In this post, we cover the divorce options in Colorado. Your choice include a do-it-yourself or DIY divorce, divorce mediation, a collaborative divorce and traditional divorce involving an attorney,
The first option is a DIY or do it yourself divorce. You may also hear “pro se” or “kitchen table divorce.” This kind of divorce requires that you download and file the divorce forms yourself. The cost is $250 plus the time it takes to complete the documents. A DIY divorce is best suited to marriages that were short in duration, where the couple owns few assets and has no children.
The advantages are that you can keep your privacy, only the fact that you’re divorced becomes public knowledge, while any details remain between the parties. The other obvious advantage is affordability when compared to a traditional divorce that can cost between $10,000-$30,000.
The disadvantages of a DIY divorce, if things go south, will negate the cost benefit. If either party misses something or complete the forms incorrectly, one or both of you will incur costs trying to fix mistakes. Or, if one party fails to uphold promises made in the divorce documents, they are not legally binding so you cannot use the courts or an attorney to enforce the issue. In a DIY divorce you can hire a divorce or family law attorney to review your documents at a rate that varies between $150-$250/hr. The cost to review would be a limited scope legal service. Look for attorneys who offer “unbundled services” as they complete tasks on an a la carte basis. Another drawback of a DIY marriage is that the forms fail to take into account what a post divorce financial reality will look like.
The second divorce option in Colorado is divorce mediation. Divorce mediation occurs when both parties agree that the marriage is over and they are committed to coming to an agreement. Both parties are free to consult with an attorney but the mediator is the one who works to bring the parties to a consensus to ensure a post divorce peace can be achieved. Divorce mediators come from a variety of backgrounds. In Colorado, they don’t have to pass a test or have a certification to be in business. Look for a mediator with experience, both in the number of mediations they have performed but also consider their background in family law, psychology or financial expertise. If you’re lucky, your mediation team will bring all of these elements to the table. The mediator works to ensure the settlement agreement is based on the family’s sense of fairness.
The advantages of divorce mediation are affordability, privacy, less stress and your ability to control the outcome. The cost of divorce mediation ranges between 5,000-10,000. Settlement agreements remain private, as do the particulars of said agreements. Contested divorces or divorces that become contentious and lead both parties to seek their own attorneys are stressful for the children as one side seeks to eek out a win against the other. Having control over the direction of your divorce correlates to less animosity. After all, you were a participant, so if you objected to something, you had the opportunity to do so in mediation.
The disadvantages of divorce mediation occur when you select a mediator who does not do their due diligence or is inexperienced. If one party has agreed to mediate but has a very difficult personality, seek a mediator who has experience with conflict resolution or dealing with difficult people.
The third divorce option is the collaborative divorce model. Deb Johnson of Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado and other divorce professionals helped pioneer this approach in Colorado twenty years ago. Collaborative divorce includes a team of four professionals. The first two are collaboratively trained attorneys chosen by each spouse. You will want to search for “attorneys in Colorado and collaborative law” The third team member is a financial professional with experience dividing assets, calculating future earnings and knowledge of divorce tax implications. The fourth team member is the mediator. The collaborative divorce process is needs based vs. the adversarial approach of a traditional divorce. There is full financial disclosure by both parties as the team works to gather, organize and manage the needs of both parties.
On the plus side, a collaborative approach is bringing together the most expertise to the process than a traditional divorce. In a traditional legal model you have the parties, an attorney and possibly a judge. Unless they are the rare exception, neither the judge nor attorneys are experts in the financial realities of divorce. A collaborative divorce is an option where there are tough issues involved but both parties realize that experts can help resolve some of the financial and emotional hurdles.
The disadvantages of a collaborative approach is that it costs more than mediation and DIY. Estimates vary but 10-20k is a range depending on the issues and time required to resolve them. All four divorce professionals have varying rates and need to be compensated for their time and expertise, driving up the cost. The timeline is longer than DIY or divorce mediation so expect six months to a year to complete the collaborative process.
At the onset, the attorneys and their clients sign an agreement that if collaborative divorce cannot be reached, everyone walks away and continues the divorce in a traditional or litigation model. This agreement operates as an incentive to continue to work collaboratively less you lose money and time.
The fourth way to become divorced in Colorado is via the traditional model. Despite the threat of a spouse saying, “I’ll see you in court.” more than 95% of divorces don’t end up in courtroom but are settled outside of court. The traditional divorce model is the pathway when one party does not agree to divorce. The divorce is contested which rules out the ability to go with the other three options.
The disadvantages of a traditional divorce are numerous. There is the cost of retaining an expensive divorce attorney. There is the public reveal of the particulars of your divorce. All parties are subject (read: at the whim of) the timelines and schedules of attorney and judges. There is no collaboration but instead an atmosphere of win or lose, take or be taken. People who are not experts in psychology or finance are the final arbiters of settlement agreement, maintenance and parenting plans. The timeline to completion ranges from a minimum of six months to a few years. If one of the attorneys misses something or is inexperienced it will cost more to hire another attorney to fix the problem. The issues are prioritized by an attorney even if the divorce stays out of court and if it goes to court, the issues are further streamlined to ensure ONLY the most pressing ones are worthy of the court’s time.
The main advantage of a traditional divorce is when one or both parties is unlikely to cooperate or keep a promise, the heavy hand of the law will enforce any agreements. Some people need court enforced boundaries and calls to act properly.
The Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado employs certified divorce financial analysts, a psychologist and divorce coach. All of our mediators are well versed with the collaborative law approach and with working with difficult personalities.
It’s important to know all of the divorce options available so you can make an informed and empowered choice that aligns with your family’s unique situation. In our complimentary 20-minute consultation, clients explain their situation and we can recommend ways to move forward. We invite you to call us at (303) 468-5626 or schedule a time to talk.
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Documents include: Asset Worksheet, Household Goods Inventory, Financial Checkup, Priorities Worksheet and Mandatory Financial Disclosures.