Reaching Agreement and Case Finalization in Colorado Divorce and Family Law
In divorce AKA dissolution, as well as child custody and support cases the best way to resolve a matter is to reach agreement. This is true because there is always a risk in asking a Judge, who knows very little about your family and life to make important decisions for you. Also people who enter into their own agreements are more likely to comply with them. Once an agreement is reached, then there is paperwork required to finalize the divorce or family law case. Common agreements in divorce and family law cases are separation agreements that divide assets and debt and address spousal maintenance, and parenting plans that set forth time for each parenting with the children, decision-making responsibility and child support.Settlement Process
If the parties can reach agreement, trial is not necessary. Mutual resolution is the best option because it reduces cost and conflict. The earlier settlement is reached, the lower the cost and conflict. Contested proceedings are the most expensive way to resolve a matter. After information has been obtained through disclosure, any discovery, and any expert evaluations, as needed, it is appropriate to begin settlement negotiations. Mediation is generally required in domestic relations court. Mediation is one opportunity to reach agreement.
It is always important to read the Case Management order (CMO) as it will set important timelines for resolution and trial. The CMO will usually specify dispute resolution requirements and deadlines will be set at the initial status conference. Mediation can be conducted privately or at a reduced cost through the Office of Dispute Resolution. Parties can reach full or partial settlement. Such agreements are generally documented in a Memorandum of Understanding. A Separation Agreement and/or Parenting Plan can be drafted once full resolution is achieved. Separation agreements contain standard contractual provisions that Memorandums of Understanding do not include.
Assisting parties in reaching mutual resolution is generally the best approach as it reduces cost and conflict. Once an agreement has been signed by both parties it is filed with the court and reviewed by the court for fundamental fairness. A court will evaluate whether a Separation Agreement is fair and reasonable based on the economic situation of the parties. C.R.S. § 14-10-112; & In re Manzo, 659 P.2d 669 (Colo. 1983). Courts give great deference to joint Separation Agreements. A court will review a parenting plan in light of whether it is consistent with the best interests of the children. Agreements that are issued as court orders may be enforced by the domestic relations court. C.R.S. § 14-10-112(5).
Final Filing Paperwork. Once agreement is reached, the documents must be filed with the court to request that agreements be issued as a court order. If agreement is reached as to property settlement and parenting time, as applicable, the following documentation must be filed with the court:
- Separation Agreement;
- Parenting Plan,
- Sworn Financial Statements;
- Affidavit for Decree Without Appearance of the Parties;
- Proposed Decree;
- Proposed spousal maintenance and/or child support order; and
- Support worksheets.
There are various requirements for issuance of a court order without appearance of the parties if agreement is reached. If there are no minor children and the wife is not pregnant, or if there are minor children and both parties are represented by counsel and have entered into a complete parenting plan, they do not have to appear in front of the court. C.R.S. § 14-10-120.3. The court can simply issue the decree on the papers. If an affidavit for decree without appearance can not be submitted because there are children and a party is unrepresented, but the parties agree to a parenting plan then a noncontested hearing may be held. The purpose will be to confirm that jurisdictional and statutory requirements are met, and that the parenting plan is in the best interests of the children. If settlement is not reached, then a contested trial will occur.Turning Change Into Opportunity in Colorado Springs
A knowledgeable and experienced divorce and family law attorney can guide you through Colorado Springs divorce and family law matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. This allows you to focus on to a better future. Divorce and family law matters are difficult to navigate alone.
Sabra Janko from Janko Family Law is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who protects your best interests and ensures that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 for a free 30-minute informational consultation or complete our online form.