LAW OFFICES OF KELLI J. MALCOLM

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My Spouse Just Asked for a Divorce: What Do I Do Now?

No one wants to hear their spouse say that they want a divorce, even if they have been unhappy in their marriage for a long time. Perhaps you were still holding onto hope that you and your spouse could resolve your differences, or maybe you had already separated and started treating each other like enemies, but you wanted to be the one to file for divorce first, thinking that doing so would enable you to have the upper hand in your divorce case. In either case, once your spouse says that they want a divorce, you cannot avoid the problem any longer. You will need to figure out how to divide your marital assets, and unless you and your spouse own virtually nothing together or separately, you will probably need professional advice in doing this. The deadlines on certain divorce matters are short, so if your spouse has told you that he or she wants to file for divorce, or if your spouse has already served you with divorce papers, it is time to contact an Aurora divorce and legal separation lawyer.

Contested or Uncontested Divorce?

If your spouse tells you that she wants a divorce, but she has not yet filed the divorce petition, there is still time for you and your spouse to strategize together about how you want your divorce to go. For example, you might be able to agree on which spouse keeps the house or whether you want to sell it. If you are able to agree on some of the terms of your divorce before either of you files a divorce petition, this can make your divorce simple, because it will help you and your respective lawyers decide what to focus on during divorce mediation.

If you can agree on everything before you file the divorce petition, you might even be able to get an uncontested divorce. Most divorce cases are contested, meaning that one spouse files a divorce petition with his list of requests, and the other files a response with her list of requests. Most divorce cases reach a settlement during mediation, but if the parties reach an impasse, then the case goes to trial, and the judge decides the issues on which the spouses could not agree. If you owned valuable property before you married your spouse, a prenuptial agreement is the best way to avoid a contentious divorce. Earlier this year, news headlines told of how Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, despite having a net worth in the hundreds of millions, were able to finalize their divorce almost immediately; this would not have been possible without a prenuptial agreement and if they had not discussed the terms of their divorce with each other before submitting the divorce petition.

Responding to Your Spouse’s Divorce Petition

If your spouse has already filed a divorce petition and a process server has delivered a copy of it to you, then you must respond to the petition within 21 days. Your lawyer can help you ensure that you respond appropriately and within the time limits. 

Gathering Your Financial Documents

Even in the simplest divorce cases, the family law courts require thorough financial disclosures from the parties about their separate and marital property. Colorado is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court decides on a case-by-case basis the fairest way to divide the couple’s marital assets and debts. The law includes in the definition of marital property any income earned by either spouse during the marriage and any property acquired by either spouse, regardless of who earned how much or whose name is on the title to the property. Likewise, all debts incurred during the marriage are considered marital debts regardless of which spouse signed the loan agreement and which spouse spent the borrowed money. Anything that you owned before you married your spouse is separate property, also known as non-marital property.  Assets that you inherited during your marriage also count as non-marital. Prenuptial agreements can make exceptions to the default legal definition of marital property.

Co-Parenting During and After Divorce

Divorce is difficult for everyone, but it is even more difficult if you and your spouse have minor children together. Every divorce between the parents of minor children must end with the court issuing a parenting plan. Colorado law does not award parental responsibilities to just one parent. The parenting plan lists all the days of the year that the children spend with each parent, as well as details of how the children will travel from one parent’s house to the other. The plan outlines how parents will make decisions about the children’s education, extracurricular activities, and non-emergency medical care. The parenting plan does not include details about the parents’ respective financial responsibilities. The court can only calculate child support and issue a child support order after it has received the parents’ financial disclosures and finalized the parenting plan.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Make Divorce Easier

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 finalizing your divorce with as little stress as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm LLC to discuss your case.