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If you’re considering divorce or are in a divorce (sometimes referred to as a legal separation), get legal help from some of the top divorce lawyers in Colorado Springs at Maceau Law with more than 30 years experience to help you get what’s right and fair for you and your family. Read the information and watch the video below to learn what Maceau Law can do for you:According to the United States Census Bureau, the divorce rate in America is currently at 50 percent, meaning many people require the services of a divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyers specialize in the legal process of divorce and family law issues. Their job is to guide their clients through the rigorous experience of divorce. A great divorce lawyer will communicate well, fight for their client’s rights and make sure they are treated fairly under the law. Choosing a good divorce attorney can make the divorce process much smoother.
Additionally, the sooner you hire an attorney, the better, even if both sides are in agreement. There are many legal details (taxes, ownership, wills, custody, and such) that an experienced divorce attorney can guide you through to make the transition to divorce as seamless and painless as possible.
What Is Divorce?
A divorce, which is also known as the dissolution of a marriage, is the canceling of the responsibilities, dissolving the bonds of matrimony and cancelling the legal duties between spouses. In many cases, divorce proceedings address issues such as the distribution of property, division of debt, decisions regarding child custody, alimony or child support. The laws vary between state jurisdictions. However, the most common types of divorce are listed below:
- No-fault and fault
- Summary or simplified
- Uncontested and contested
- Missing spouse
No-fault and fault: No-fault is a divorce in which no one has to take responsibility for the ending of the marriage. For example, incompatibility is often given as a reason for the demise of the marriage. A fault divorce differs in that it encourages one party to take responsibility for the breakdown of the marriage relationship.
Summary or simplified: This type of divorce is like no-fault in that there is no conflict between spouses in regards to the division of martial assets. It is often implemented in cases where there are no children and the marriage was relatively short. It is often the least stressful and least expensive type of divorce available.
Collaborative: A collaborative divorce encourages a couple to part ways in a respectful manner. It often employs the services of marriage counselors and finance specialists to ensure the process is as peaceful as possible.
Uncontested and contested: Uncontested divorces take place when both partners come to a mutual agreement in regards to the division of their finances, property and an agreement on custody of their children. A contested divorce means the parties do not come to an agreement on their own and require the help of a judge to make the choices in regards to contested issues.
Mediated: Divorce mediation is a substitute for traditional proceedings. In a mediation session, discussion between the two parties will take place. A mediator assists in this discussion and provides suggestions in regards to any conflicts. In most cases, the mediation process produces a tailored divorce agreement that is submitted to the court.
Missing spouse: This type of divorce is tailored for a client who has no idea where their spouse is located, making it an option for the remaining partner to file divorce without their spouse being physically present.
Limited: A limited divorce is similar to a legal separation. This type of divorce works well for couples who have already settled financial and custody issues and have no reason to seek an absolute divorce.
Absolute: An absolute divorce is the legal ending of a marriage thus terminating any legal bonds the couple has together. The requirements needed to file this type of divorce vary from state to state.
After a divorce lawyer is hired, they will begin the divorce proceedings. Their main goals are as follows: Dividing assets and debts: One part of a divorce attorney’s job is helping divide the assets and debts accumulated during a marriage in an agreeable manner between both parties. This includes any financial holdings, vehicles or property a couple may have owned together. During the divorce proceedings, a divorce lawyer will argue to the benefit of their client in regards to personal holdings.
Determining custody: When children are present within a marriage, the divorce attorney must help their client as they seek a custody arrangement in regards to their children. This includes visitation rights, primary custody and child support payment amounts. In some cases, these issues are argued in court, and sometimes they are settled out of court.
Other issues a divorce attorney handles: Divorce attorneys also handle premarital and prenuptial agreements and answer post-divorce questions. Many divorce attorneys are sought after to construct a tight prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement will prevent any of a client’s current or future assets from being in jeopardy during divorce proceedings. In some cases, divorce attorneys are asked by clients how to change their name from their married one, how to modify a divorce decree or how to change child support or alimony payments after a divorce is finalized.
A divorce attorney will likely need copies of the following documents:
- Proof of income for both parties. Pay stubs are usually adequate to show each spouse’s income. This would also include income tax returns.
- Documents that show ownership of real estate owned by either spouse of jointly. An itemized list of debts accumulated by the parties. This would include all debts including credit cards, loans or medical bills either in one spouse’s name or both.
- Documentation showing vehicle ownership. This includes the title and registration of all automobiles, snowmobiles, boats, ATVs, farm equipment or any other vehicle owned by either spouse or jointly. This also includes a copy of moneys owed on vehicles.
- A copy of recent pension fund, retirement funds, mutual funds, 401K plans or IRAs. Documentation of all life insurance policies.
- Bank statements from checking and savings accounts. These would include accounts held by either spouse of jointly.
Having the above documents ready will help make the divorce process go smoother. Of course, each lawyer desires different documentation for each case. Before proceeding to a divorce lawyer’s office, a client should ask their divorce lawyer what documentation they should bring along.
How Long Does a Divorce Take?
Deciding on a divorce is one of the most difficult decisions you will face. Before proceeding, you should be certain divorce is the only viable resolution. As Colorado is a “no-fault” state, the only allowable reason for divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken as required by Colorado Statutes-Article 10-Sections:14-10-106. There is also a minimum qualification the filing party has resided in Colorado for at least 90 days. In addition, your petition must include all relevant information including the place and date when your marriage occurred, the date you separated, names and ages of any children impacted by the impending divorce and the financial agreements you’ve reached regarding any money and property.
Typically, once the decision is reached to divorce, the first question most people ask is how long will this take? While there’s no one right answer, if there is no dispute by either party, then the required wait is 90 days. This delay allows you time to consider ways in which youre marriage might be saved, or if it can’t be saved the time is available to settle any remaining issues. However, the 90 days may lead to an additional 6-12 months if there are continuing unresolved situations. These may include:
- Distribution of Property: What properties and goods you own and the agreements as to which party receives what.
- Custody Rights: For children 18 or under, how much time will each parent receive in visitation rights as well as defined temporary and permanent residences for the children.
- Child Support: The amount of money that may be paid by one spouse to the other in support of any children 18 or under.
- Maintenance: How much money will be paid and for how long by one spouse in support of the other.
These questions can often be contentious and difficult to resolve. If necessary, the 6-12 months additional time will be utilized by yourself and the court for resolving any outstanding issues. Only when the court is satisfied all parties have been treated fairly and equitably will the divorce be granted.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost?
In the United States, the cost of the average divorce is $15,000. However, the cost is greatly affected by the type of divorce being implemented and the specifics of the case. In most cases, seeking a cheap divorce is not the best route. This is especially true when one spouse has assets they want to protect or feel they may be treated unfairly in the legal proceedings. Paying for a more expensive divorce where issues are resolved in a professional manner is often worth the extra expense. A divorce lawyer can be expensive, or it might not cost anything at all, depending upon some circumstances and choices.
Typically, divorce lawyers charge a fee based upon an hourly rate. The usual arrangement is a retainer payment. The attorney charges the agreed hourly rate against the retainer. The hourly rates will be higher for time spent in court such as trials, hearings, and motions. The amount of legal time relates to complexity. Divorces that involve property, or children, or allegations of wrongdoing will cost more than cases without children or disputes. If parties cannot agree, then lawyers require more time negotiate the terms of a decree and property settlement. The court that hears the case determines the question of fees. The court can order payment of all or part of a spouse’s legal expenses by the other; by motion of the divorce attorney seeking to have fees paid. Even in a ‘no fault’ jurisdiction, a spouse who causes the breakup may be compelled to pay. The court is more likely to order payment for the spouse when:
- He or she provides custodial care of children care of children – The custodial spouse is part of the psychological home of minor or dependent children, and this is a priority for the court, to protect minor children.
- He or she is a dependent spouse; a dependent spouse who did not cause breakup has a strong case for fees.
- He or she cannot afford an attorney, or would be a relative hardship to do so. The policy of the court is to create balance between the parties. One party should not be unrepresented because unable to pay while the other has representation and a great advantage in resources.
The court is more likely to compel a spouse to pay when:
- The paying party has substantial income, assets, or ability to pay; and, or
- The paying party requests the divorce; and, or
- The paying party by fault caused the breakup of marriage; and, or
- The paying party is not the custodial parent.
The costs of divorce can be substantial, typical retainers can range from $10,000 -$25,000 hourly rates from $150-$350 per hour depending on expertise and location. Complex cases can exceed $25,000, by many times that amount, particularly when there are substantial assets and cases go to trial. One should not choose an attorney, on the basis of price alone. One must consider experience. The best approach is to spend wisely. [Sources: Cornell University Law School, National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law]
Other ways that divorce costs participating parties
In most cases, divorce is an extremely stressful experience as it affects the children, schedules, household jobs, living arrangements and the finances of the affected parties. When children are involved, the emotional toil is even higher. Although a good divorce lawyer can not restore a marriage, they can help make the process as painless as possible.
After going through divorce proceedings, most people assume all the issues involving their divorce are behind them. However, there are many matters that only arise once a divorce is finalized leading to various divorce modifications which are subject to post-divorce law. The following are a few common reasons for divorce modification:
- Significant changes in income: When one spouse has their financial situation significantly altered post-divorce, a modification of the divorce rulings can be in order. Reasons behind the alteration in income could include a job loss, retirement, an acquired disability or a raise. The issue is brought before the court, and the judge determines if there is a significant enough adjustment in circumstances to merit altering the previous divorce agreements. Most courts will not overturn previous agreements for minor changes. It must be a significant change to merit this action.
- Changes in child custody, visitation or support:
- A move: This modification is usually requested when one party moves out of state and wishes to alter either their child custody arrangement, their visitation agreement or the dwelling place of a child. When obtaining a change in child custody, visitation or location, a modification request is entered in order to acquire the court’s approval to move the child. During the process of a modification hearing, the spouse wishing to relocate the child must prove it is in the child’s best interest to make the purposed changes. Additional changes can take place in regards to child support requirements if one parent must travel in order to see their child. Their travel expenses could be deducted from their child support payments in an effort to offset the cost of travel.
- A child’s preference in living and visitation arrangements: When they grow older, some children prefer to spend more time with one parent than the other. In such cases, visitation or custody arrangements can be modified to better meet the preferences and needs of the child.
- An increase in expenses regarding a child’s needs: Child support amounts can change when children grow older and thus demand more resources in order to sustain a desired lifestyle. For example, when children start taking part in sports or expensive hobbies, the amount of money needed to meet their requirements can grow expediently. Therefore, in some cases, child support amounts will be altered to meet the greater financial demand. Moreover, when kids become old enough to drive, issues such as car insurance and car payments come into play.
- Changes in marriage status: In most cases, alimony requirements will be removed when the party being supported remarries. This is considered another post-divorce modification. In addition to remarriage, a new job or higher income for the party being supported can qualify a modification in alimony or spousal support. Moreover, if the party paying spousal support loses their job or has a major decrease in financial resources, modification could occur.
How are these post-divorce issues modifications decided?
When parties desire changes to their divorce agreement, post-divorce mediation can be the answer. A mediation usually takes place in a lawyer’s office with the lawyer being the neutral party attempting to help the two divorced people come to an agreeable arrangement. If agreements are not reached via mediation, the parties can go to court to acquire the modifications they desire. Mediation does not have to take place in the presence of a lawyer or at a lawyer’s office. However, most people find it is helpful to obtain the legal advice of an experienced lawyer when determining new divorce arrangements.
Is hiring a post-divorce attorney necessary for divorce modification issues?
In most cases, hiring divorce lawyers for anything than divorce mediation is not necessary. However, when a divorced couple cannot agree on the issues at hand, acquiring a highly skilled lawyer is necessary as a court hearing will be required to make the necessary modification arrangements.
How much does it cost to modify a divorce?
Because so many variables go into post-divorce modification, it is virtually impossible to set a dollar amount on how much it costs. For example, a modification that is reached via mediation will cost much less than a modification that demands a court hearing. Furthermore, lawyer’s fees will vary depending on the complexity of the case.
Divorce agreements are not as permanent as many people may believe. In fact, after divorce proceedings have taken place, some people find they need to alter their original agreement. This is often times because the parties are unaware how life will go financially and otherwise once a divorce is final. Therefore, divorce modification is common.
When to Call a Divorce Lawyer
Many couples find they are unable to resolve their own differences in regards to their divorce and need the assistance of a divorce lawyer. The following situations demand the expertise of a divorce lawyer:
- Abuse: Anytime one spouse is abusing the other, a divorce lawyer’s help is needed. A lawyer is able create a divorce agreement and keep the abused spouse out of harm’s way.
- Dishonesty: If one party is being vindictive or dishonest, it is best to hire a lawyer to protect the rights of each spouse.
- Spouse has an attorney: If one spouse hired an attorney, it is in the best interest of the other spouse to do so as well.
- To ensure an accurately orchestrated divorce: Lawyers share their knowledge of divorce law with their clients ensuring they are adequately represented in court.
How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer
In order to choose the right attorney, assure they meet the following criteria:
- Hire an attorney experienced in family law:
In some states, divorce lawyers can become board-certified in family law. These lawyers specialize in family law issues and divorce cases. In order to be certified, an attorney much pass a rigorous test and have significant trail experience in this area. In order to maintain their certification, lawyers must continue their education in family law on a yearly basis.Although a board-certified family lawyer will likely charge more, they are more experienced and have a greater understanding of family law than lawyers who are not certified. Moreover, if a person believes their divorce case will end up in court, choosing an attorney with adequate court room experience is imperative.
- Choose a divorce lawyer who is familiar with local judges:
When trying a divorce case, it is helpful if the lawyer is familiar with the judges who are likely to hear the case. This is a benefit because a lawyer who knows how a judge typically rules will know how to present a successful case.
- Choose a lawyer who understands the important issues:
When a divorcing couple has young children, each spouse’s lawyer should understand the importance of placing the children’s needs above all. This includes not pursuing unreasonable demands that will ultimately work to the detriment of the affected children.
- Hire a lawyer who speaks in easy-to-understand language:
Clients want their lawyer to communicate with them in simple terms not legalese. For that reason, choosing a lawyer who understands how to communicate well is smart. In addition, a client must feel comfortable with their lawyer. After all, very personal information about their lives are shared with their attorney. Therefore, feeling comfortable with the attorney is a must. A great way to determine this customer service aspect of a divorce lawyer is speaking to their past clients.
Hire a Top Divorce Lawyer in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, or Castle Rock
You want to be sure you get what’s fair and right for you and your family. Call 719-633-2222 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, in-person or over the phone, with one of our Colorado Springs divorce lawyers at Maceau Law. We’ll privately and confidentially discuss the details of your case and give you an opinion of what you can realistically expect as an outcome in a court of law.