The divorce process may vary from state to state. The divorce process can be confusing and frustrating, but if you keep certain goals in mind through out the process, it can ease your stress. These milestones help keep parties focused and pressing on, even when things become difficult.
The first step in the Colorado divorce process is filing. I have a lot of consults that happen prior to a party filing for divorce. One piece of advice I always give, is to not rush into divorce. Although I practice family law, I am still a firm believer in marriage. By any means do not rush into filing for divorce. Make sure it is the route you want to take. I am frequently asked if there is an advantage of filing first? In my experience there is truly not a great advantage to file first, unless you are trying to protect marital assets. When a party files for divorce, a temporary injunction automatically falls into place. In broad terms, the temporary injunction puts a freeze on the marital estate. The freeze does not allow parties to dispose of assets or have major purchases. The filing of the Petition for Dissolution signals the commencement of the divorce case.
The Initial Status Conference
The Initial Status Conference, or the “ISC” is the first time the parties need to step into the courthouse. Although nerve wracking, the ISC is an easy way to get use to being in the courthouse for the purposes of dealing with your divorce. That is because the ISC is about a ten minute scheduling conference. The ISC occurs in a small room, with a family court facilitator, in other words, it is not held in the actual courtroom. At the ISC, parties may request a temporary orders hearing. They also receive deadlines for things such as disclosures, discovery requests, and experts.
The Settlement Conference is the next milestone. The Court always requires a settlement conference prior to the Temporary Orders Hearing. This is an informal opportunity for the parties to discuss any issues, prior to the Temporary Orders Hearing, in an effort to come to some sort of resolution. There are times where I have had entire cases actually settled at Settlement Conferences. However, there are also times where I have resolved nothing; it just depends on the case.
The Temporary Orders Hearing
The Temporary Orders Hearing is the first of two hearings in a typical divorce case. Whatever issues not resolved at the settlement conference, will be addressed at the Temporary Orders Hearing. I tell my Clients that the Temporary Orders Hearing is where the judge puts a Band-Aid on the entire situation. When a couple separates, there are a lot of items that need to be taken care of—the mortgage, insurance, temporary parenting time, and other marital bills. Orders given out at a Temporary Orders Hearing are just that, temporary. Keep in mind, the Final Orders Hearing is where permanent orders are made.
Mediation is also required by the Court. It is similar to a settlement conference, but more formalized. Mediation requires either a private mediator or a mediator through the Office of Dispute Resolution. The Office of Dispute Resolution is the mediation office through the courthouse. Again, similar to the settlement conference, some cases settle completely at mediation, while others do not. The Court requires a “good faith effort.” Although most people think a good faith effort is just a phrase, I always encourage my Client’s to go into mediation with an open mind, because you never know what can be resolved.
The Final Orders Hearing
The last hurdle in a divorce case is the Final Orders Hearing. Unlike the Temporary Orders Hearing, the Orders issued are permanent. At this point, the divorce is finalized. The final division of marital property, marital debt, and parenting time are decided at the Final Orders Hearing. For example if the parties have a marital home, the Court will determine if the house should be sold, if one of the parties gets to keep the house and pay out the other party, or how the equity should be sold. At the Final Orders Hearing the Court will also enter a Decree of Dissolution. At that time, the parties are officially divorced and permanent orders are put into place.