We’ve all heard about divorces dragging on for months and even years. Some high profile divorce cases such as the Rosendales in California and Purpuras in New York lasted 12 and 21 years respectively! While decade plus long divorces are not the norm, attorney-led divorces will take longer than divorce mediation.
If you’re considering divorce mediation, this blog explores how the divorce mediation process is designed to move more quickly than attorney-led divorce, factors that affect the timeline and how clients can ensure their divorce mediation is swift.
The Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado’s divorce mediation process is designed to last 8-12 weeks. We plan on four to five two-hour meetings, occurring every two weeks. When all parties are aware of this timeline and agree to proceed in good faith, it is much easier for them to stick to this schedule.
Compare our divorce mediation timeline to the traditional attorney-led divorce in Colorado which lasts on average six to 12 months.
There are many reasons that an attorney-led divorce will take longer and some are outside of your control. A big factor is the way the legal system is designed. Every time you or your spouse files a motion in court, you have to give each other a certain number of days advance notice that you will be presenting that motion in court.
Not to mention, the party receiving the motion is given a certain amount of time to respond to it. The same thing is true for the next motion filed, and the next and so on.
Furthermore, attorney-led divorces are dependent on the court’s calendar. Consider that you have to get a hearing date on the docket to start proceedings. Unfortunately, if the court’s calendar is full, you may have to wait weeks or months. COVID-19 threw a wrench into Colorado’s family court machine in 2020 and just as courts were catching up in 2021, there is a new spike of cases with the Delta variant which may lead to another slowdown.
Another factor at play in a traditional divorce is your attorney’s diligence. If your attorney needs more time to gather evidence or respond, or your spouse’s attorney needs the same, everything grinds to a halt for a continuance.
When you have acrimony over agreement, your attorney ends up spending more time, albeit more time fighting for your best interests.
Another factor that makes traditional divorce take longer is the need for outside experts. All divorces involve financial considerations, but while lawyers are experts in divorce and family law, they are rarely also credentialed financial advisors. This means they need to bring in an outside financial expert. To throw more uncertainty into the mix, the outside financial professional has existing clients and their own schedule.
Compare this to the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado where all of our mediators are Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFAs.) We advise you what financial documents you need, how to obtain them and can analyze them and make recommendations for both of you.
The factors that affect a traditional divorce and a divorce mediation are the same. As a general rule, the longer a marriage lasts, the more work is involved. If the couple has children, there are parenting schedules and decisions around where to live and go to school to decide. If there is a high net worth, there are more financial considerations at hand. Another important factor is the willingness of each party to want to resolve the divorce in a swift but fair fashion.
Below we discuss each of these factors in more detail.
It makes sense that a marriage that lasted three years would involve less complications than a 25 year marriage. The longer a couple is married, the more property they acquire and all of this property is subject to division upon divorce. Also, the longer a couple is married the more debts they may have racked up, whether it’s credit card debt or business related obligations.
The age of the children and whether they have special needs will also have an effect since visitation and custody depends on school schedules and extracurricular activities. Also, if the children have special needs, they will have appointments and additional expenses related to therapy, mobility, etc. If your children are very young, you will have to make decisions on their behalf and may even want to slow down the divorce process so they are better able to deal with the emotions they’re experiencing.
More money, more problems, right? Couples with a significant net worth have more property and it will take longer to decide how to divide it up. When your net worth is lower, you usually only have your home and a few possessions, whereas a high net worth couple may have an inheritance or trust, real estate investments, business interests, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, jewelry and artwork.
One reason divorcing spouses choose an attorney-led divorce is because they don’t want to be taken advantage of by their soon-to-be ex-spouse. They want an advocate fighting for their best interests. Divorcing spouses in these situations are encouraged to communicate through their attorneys. Traditional divorce is not designed to encourage amicable resolution. It’s about scoring a win and not letting up any ground.
The opposite is true with divorce mediation. Both spouses must agree that cooperation is the only way that a third party mediator can usher in an agreement that each party can live with. Couples who choose mediation can communicate amicably with the same end goals in mind - a better post divorce future for both of them.
A few of the factors affecting the length of time of mediation are outside of your control. Ending a 20 year union will inevitably be more complicated than dissolving a two year marriage. We’re also not encouraging you to cast off your earthly possessions in an attempt to simplify property division.
However, you can prepare yourself for the financial analysis involved and look for ways to improve the communication between you and your soon-to-be ex.
As far as communication, make sure you find the time to talk with your soon-to-be ex about your shared goals BEFORE beginning mediation proceedings. Finally, we recommend familiarizing yourself with our divorce mediation process so you are ready for what each step requires. Preparation will help to expedite the divorce process.
Finally, you’re only a few clicks away from a FREE phone consultation with one of our experienced mediators.
You’ve decided to get a divorce. Notice we said “you've” not “you both.” To be clear, ONLY you have decided to divorce. When this happens, the decision-making spouse has a few options for how to proceed.
In this blog, we want to show this spouse that their options are not as limited as they believe. Many people are so scared and unsure about their divorce options that they think their ONLY option is to proceed in secret and call a divorce attorney, or talk to anyone but their spouse. They jump right to Step #2 and start looking for “a bulldog” or a “tough, take no prisoners” divorce attorney.
Let’s discuss why this choice may be self-sabotaging. The the two of you decided to make a lifelong commitment to each other. If you take your concerns to a divorce attorney before you talk to your spouse, they may see this as being so disrespectful that there is no way you can have an amicable divorce. Remember, a peaceful divorce is especially important when that person will be your co-parent.
They’re not emotionally prepared to divorce. They may be frustrated, angry, or disappointed with their spouse but they’re not clear headed enough about the process to proceed and unsure their post divorce future, so they “lawyer up” first.
Even if their intention was not to beat their spouse to doing the same, they have effectively guaranteed that their divorce proceedings will be fraught with conflict, expensive and unnecessarily stressful.
To be sure, if your partner is abusive and controlling, you may need to contact someone outside of your marriage BEFORE have the difficult divorce conversation. However, we’ve met many spouses who called a divorce attorney first and later wish they’d chosen Step #1.
Even if your intention is just to gather information, or you’re following the advice of a friend who has been through a divorce, your spouse will feel betrayed and it is hard to come to an agreement with someone when you’ve fired a warning shot.
A divorce attorney will be looking out for your interests and yours only. Meanwhile, your spouse will have to hire their own divorce lawyer. Now you have two high priced advisors looking to score a win. When one spouse wins, the other inevitably loses. Do you see where we are headed with this?
If you have the tough conversation first, you have an opportunity for divorce mediation. The discomfort you feel having to initiate the discussion will pale in comparison to the conflict you usher in by calling a divorce attorney.
First off, bringing up “divorce” during a fight is not a good idea. Emotions are heightened and make us unpredictable. If you say something in that moment, there’s no easy way to press pause and return to the subject when you’re more clear headed.
Find a time of day where you are not stressed or sleepy to have the divorce talk. In terms of the ideal time, treat it the same as you would if you had to deliver bad news.
Make sure that you are in private and out of earshot of your children. Try not to use phrases like, “I don’t know, I am not sure but…” Be 100% sure that divorce is the next step.
A Huff Post article offers wise advice about finding the right words: It’s much more powerful to state your feelings about the relationship clearly, honestly and as kindly as possible, rather than calling your spouse on all the things you think they did wrong in the marriage.”
Do not expect to have a “one and done” conversation. Be prepared to table some topics to talk through at a later date. This is not the time to compartmentalize your life and shut your spouse out. To arrive in at a place where you can agree on property division and child or spousal support, don’t think that you can only discuss divorce inside a mediation room or an attorney’s office.
If you choose Step #2 and talk with your spouse about divorce, you’ll know if they want to move forward in an amicable way. Consider how divorce mediation meets you where you are. Divorce does not have to be devastating if the two of you can agree that a contentious divorce is unnecessary.
The divorce professionals at the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado have helped thousands of couples change the way society divorces. Call to set up a complimentary phone consultation with one of us and your spouse. In person or virtually, we help soon to be ex spouses find common ground without conflict.
Colorado courts trailblazed the way to a new definition of common law marriage in January 2021. The court’s longstanding view of common law marriage, established in 1987, is now more realistic and less traditional. Previously, Colorado courts factored in several specific markers to establish a common-law marriage. These included questions such as "Did the couple own property together?" "Did they file joint tax returns?" "Did the woman take the man’s last name?" Now, courts take on a more nuanced view of common law marriage, which has implications for same sex divorce mediation.
As more couples eschew home ownership, file taxes separately for student loan reasons and keep their own last names, these indications of “holding themselves out as being married” are less common. In states that still recognize common law marriage, and Colorado is among the nine that do, we're the first to modernize the factors courts consider whether a couple was common-law married.
The new standard is whether they mutually intended to enter a marital relationship and whether the couple’s subsequent conduct supported that decision. Judges must look at the context and totality of the circumstances rather than checking off a list.
Consider how this shift will positively affect same sex couples. Gay couples may not present themselves as married so as not to face discrimination or to keep their relationship status private. Now with the outdated criteria replaced, more same sex couples are able to have their common law marriages recognized, and in the case of divorce, dissolved the same as any other couple. A reminder that a divorce is still necessary whether a couple is legally married or married by common law.
In addition to the main reasons divorce mediation is preferable for couples who split on good terms such as lower cost, less stress, and more control, there are four additional reasons that married or common law married same sex couples should consider divorce mediation.
1. Divorce Mediators, unlike Judges, don’t factor in how long a couple has been common law or legally married when deciding property distribution and maintenance
Same sex unions have only been legal in Colorado since 2013. This would make any legal marriage 7 years which is considered short term. This would disadvantage the lower earning spouse whereas a divorce mediator strives for equity and for the two sides to come to a mutually agreeable way to award maintenance and property.
2. Divorce Mediators Are Not Constrained by the Court's Determination of Who is the Legal Parent
Same sex couples who pursue a traditional lawyer led divorce must adhere to case law to determine who is the legal parent. If you or only your spouse is the child’s legal parent, the other party will need to bring a paternity or maternity petition to obtain custody and visitation. But If the other partner wants to become the child's legal parent, they must formally adopt. If he or she fails to do so, and the couple divorces, the “non-parent” could be completely denied parental rights—even if he or she has been the child’s primary caregiver. Contrast this with divorce mediation where custody and visitation issues are resolved without being limited to the law's view of who is a "legal" parent.
3. Choosing Your Own Divorce Mediator is Preferable than Having An Assigned Judge
Not to generalize, but there are members of any profession who hold a traditional view of marriage. When you are assigned a judge, it’s anyone’s guess whether they will treat your marriage, common law or not, the same as they would a heterosexual couple. Compare this to divorce mediators, who tend to come from a variety of backgrounds. You find the one who is a good fit and they operate as a neutral third party, giving you more control over the divorce process.
4. Divorce Mediation Is Private Unlike an Attorney Led Divorce
It is no one else’s business that you are getting divorced. Divorce mediation recognizes that marriage dissolution doesn’t have to be handled by the same people who prosecute crimes. If you are not out to the general public, your privacy is preserved inside the mediation room.
At the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado peaceful resolutions are possible through our process that reduces conflict, contention, and cost while bolstering informed decision making and peace of mind. If you are a member of the LGBTQ community and contemplating a divorce or separation, please call our office at (303) 468-5626 or schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our staff.
You and your spouse have agreed to divorce but not on how to get there. You want divorce mediation but they remain unconvinced that it is the best choice. How do you move forward with the divorce?
The answer depends on WHY they are hesitant about mediation, IF they can be transparent and WHETHER they are willing to compromise.
We’ll explore each of these factors and provide advice based on your answers to the questions below.
Scenario 1: They’re unfamiliar with the process.
Scenario 2: They’re angry and don’t want to do what you’ve selected. Angry people want to win and hurt the other person in the process.
Scenario 3: They want a DIY divorce to save money paying a mediator or an attorney.
It is actually pretty common to be unfamiliar with divorce mediation. After all, we’ve grown up on a TV diet where we’re served images of hard-nosed attorneys going head to head, saying things like “Not on my watch” and “We’re going to make them pay!” and we resign to the fact that divorce attorneys exist for a reason. If you didn’t need them, why would they even practice that kind of law, right?
There are many ways to familiarize someone with divorce mediation. One way is to find a friend or friend of a friend who has used a divorce mediator and ask them if they’d be willing to talk about their experience. Another way is to ask your spouse to call a divorce mediator who offers a free consultation and come prepared with questions. You can also learn a lot by reading articles and watching videos. We’ve written about the different divorce options in Colorado and have videos about divorce mediation that can help.
The 50,000 foot view is this: Divorce mediation works when spouses can work well together. Each spouse agrees to fully disclose their finances and work towards an agreement about property, parenting plans and what they want their post-divorce lives to look like. Your mediator is a neutral, third party who helps both of you come to consensus and stay out of the courts and avoid costly legal battles. Divorce mediation may also involve financial experts, therapists and divorce coaches. At DRCC, our team members hold the following titles: CDFA, Certified Divorce Financial Analysts, Psychotherapist, Mediator and Divorce Coach. We’ve got you covered!
To them, an attorney = they come out ahead. After all, divorce attorneys charge $350-$600/hour so they will work hard to make sure your spouse prevails. In a scenario like this, you and your soon to be ex may need to work with a therapist, together or separately or both to help resolve these feelings before proceeding with the divorce. This is not about “striking while the iron is hot” but “waiting until cooler heads prevail.” Angry people don’t make the best decisions and hiring an expensive attorney and dragging your personal affairs into a courtroom will = more conflict which = more money spent.
One exception is if the spouse who is angry is also abusive. Divorce mediation is not suited to a dynamic where one party has and wants to exert control. A collaborative divorce or traditional divorce would better serve you both.
Blame it on Pinterest or HGTV, but many people think they can cobble together a table, so why not a divorce? A DIY divorce CAN work if you do not have any children and few assets. Filing your own divorce CAN work for cooperative parties who have come to a consensus about what to do about x, y, and z; and their only difficulty is navigating the paperwork.
We have worked with couples whose situation seemed suited to a DIY divorce but later issues arose and they needed a third party to flesh out issues and make the agreements enforceable.
Hiring an attorney is not only costly due to their high hourly rate but also because of the length of the average Colorado divorce of 6-12 months, and that’s if you don't go to court. The DRCC works with couples who are motivated to complete the process in a limited number of mediation sessions. When you schedule your initial consultation and ultimately decide to hire us, we can apply the cost of the initial consultation to your account.
Our divorce mediation services are designed for couples who want peaceful resolutions and value transparency. If this describes your situation, divorce mediation may be the best pathway to your post-divorce life. Remember, the marriage may be over but the family goes on!
In June 2020 the unemployment rate in Colorado increased to 10.5%. Uncertainty around COVID-19 has contributed to this spike in layoffs and furloughs. The longer this continues, the more Coloradans will ask "How will job loss affect my divorce mediation?"
If you were laid off due to no fault of your own, mediators may adjust child or spousal support, but only temporarily. However, if the job loss was one party's fault, mediators may require the amount that was agreed upon while they were employed.
If the spouse who lost their job due to COVID is the lower-paid spouse, mediators may suggest that the employed spouse pay more support until their ex spouse is re-employed. The intention is to try and ascertain that both spouses are able to meet BOTHtheir needs during the period of unemployment.
Once the spouse who earned more is hired again, they will be responsible to pay an agreed upon percentage of their earned income. In Colorado, the calculation results from a statute effective January 1, 2014. There can be a provision in your mediated agreement that when rehiring happens, the parties' agree to revisit the support piece of the divorce with a qualified mediator.
Our advice for spouses who are laid off is to treat finding a job as a full-time job. Job searches should focus on a similar job with a comparable salary to the one lost, if possible. This is not the time to “find yourself” or go back to school, unless retraining is required.
Finally, job loss during mediation is not a spouse’s Ace in the Hole when it comes to calculating support payments. The laid off spouse needs to be transparent about any severance or payout package or company stock options they hold.
At Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado, we understand how stressful job loss is and how it can impact your ability to support yourself, your ex spouse, and your children. All parties in a mediation agree to transparency and this creates a level of communication rarely seen during divorce.
If your employment situation changes during divorce mediation, we adjust agreements and address what happens when either spouse is employed again. Call us at 303-468-5626 to discuss your particular situation with a 20 minute complimentary consultation.
The second installment in our “Devil’s in the Divorce Details” series focuses on the crucial question, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Our work is to examine and help couples solve the emotional and financial questions that arise with divorce. Whereas an attorney is working on behalf of one party in an effort to win the best outcome for them, we want the best outcome for the entire family. Financial and emotional factors cannot be compartmentalized and if approached that way, it could lead to an undesirable outcome for one or both spouses.
For instance, you LOVE the marital home. You shed blood, sweat, tears and a few cuss words creating a garden, painting all the walls and converting your basement into a place to paint and be creative. Deciding whether to stay in the marital home is colored by these emotions and also the financial reality of whether you can afford all of the maintenance and upkeep. If you look only at the associated costs and decide to sell, you will lose the pride and security you feel in your current home.
Only by asking questions can we determine that “unprepared” doesn’t mean that you don’t have your paperwork together, but that you’re not ready to deal with divorce emotionally. Or perhaps “unprepared” means you don’t know how to begin the conversation with your spouse. Divorce coaching can help with that. Acknowledge that usually “being ready” is a hurdle that you need to get clear about, and that there are divorce professionals if you need assistance.
Maybe you go to your friends for divorce help first. When they hear you say, “I’m not ready” they could offer objective advice like, “Here are the documents you should gather to understand your finances” They are confused why you seem frozen in place and don’t want to wade into your sea of emotions. Maybe talking about that is uncomfortable, brings up issues in their own lives or they don’t want to feel like they’re taking sides. Even if they help you sort out the emotional issues, unless they are also a financial advisor, chances are they won’t be able to assist you with that. Your friend’s duty is to just that, to be a friend and you shouldn’t expect them to function as your advisor.
“I’m just scared/worried” usually means you fear making the right decision. Is the fear personal or do you worry about your spouse’s reaction? Or are you reluctant to end the marriage because you think you should try harder to stay married? If it’s the latter, you may want to try counseling or find a new counselor. Understand that you, and ONLY you, know if you are making the right decision for YOUR life.
What happens to the person who is “not ready? They bury their head in the sand and ignore the issue. Their health suffers and they continue living a half full life.
What happens to the spouse who “scared?” They might make hasty decisions out of fear and experience unintended consequences.
Our divorce coach, psychologist and certified mediator, Suzanne Chambers Yates has created an acronym BEYOND to help you move forward so you are emotionally prepared for divorce.
For the second hurdle, not being financially prepared, it’s important to run through all the possible scenarios with a trusted, experienced financial advisor. DRCC's certified divorce financial analysts will scrutinize every area where money is concerned.
If you don’t want to give up the marital home, can you maintain it? Not only physically, but will you need to hire help or are you committed to doing it yourself? What stage are you at in life? Do you need to stay in a 2 story home with 4 bedrooms when it is just you? If the mortgage is much cheaper than moving to another single level residence, can you still afford all the associated costs like homeowner’s insurance?
You won’t be able to stay on your ex-spouse’s health insurance so understand your options. Can you afford to get it on your own? Does your employer have a plan?
Children under 18: Can you support your children without a second income when your parenting time is Monday through Friday and your spouse has them every other weekend?
Divorce after 50: Unlike couples that divorce in their early 30’s, you don’t have 25-30 years to rebuild and feel secure in your retirement. “Silver divorce” is more complicated at this stage in life because you don’t have the luxury of “waiting for the market to rebound.”
We mentioned homeowners but there’s also car, life and disability. Most life insurance policies are revocable, meaning the policy owner may change the beneficiary at any time. If your ex spouse will be contributing a majority of money to your children, do you have a backup plan if something happens to them and their new spouse becomes the beneficiary?
DRCC’s owner Deb Johnson says that financial stress is one of the hardest types of stress to deal with. Her opinion is backed up by research. People with greater financial stress have more symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who aren’t financially stressed, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Anxiety, Coping and Stress. Source
Clients tell us that much of the ‘fear of the unknown’ is gone and they feel more empowered after they begin working with us.
The Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado offers divorce financial analysis, divorce coaching and divorce mediation. Each family’s situation is unique and we offer two ways to take a step forward. The first is to schedule a complimentary 20 minute call or we can go into greater detail at our 90 minute initial consultation. Call 303 468-5626 to discuss.
Documents include: Asset Worksheet, Household Goods Inventory, Financial Checkup, Priorities Worksheet and Mandatory Financial Disclosures.
Who: Divorce experts and financial planning professionals Deb Johnson and Suzanne Chambers Yates. Learn more about their experience here.
What: Frank conversations covering everything from "Do you Dare Divorce During COVID19?" to "How, When and What to Say to the Kids" and everything in between.
When: Every Friday beginning May 1st, 2020 at 2 PM MDT.
Installment 1: "Do I Dare Divorce During COVID19?" aired May 1, 2020
Installment 2: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" aired May 8, 2020
Child Centered Pledge - Part of a peaceful resolution means recognizing that your child(ren) should be priority #1. Both spouses refer to this pledge for guidance in all matters related to their children.
Household Inventory Worksheet - When divvying up household items, make an inventory, note ownership and determine if anything is up for discussion