Divorce in the millennium—like birth, death, and taxes—is a cultural phenomenon. Current statistics indicate that 52 percent of all first marriages end in divorce. 62 percent of second marriages end in divorce, and 90 percent of third marriages end in divorce. These stunning statistics illustrate that we are all impacted by divorce, whether it is our divorce, that of our children, co-workers, parents, or friends.
Most people going through divorce are forgetful and preoccupied, even accident-prone. The degree of dysfunction may vary depending on the case—to put it bluntly—the dumpee or the dumper. Usually, one partner has thought about divorce and is more emotionally ready to move on than the other person.
When an individual goes through a divorce, it is usually not one divorce but four divorces: spousal, parental, financial, and legal. The spousal divorce involves extricating yourself from your partner, as well as the partner’s family, friends, and your mutual friends. In her book, Crazy Time, Abigail Trafford states that it takes most people two years before they are dealing with a “full deck.” The spousal divorce is an emotional rollercoaster full of ups and downs—times of happiness and times of deep stress. The process of divorce is like a death and involves grieving both the loss of a partner and of a dream.
The parental divorce is often the most difficult. Parents who have grown apart emotionally often stay together for the sake of the children. There is no question that children, even adult children, are impacted by the breakup of their family. Children should be encouraged to verbalize their feelings, and counseling opportunities should be made available to them. Studies had shown that if children are removed from the conflict, they will often do better than if they have been raised with conflict in the home.
Disclosure of all financial assets is required in the financial divorce. A very detailed financial affidavit must be completed which outlines all marital and separate assets, as well as the financial needs of both parties. In Colorado, there are also mandatory disclosures, such as personal and corporate tax returns, pension, IRA information, pay stubs, and credit card statements, all of which must be exchanged. There must be full financial disclosure with full backup documentation so that there can be a diligent review based on data rather than verbal representations.
Finally, there is the legal divorce. People going through a divorce must know that there are options: different processes available for them based on the individual needs of the parties. There is NO one-size-fits-all process suitable to all divorcing parties. The methods of divorce fall into a continuum, ranging from the “kitchen table divorce” to a “War of the Roses” all-out battle. Most cases fall somewhere in between. Most people—at least in quieter moments—would choose to attempt to resolve their issues in a reasoned and equitable way for their own and their families’ sakes. Here is an overview of divorce options in Colorado.
Traditional Court System
This is the adversarial system as we know it. It is employed when the parties cannot resolve their issues themselves. Attorneys represent their clients, file motions, and obtain formal discovery. If the case does not settle, a hearing will be held, and the judge decides the outcome. As this option is emotionally and financially challenging for the parties, other options are often attempted first such as simplified divorce, mediation, and arbitration.
A newer, less adversarial method to divorce is the Simplified Divorce, which involves early intervention by the judge or court facilitator. Status conferences are scheduled regularly, and typically no motions are filed, and there is an informal exchange of information. This option is often faster and less expensive than formal litigation. Many courts in Colorado offer this as the presumed choice for parties going through divorce.
This option offers negotiation outside the courtroom with a neutral authority who offers opinions as to how the case may be resolved, given the facts presented. It provides parties with the opportunity to ask questions and participate in the decisions that affect them.
The neutral mediator encourages the parties to reach a compromised solution by helping them clarify the issues and make educated choices. A good mediator lays out the options without actually advising the parties and is the calm voice of reason when the discussion gets heated. A Memorandum of Understanding and accompanying documents, with the Court-issued decree, constitutes the final contract that dissolves the marriage.
Mediation / Arbitration
This process is useful when a quick settlement is required. As in mediation, a neutral third party is engaged, but now serves as both mediator and arbitrator, meaning this individual can make a decision if the parties reach an impasse.
Sheila Gutterman, J.D., M.A., has been named a Colorado Super Lawyer from 2009 – 2019, including in the list of Top 50 Women Lawyers. She has been named one of America’s Top 100 Attorneys and is known in the Denver community as an outstanding leader, dedicated to the resolution of family disputes.