A divorce proceeding in Colorado begins when one or both parties file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
This both opens a divorce case and triggers the first court date in the case, which is called an ISC, or an Initial Status Conference. Normally, at an Initial Status Conference, the parties and the Court go over the case management schedule and important dates in the case, just to make sure everyone is on the same page. However, if there any issues that need to be resolved immediately, they may also potentially be resolved at an ISC. For example, if one party is withholding parenting time from the other, this could be addressed by the Court putting into place a temporary parenting plan.
If there are issues that need to be worked out in the short term so that the parties can more or less maintain some sort of status quo throughout the duration of the divorce proceedings, and the parties cannot agree on how to resolve them, then what is called a Temporary Orders hearing may need to be held. At a Temporary Orders hearing, the Court can address issues like temporary child support and maintenance, so that one party and the children are not left high and dry while the case is resolved. It can also address other things such as temporary parenting and custody issues, living arrangements, et cetera. A Temporary Orders hearing can be an opportunity for the parties to present witnesses and evidence to the Court so that the Court can enter orders temporary governing important issues in the case.
A case ends when the parties are divorced, and this is accomplished when the Court enters a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and Permanent Orders in the case. Usually, at some point during the case, the parties will attend mediation to attempt to resolve any and all outstanding issues.
If the parties do agree on all of the issues, they can file a signed Parenting Plan or Separation Agreement with the Court. These two documents, once signed off on by the Court, will then become part of the Permanent Orders that will govern the parties going forward after their divorce. Once the Court enters Permanent Orders and a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, the case is then closed and the divorce is finalized.
However, sometimes the parties cannot agree on one or more of the issues in the case. Maybe they do not agree on child support, maintenance, custody, parenting time, or decision-making responsibility. Maybe they do not agree on anything. If there are one or more outstanding issues that the parties cannot come to a meeting of the minds on, then the only way to resolve the case is to set it for a final hearing, also known as a Permanent Orders hearing, and let the Court decide how the issue or issues should be resolved.
A final Permanent Orders hearing, in some ways, is a last resort in a case. Parties will have an opportunity to call witnesses, some of which can be experts who have participated throughout the case in some fashion. A Child and Family Investigator and a Property Appraiser are two examples of potential witnesses at a final hearing. Other witnesses can be therapists, teachers, friends, family members, and maybe most importantly, the parties themselves. The parties will be able to present direct testimony and cross examine witnesses that the opposing party decides to have testify. Other forms of evidence may also be submitted to the Court. These can include everything from pay stubs to appraisals to bank account records to receipts from purchases and more. These hearings can last anywhere from a couple of hours to days on end, depending on what the Court allows and how much evidence the parties want to present. At the end of a final Permanent Orders hearing, the Court will decide the issues that the parties couldn’t agree on, and its decisions will become part of the Permanent Orders in the case, governing the parties going forward after the divorce is finalized.
It can often be advantageous for the parties to agree on all of the issues, as then they have at least some control as to the outcome of the case, they save time, avoid stress, and avoid costs associated with attorney and litigation fees. However, sometimes, due to a myriad of reasons, a final hearing is unavoidable. If you have questions about the divorce process in Colorado, feel free to call us for a free consultation. We are happy to help.