LAW OFFICES OF KELLI J. MALCOLM

BRINGING LAW TO THE PEOPLE

Do I Need an Attorney to Get a Divorce?

Just because you and your spouse have decided to get divorced, or just because your spouse has filed for divorce even though you were still hoping to reconcile, it does not necessarily mean that you have to be enemies. Having an amicable co-parenting relationship with your former spouse is an admirable goal, and so is continuing to treat your former in-laws as family, even after your children have grown up. Do not think of divorce as suing your spouse for economic damages, even though it might seem that way to you when you see the words “petitioner” and “respondent” on a divorce petition form. Instead, think of it as dissolving a business entity. If you had been operating a company and you decided to go out of business, you would want to hire a lawyer to help you dissolve the company so that all the partners could minimize their financial losses. If your spouse has expressed a wish to divorce, you should contact an Aurora divorce and legal separation lawyer, even if your spouse has promised you that your divorce will be easy.

When is it Safe to Represent Yourself in Your Divorce?

Most people going through a divorce should hire a divorce attorney, but you always have the legal right to represent yourself in a divorce case. Just as with civil lawsuits and probate, the courts have endeavored to make their services accessible to everyone, whether or not they can afford to hire lawyers to represent them. For most people, though, divorce is anything but a routine matter. Colorado is an equitable distribution state, so the courts must decide matters of property division on a case-by-case basis. If all of the following conditions apply, it is probably safe to file for divorce without hiring a lawyer:

  • You and your spouse were married to each other for a short time 
  • Neither party owns real estate, together or separately
  • You do not have children together
  • One spouse was not the main source of financial support for the other during the divorce

Even if you and your spouse were only together for a brief period of time, you are of modest means, and you do not have children, you should definitely hire a lawyer if your spouse has hired one.

You Probably Need a Lawyer Even if You are Determined to Keep Your Divorce Amicable

The good news is that most divorce cases do not go to trial. The courts of Colorado require most couples to participate in divorce mediation before the court will schedule a trial for the divorce. During divorce mediation, the parties, usually with the help of their lawyers, negotiate issues such as property division and parenting time, and at the end of mediation, they sign a separation agreement for the division of the property and a parenting plan if they have children.

The bad news is that, even if your divorce case does not go to trial, things will probably get messier than you were hoping, despite your best intentions to keep things amicable. When you respond to a divorce petition, or during divorce mediation, you will have to find a definitive answer to all the disagreements that you avoided discussing during your marriage. For one thing, you must be completely honest with the court about your finances. You need your lawyer to help you stand up for yourself.

What Do Divorce Lawyers Do?

How much you communicate directly with your spouse and the extent to which you communicate through your lawyers varies from one family to the next. Some couples try to work things out between themselves even if they have both hired lawyers. If your spouse proposes a suggestion about property division (such as accepting or rejecting a buyer’s offer on your marital home), you should always discuss it with your lawyer before you accept the suggestion. Your spouse might be in self-preservation mode, trying to save as much money as possible; you should not let your spouse pressure you into giving up assets and parenting time that you have a right to claim.

For some couples, a complete breakdown of communication has occurred before divorce mediation even begins. If you think that there is a chance that your case might need to go to trial, it is especially important to communicate through email so that you have a paper trail. Email your spouse, or, better yet, have your lawyer email your spouse’s lawyer. You might hesitate to do this because it means more billable hours for you to pay your lawyer eventually, but your lawyer knows all about your situation. You and your lawyer can discuss payment before you decide to become a client. When one spouse has a much higher income than the other, the family law court might require the higher-income spouse to pay the attorneys’ fees for both parties. As with any other financial issue, you and your spouse might agree about this during mediation, or the judge might decide it at trial.

Divorce lawyers can also help you if you are already divorced but your financial situation has changed since your divorce became final. For example, if you need to move far enough away from your ex-spouse’s residence that transporting your children would require a road trip, or even if you are moving across the border to Nebraska, Wyoming, or Kansas, you will need a lawyer to help you modify your parenting plan. Likewise, a divorce lawyer can help you if the court has ordered you to pay maintenance, but you have lost your job and can no longer afford to pay or if your spouse has moved in with a new romantic partner even if they are not legally married.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Make Divorce Less Stressful

If you are going through a divorce in Colorado’s Front Range, you can benefit from the help of an experienced family law attorney when it comes to getting your fair share of marital property and parenting time. Contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm LLC to discuss your case.