COLORADO COURT PROCESS FOR DIVORCE CASES

When children are involved, the divorce has a side to it where money is not part of the equation, but where what is best for the children is the only consideration. It is difficult to take emotions out to deciding what is best to do for the children. At Fellows & Quenzer, we work with our clients to identify the challenges the children face with the other party, the benefits of the children spending time with the other party and on occasion, what steps can be put into place to ensure the safety of the children.

Each county in Colorado seems to have its own unique attitude on financial issues and child custody issues. From our combined forty plus years of legal experience, we believe the attitudes of the Courts are not uniform across the State of Colorado. We spare no effort to help our clients negotiate the terrain presented by the county where their case is heard.

PROCEDURES AT THE COURT HOUSE

Each County in Colorado has their own slightly unique set of procedure steps for a custody case. Typically, the case starts with the filing of a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities in the county where the children reside. The Court will issue a Case Management Order, which is an overview of what it expects each party to do to complete the divorce. Each party will be required to make timely financial disclosures to the other party. We aid our clients in making these required financial disclosures. They are an important part of a custody case for child support purposes. The Court then schedules up to three different hearings to complete the custody case. The first hearing is called the Initial Status Conference (ISC). This conference is sometimes in front of a Judge or is often in front of a court facilitator who is not a Judge. It depends on the county. The facilitator cannot issue a court order unless both parties agree on a specific issue. The purpose of the ISC is for the Court to see what the status is, to go over any agreements the parties have and to set an appropriate hearing for any issues in dispute as well as to be advised of any special circumstances in the case. The ISC is almost always mandatory and is usually scheduled about 40 days after the petition was filed. The second hearing is called the Temporary Orders Hearing (TOH). This is a hearing in front of a Judge or Magistrate who has authority to issue orders in the case over the objection of one or both parties. Typically, TOH address the immediate needs of the parties for a parenting time schedule, designation of the children's primary residence, temporary child support, payment of attorney fees and any other issue that needs to be immediately addressed. Court Orders from a TOH last until the Permanent Orders Hearing where they may continue or be completely changed. Not all cases have TOH. It depends upon the client's needs and the hostility of their custody case whether they need a TOH. All cases do have the third hearing called a Permanent Orders Hearing (POH). At the POH, the Court will issue a final, permanent order regarding allocation of parental responsibilities. This order will last until the children reach age 19 or the parties go back to court to modify the permanent order At the POH, the Court will decide all issues where there is no agreement between the parties. In some cases, where the parties have attorneys and the parties agree on all issues, the Court will not require the parties to appear in Court and it will issue Permanent Orders after reviewing the case file and the terms of the parties' agreement.

In Colorado the quickest a custody case can be final is the same day as the filing of the petition, if the parties agree upon everything and have submitted all required documents as well. This only happens when the parties agree on all the issues. When the parties do not agree on all the issues early in the process, the typical Custody case will last anywhere from four months to a year to finish. The time to finish the case depends on the issues in the case and most importantly, what county the case is being heard. Different counties seem to be regularly faster or slower than other counties. In the Denver area, typically cases in Arapahoe county take the longest to complete due to the crowded court docket in Arapahoe County and those in Denver County and Broomfield County seem to progress the quickest. In Pueblo County, the Court seems to move quickly similar to Denver County. Jefferson County courts have a lot of dedicated resources to domestic law cases which aid parties in getting their matters heard in a reasonable amount of time. Douglas County, even though it is tied to Arapahoe County as a judicial district, operates independently for domestic cases and cases move forward at a reasonable pace similar to cases in Jefferson County and Adams County.

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