner.
- Evidence of marital misconduct. Evidence of abuse, criminal actions, infidelity, or other actions that harm the marriage may enter into evidence during the hearing.
Uncontested Divorces in Larimer County
The idea of an uncontested divorce may sound straightforward, but it is still essential for both parties to fully understand the requirements for securing uncontested divorces in Colorado. Colorado considers an uncontested divorce a “decree upon arrival,” meaning there is usually no need for a hearing. Each spouse will submit an affidavit and the court will approve the divorce. In Colorado, the criteria for securing an uncontested divorce includes:
- At least one of the divorcing spouses must have lived in Colorado for at least 90 days.
- The divorcing couple has no shared property or has already drawn up an agreement that clearly defines how they will split their shared property and assets.
- Both spouses agree the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- If the couple has children, they must both sign a separation agreement that outlines child custody, visitation, and child support.
Divorcing couples in uncontested divorces can file a joint affidavit with the county clerk’s office, or one spouse may file an affidavit as a petitioner and the other will be the respondent. The affidavit will need to state that both spouses have met the divorce requirements, and a spouse returning to a previous name may indicate this in the affidavit as well. If one spouse filed the affidavit, he or she will need to serve the divorce papers to the other spouse or have the county sheriff handle serving the other spouse.
The judge will likely grant the divorce without requiring the couple to appear for a hearing if the affidavit is acceptable and it contains all of the required information for making a determination. A hearing may be necessary if there are any irregularities or inconsistencies with the divorce paperwork. A judge may also decide a hearing is necessary to adjust the terms of the divorce to ensure it is fair to both parties.
High Net Worth Divorces in Colorado
High net worth divorces involve many issues that one might not encounter in a typical divorce scenario. Some of the most common include:
- Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements – In marriages involving significant assets, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are more common. These legal documents are still open to some interpretation, and may have a bearing on your ultimate divorce judgement.
- Child Support and Alimony – Individuals with high incomes are often financially savvy, and it’s not uncommon for one member of a marriage to have a greater earning ability than the other. In this scenario, the higher earner may attempt to use creative accounting methods to limit his or her child support and alimony payments. A high income divorce attorney has a number of outside experts available for consultation, including financial accountants. We develop a clear picture of each person’s true assets and income to ensure the fair delivery of child support and alimony payments.
- Property Claims – In a high asset divorce scenario, one or both parties may have entered the union with substantial wealth. The longer the marriage, the more likely it is for separate premarital wealth to commingle. This can make separate property claims a delicate matter, especially when the law presumes that community property should be subject to a 50/50 division. However, it is possible to ascertain separate property claims with the assistance of a skilled high asset divorce attorney.
- Dividing Business Interests – It’s also not uncommon for high asset divorces to involve business interests, whether these are community (shared) or separate. The valuation and division of business interests in a divorce can be especially contentious. Determining business valuation and ensuring fair distribution of assets is essential in these cases. If you own a business and are contemplating a divorce, it’s essential to seek highly skilled representation with experience in high asset divorce. Mishandling of valuation and division of business interests could represent a gross injustice to the losing party.
- Other Common Considerations – There are several other types of important assets and considerations unique to high asset divorces, and these may involve separate or community property. Here are some examples:
- Retirement or pension plans
- Hidden assets (may be frozen through a temporary restraining order)
- Fine art
- Upscale furnishings
- Multiple homes or vacation property
- Real estate investments
- Pleasure craft such as boats or airplanes
Fort Collins Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation services allow couples to work through disagreement outside of the court system. Instead of asking for the court to make a ruling on property division, child custody, and other issues, a neutral mediator can work with both parties to arrange a successful compromise. If you are filing for a divorce in Colorado, mediation services can provide a cost-effective and low stress alternative to formal court hearings.
Mediators work across many different civil legal practices, resolving disputes among parties. In Colorado, divorce mediators are state qualified professionals who understand state divorce laws and the court system, have completed a minimum of 40 hours of mediation skills training, and understand the emotional nature of the divorce process. Many mediators are also divorce attorneys.
Divorce mediation works well for couples who feel comfortable openly discussing their issues and working through them. It does not always work out for those who strongly disagree and could never come to a decision on their own. Consider investing in divorce mediation services if you and your spouse:
- Prefer to settle divorce matters outside of the courtroom
- Want to engage in a low stress divorce process
- Qualify for an uncontested divorce in the state of Colorado
- Want to expedite the divorce process to save both time and money
- Can make unemotional and informed decisions about your separation
Mediation is a private, low stress, cost-effective, and comparatively fast way to process a divorce. With the right mediation team on your side, you can also use the process to quickly file all of the requisite paperwork and finalize your divorce. In Colorado, all couples must wait a minimum of 90 days after filing the appropriate documentation before a court will finalize the decision, but mediation can shorten the overall timeframe of a divorce.
Colorado Divorce Laws and Statistics
In Colorado law, divorce is referred to as “dissolution of marriage.” One of the parties must have lived in Colorado for at least 90 days before filing for divorce. Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning, that for purposes of the divorce, no fault is assigned to either party—only that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” While issues such as adultery and abuse are generally not considered in the dissolution of the marriage, they may be taken into account when determining custody of the children. If you are in need of legal advice for your Colorado divorce, a Fort Collins family law attorney can help you get the results that are right for you and your family.
Divorce statistics can be a tricky thing to figure out. While it’s common to say the divorce rate throughout the United States is 50% – there are many reasons this number isn’t always true. Over time, society and laws have changed and divorce numbers have adjusted accordingly. Societal changes include cohabitation before marriage, religious views, gender roles, work schedules, etc. Instead of looking at divorce rates as a whole for 40 years, you can better understand by looking at marriage and divorce rates year by year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the marriage and divorce rates from 2000 until 2015, graphed below:
Divorce is nearly always difficult for a family. It may be met with feelings of regret, relief, or ambivalence. But even if you are relieved to be ending an unhappy marriage, a divorce can be incredibly stressful. According to a well-respected research study by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, of all life’s events, only one –the death of a spouse—is more likely than divorce to cause stress at such a high level that it can actually precipitate illness. Not only is it stressful to the parties who are ending their marriage, it can be stressful to the children and other family members who may be caught in the middle of a contentious situation.
What Grounds for Divorce Apply in Colorado?
Like many other states, Colorado follows a “no-fault” rule when it comes to filing for divorce. In this sense, a person seeking divorce from a spouse needs only to cite irreconcilable differences as reason for the split. This is in contrast to fault states, in which couples must establish grounds such as infidelity if they want to divorce without waiting out an established time period. Under the no-fault rule, Colorado courts will not consider factors like spousal misconduct when dividing assets or property.
What Are the Residency Requirements for Divorce in Colorado?
A couple who wants to divorce in Colorado must meet certain residency requirements. Either spouse must reside within the state of Colorado for at least 90 days before filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage.
How Does Colorado Law Handle Property Division?
Ideally, a couple will be able to divide property between themselves and confirm their arrangement in a legal document called a separation agreement. In highly contentious divorces, however, a couple may end up in court, and the presiding judge will divide the property in a manner commensurate with Colorado laws. First, the judge will separate each couple’s own property accrued before the marriage or by gift or inheritance. Next, he or she will divide the marital property in an equitable and fair manner, taking the following elements into account:
- How each spouse contributed to the acquisition of marital property, including how one spouse contributed to the home as a homemaker
- The economic future of each spouse following divorce
- Any co-mingling of separate assets through joint accounts or other means
How Does Colorado Handle Child Custody?
Like most other states, Colorado looks at what is in the best interest of the child when deciding matters of child custody. Two types of custody exist in Colorado custody agreements: legal custody and physical custody. Unless a spouse can provide a compelling reason otherwise, both parents will likely get joint legal custody, which means both parents will have a say in a child’s upbringing, medical care, and education. Physical custody refers to where the child will live, and how often the child will visit the other parent.
In many cases, parents may decide on matters of child custody on their own. By creating a parenting plan, they collaboratively make decisions regarding a child’s living arrangements and other aspects of upbringing. If parents cannot decide on these matters though mediation or mutual agreement, the courts will decide.
Does Colorado Grant Alimony or Spousal Support?
In some cases, Colorado does grant spousal support or maintenance to a spouse, typically the one who will be financially less well-off following a divorce. Again, spouses can decide among themselves how much a spouse should pay to another, and for how long. If they cannot amicably agree on these terms, a judge will decide for them.
A court may choose to order child support when one spouse earns significantly more than the other. The courts use a specific formula based on the income of each spouse to calculate the amount of temporary alimony.
How Long Does a Divorce Take?
Colorado law enforces certain waiting periods before granting a divorce, generally 90 days from when one spouse receives the petition. However, certain factors may prolong the divorce proceeding, such as total assets, children, and amicability between the spouses. While a divorce may technically only take 90 days to finalize, negotiations often take 6 to 12 months, or longer if the couple requires litigation. On the other hand, using methods like mediation can help reduce the amount of time it takes to finalize a divorce in Colorado.
If you are considering a divorce in Colorado, contact the Fort Collins divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Stephen Vertucci LLC to see how we can help you through the separation process. Our attorneys are here to offer a free initial consultation to review your case.