06 Nov The Big 5 – What Must Be Decided In A Divorce?
The Big 5
What Must Be Decided In A Divorce?
When you are considering a divorce, it is helpful to keep a large road map of what you can expect the court to decide at the end of the case. If you and your current spouse have children together, the number of issues grows. Each issue before the court will entail a number of sub-questions, and it can be very easy to get lost in the details without that road map in mind. So, as you prepare to go through your divorce, keep in mind “The Big 5,” or the five categories of issues the court is required to create orders around:
1. Parenting Time
Arguably the biggest issue facing divorcing spouses is the issue of what Parenting Plan will be in your children’s best interests. Understand that the Court is going to create your Parenting Plan using the standard in Colorado called “The Best Interests of the Child” using the factors listed in Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-124. Those factors include the wishes of the parents, the wishes of the children if they are old enough to opine, the interactions of the children with their parents and others important in their lives, the children’s adjustment to their home, school, and community, the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, the ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of the children, the past patterns of involvement of the parents and the children, the parent’s physical proximities, and the abilities of the parents to place the needs of the children ahead of their own. The Court may take past incidents of domestic violence into account in fashioning a parenting plan, and it is very important to understand how to present subtle aspects of domestic violence in a courtroom setting.
2. Decision Making Responsibility
One set of decisions the Court will make that often gets overlooked by unrepresented litigants is decision-making responsibility for the children. In other words, the Court is required by Colorado law to determine who is going to make major decisions for the children in their lives. Major decisions generally include those related to the children’s school, doctors or medical treatments, or religious matters. The general default in Colorado is that the Court is to allocate decision making responsibility in the best interests of the children, and the Court will use the same Best Interests of the Child factors to come to its decisions.
A reason this set of decisions is sometimes overlooked by parents going through a divorce by themselves is that orders related to decision making responsibility for your children are some of the hardest to modify later. If you are seeking to modify decision making orders for your children, it is best to seek legal advice to determine if you can prove the need.
3. Division of the Marital Estate
The next issue the Court will decide is how to divide any marital assets. The Court will apply the law from Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-113 to define and then divide marital property. It is very important to note what you brought into the marriage that you may want to have considered separate. In order to demonstrate what you own, you will be required to fill out and submit a Sworn Financial Statement and supply records to prove the figures from that Statement. The Sworn Financial Statement can be very daunting and tedious, and you will likely have questions for a legal professional.
4. Spousal Maintenance
You may have a case where you want to seek alimony, or where you want to fight against paying alimony. Here in Colorado, alimony is referred to as “Spousal Maintenance.” A divorcing spouse may be entitled to Spousal Maintenance under Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-114, and the Court generally analyzes a divorcing spouse’s right to spousal maintenance based on their incomes. Of course, in Colorado a divorcing spouse is not entitled to Spousal Maintenance until the parties have been married for 36 months or more, and is likewise not entitled to Spousal Maintenance if they do not have a need for it or if the payor simply does not have the ability to pay. Proving need and ability to pay can be complicated, and you will want to carefully review how the Court will determine your income for this calculation.
5. Child Support
Finally, where there are children involved, there may be a need for child support using Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-115. The Court will use statutory formulas to calculate child support using the parent’s incomes, the overnight schedule between the parents, the costs of health insurance for the children, and the costs of day care. The Court will also take into consideration whether the parents have any other children or if the children have any other extraordinary needs that should be included. All of these questions are intertwined with all of the other questions the Court will be looking to answer, so a combined analysis of the issues is best.
Because a combined analysis of The Big 5 is necessary to achieve optimal results in your case, it can be very important to seek excellent legal advice. Our experienced Family Law attorneys at Travis Law Group will be more than able to assist you in creating your large road map, while answering each of the sub-questions you will need to provide for the Court in your divorce case. Please reach out to (719) 520-5011 to speak with either Elizabeth Vanatta or Richard Travis today.