Pro Se Divorce
Getting divorced without a lawyer
On one end of the divorce spectrum is a basic “do-it-yourself” divorce, also called a “self-represented divorce” or pro se divorce. You file and serve a petition and a summons. You and your spouse then fill out all of the disclosures and sworn financial statements. You both do all of the things you need to do to get to the end of the mandatory waiting period. Finally, you show up to court on your appointed day and get your divorce decree.
The divorce decree is the court’s final ruling that makes the termination of a marriage official. Divorce decrees usually address issues such as:
- Division of property between the parties
- Spousal support or alimony
- Child custody, support, and visitation (if applicable)
- Various financial obligations of each party (for instance, if there is debt to be paid by one or more parties)
Pro se divorce is a good option if you haven’t been married long, if you don’t have kids and a lot of joint assets, and if you both are on reasonably good terms. Although not required, having a mediator can make the pro se divorce process more manageable for both parties.
Mediation is first and foremost about discussing and finding the right approach for your family and your situation. Co-parenting mediation can help determine parenting plans, child custody plans and communication – all vital to the success of a post-divorced family and, as always, the best interests of the children and front and center in any plan. You and your spouse/co-parent have many factors to consider in order to arrive at a mutual vision for the future of your family. Mediation is the best way to help you get there.
Parents in Colorado are typically ordered to share legal custody or have joint legal custody (or “joint parental responsibilities”). This means both parents share responsibility for the major life decisions for the child, such as health and educational decisions. It is rare that one parent or another is awarded “sole custody”.
What many call “child custody” is referred to as “parental responsibilities” in Colorado, but responsibilities are the same: deciding who the child lives with, who gets to make major decisions (such as educational or health decisions), and what “parenting time” or visitation will be for the non-custodial parent.
The family court determines parental responsibilities based on the best interests of the child standard. This involves many factors, such as the wishes of both parents and children, the emotional bonds between parents, and how hard a time the child would have adjusting to a new neighborhood or school. All of these are considered when families create a parenting plan.
There is no one way to create a parenting plan post divorce, but there are recommended, often used plans. It all boils down to the needs and backgrounds of the families, the ages of the children, and other circumstances that make each family unique. Co-parenting mediation can help.
What’s the best interest of children?
In the context of child custody cases, focusing on the child’s “best interests” means that all custody and visitation discussions and decisions are made with the ultimate goal of fostering and encouraging the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development into young adulthood. It’s usually in the child’s best interests to maintain a close and loving relationship with both parents, but the practicalities of promoting and maintaining such relationships can be a challenge. Mediation is an excellent way to help resolve any issues around this.
Custody or parental responsibilities?
Parental Responsibilities is a term that includes both parenting time and decision-making responsibilities regarding the children. The term “Custody” is no longer used in Colorado. When you get divorced in Colorado, the Court will ask you to determine the ALLOCATION OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES (Decision-Making and Parenting Time).
To learn more about
Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce
Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D. began studying the impact of divorce on children in 1968. Joan is an author, therapist, mediator, and parenting coordinator with four decades of experience working with high conflict parents who are separating. Here are some of her recommended ways to protect your kids from the fallout of a high conflict break up. Her book Surviving The Breakup: How Children And Parents Cope With Divorce, is a great resource for families going through divorce.
Reconciliation – mediation for
When is reconciliation an option?
Sometimes a single event can lead to the prompt and bitter breakup (like infidelity). Other times, couples just drift apart naturally and realize they may be better off separated.
Still more couples waver back and forth about whether divorce is right for them, for as many reasons as there are couples. Ideally, this decision would be clear-cut, but reality is much more ambiguous. Divorce is a big, life changing event, and it is an extremely scary leap to make.
It is common for couples to try to reconcile their differences and try to save the marriage. How do you know if this is the right thing to do? Certainly divorce should be considered a last option, but how can you tell if it’s worth trying to fix your relationship or if your marriage is past the point of saving?
Reconciliation can be a good place to start if both parties are interested in staying married. The first step is securing a good therapist (or therapists) to help navigate the emotional side of things.
What does legal separation mean in Colorado? What is the difference between legal separation and divorce in Colorado? How do I get a separation agreement in Colorado?
Separation mediation in Colorado can cover a lot of ground and can achieve several different goals, depending on the needs of the couple. Whether it’s mediation to stay married (as in a therapeutic separation) or a legal separation, we offer a wide range of services to help couples improve communication and find mutually satisfying outcomes.
A Legal Separation in Colorado looks different that it does in other states: here couples can choose a legal separation as an alternative to a divorce (or “dissolution of marriage”). Like a divorce decree, a decree of legal separation addresses all of the parties’ issues, such as parenting, division of assets and debts, and maintenance. The only difference between a legal separation and a divorce in Colorado is that the couple stays legally married.
A Therapeutic Separation is not the same as a legal separation. This is a good idea for couples who want to live separately for a while, but aren’t ready to commit to a legal process. It can work well in cases where there is a tremendous amount of tension and conflict, or addiction issues, and the parties need some time apart to work on their individual issues.
Many couples wonder what not to do while separated, or even if dating while separated counts as adultery. There are many issues to consider: as a Colorado mediator, I can help you find ways of thinking and talking about whether or not separation is right for you and your spouse.
A legal separation is when a couple divides assets and lives separately, but they are technically still married in the eyes of the law. Legal separation is not the same as if you and your spouse decide on your own to split assets and live apart. There is a legal process you must undergo to achieve this status, and under it you and your spouse have definitive rights and obligations by law.
It is important to note, however, that couples that are legally separated cannot remarry unless they are actually divorced. It should also be noted that a legal separation is not quicker or easier to obtain than a divorce: the processes is essentially the same, but with a different outcome.
Couples may opt for legal separation instead of divorce for religious reasons, cultural beliefs, personal reasons, financial decisions, to retain spousal health insurance benefits, or for reasons relating to children. It is possible to rescind a legal separation and return to your previous living arrangement (i.e. reconciliation) or turn your legal separation into a legal divorce.
You can learn more about legal separation in Colorado by visiting the Colorado Judicial Branch.
Mediation to stay married?
When reconciliation isn’t working, the next step might be to consider an informal or ‘therapeutic’ separation, especially in cases where the couple is under tremendous tension and conflict, or when there is an issue of substance abuse.
A therapeutic separation is an intentional, planned, and pre-determined period of time when a couple chooses to live separately in order to accomplish certain goals.
Keep in mind that this type of separation is different from a legal separation.
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