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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,

Option 1: Do it Yourself Divorce

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. 

Option 2: Divorce Mediation 

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. 

Option 3: Collaborative Divorce

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. 

Option 4: A Traditional Divorce

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. 

Disadvantages of a traditional divorce

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.   

Advantage of a traditional divorce

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. 

For Important Divorce Documents, Complete the Form Below!

* indicates required

Documents include: Asset Worksheet, Household Goods Inventory, Financial Checkup, Priorities Worksheet and Mandatory Financial Disclosures.

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. 

Two common objections to starting the divorce mediation process. 

1) I'm not ready to divorce yet

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 Scared to Have the Divorce Talk

“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.

Emotionally prepare for divorce

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.

  1.  B - Breathe: Stopping and taking a breath reminds us that we are competent adults who have tackled many difficult situations in our lifetime.  It also reminds us that we need to engage our neocortex so our reptilian brain (fight/flight/freeze) doesn’t take over.
  2. E - Explore: Spend time exploring both paths (staying/divorce) and what your life might look like 5, and 10 years from now.  Think about barriers & reasons for staying & for divorcing.  What do you want for your life?
  3. Y - You: Your self-care.  This emotional juncture can be draining.  Make sure you are investing in your wellbeing on a daily basis.
  4. O - Organize: Organize your thoughts (write them down) so you can communicate them clearly as the need arises, organize a list of questions you have and information that you need.
  5. N - Necessary: Find the necessary, qualified professional who can answer your questions & provide you with the information that you need.  (CDFA, CDC, Attorney, therapist)
  6. D - Direction: Create a plan based on where you see yourself in the future. Break your plan down into doable steps.

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. 

What to Do with the Marital Home?

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?

Can You Keep Your Health Insurance After Divorce?

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.” 

Other Types of Insurance You Need to Think About Post Divorce

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. 

Ready to Take the Next Step?

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.

For Important Divorce Documents, Complete the Form Below!

* indicates required

Documents include: Asset Worksheet, Household Goods Inventory, Financial Checkup, Priorities Worksheet and Mandatory Financial Disclosures.

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At Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado, we have a team of seasoned Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA) who provide a cost-effective, respectful mediation process that allows couples and families to rebuild a secure post-divorce future.
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