|Domestic Relations Division of Family Court|
|Basic Concepts of Dissolution of Marriage and Legal Separation Cases|
This glossary is intended to give assistance to parties who are in the dissolution of marriage or legal separation process. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Issues in these types of legal proceedings can be extremely complicated and you should confer with a lawyer if you have any questions. You can get more information at the Resource Center including information involving a private attorney search.
The purpose of the conference is to educate both parties to the case management process, to identify issues that are disputed or agreed upon, and to discuss deadlines and future court hearings or conferences. Interim orders may be entered by agreement of the parties or, depending on the circumstances, by the Court. The conference may include setting deadlines for the disclosure of information, attending mediation, appointing experts, or filing documents.
Parties, Pleadings and Process
Pleadings are documents filed with the court that set forth what it is you want the judicial officer to do in your case. These can be the Petition, the Response or Motions. Standard forms are available for you to use.
The Petition is the pleading filed by the Petitioner or Co-Petitioners that identifies what types of issues the court must deal with in the case. The petition outlines a range of information, including whether there are children of the marriage, if there is property or debt, and whether there is a request for maintenance (formerly known as alimony).
Sworn Financial Statement
Certificate of Compliance with Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 16.2(e)
Service of Process is the method of giving the court jurisdiction (authority) to enter orders in your case. Until the court has jurisdiction, the court cannot enter orders. This procedure is required by both the United States Constitution and the Colorado Constitution. The preferred and usual way of obtaining service of process is through personal service.
Personal service is obtained by having a person at least eighteen (18) years of age and not a party to the action personally serving the Summons, Petition and supporting documents upon a party in order for the court to get jurisdiction over the party being served. Where Co-Petitioners jointly file the court has jurisdiction over both parties and service of process is not necessary.
If you are not filing as Co-Petitioners, the Petitioner must provide proof to the Court that the Respondent was served with (given) a copy of the petition. Prior to having the Summons served or the waiver and acceptance of service signed, the Summons must be signed by the Clerk’s Office or by an attorney. Service must be done in one of the following ways:
• Personal Service - The Summons and a copy of the Petition may be served by the Sheriff’s Department or a person over the age of 18 who is not a party to the action. The Return of Service (an affidavit that indicates that this happened) must then be filed in the Clerk’s office. It is the responsibility of the Petitioner to make sure that the Return of Service is filed.
• Waiver and Acceptance of Service - The Waiver (which is signed if the Respondent agrees to accept the Petition and Summons without being served), is printed on the back of the Summons, and must be dated, signed by the Respondent before a notary public or a deputy court clerk, and filed with the Clerk’s office.
If you are seeking an order allocating parental rights and responsibilities for your children, child support, maintenance, or a division of property outside of Colorado, you must have personal jurisdiction through personal service. Service by publication is not available.
Temporary orders are orders entered to address parental rights and responsibilities, divide property and debt, establish child support and maintenance, and otherwise regulate the parties conduct while the case is pending before the dissolution of marriage or legal separation becomes final.
Decree is the court order that dissolves the marriage or legally separates parties who remain married.
A Decree of Legal Separation does not end the marriage but resolves all other legal issues between the parties, permitting them to acquire property or debt without creating rights or obligations in the other party after the date of its entry. A Decree of Legal Separation can be converted to a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage by one party without the other party's consent six months after the Decree of Legal Separation was entered.
Permanent Orders are the final orders fully resolving all of the issues between the parties, allocating parental responsibilities, establishing child support and maintenance, dividing property and debt, and addressing any other issues the court finds to be necessary in the case. The Decree and Permanent Orders hearing is the hearing at which the court will hear the evidence, enter the appropriate decree and orders. This hearing cannot occur until at least ninety (90) days have passed from the date that service of process was completed. These orders are final and cannot be changed except for those things that the court has continuing jurisdiction over.
Continuing jurisdiction exists for matters relating to children such as child support, parenting time and decision-making, in some instances where one party has been granted maintenance, and in very limited circumstances over property.
Marital property is the property which the court can divide between spouses in the permanent orders. In Colorado, marital property is any property acquired by either spouse after the date of their marriage unless that property is separate property as defined by §14-10-113(2), C.R.S. Increases in the value of separate property are marital property.
Separate property property is property owned by a spouse prior to the marriage of the parties, property acquired by gift, devise or bequest, or property excluded from marital property by a valid agreement of the parties. The court is required to set aside any separate property of a party to that party as part of the permanent orders.
The court must make a fair and equitable division of property. This is not necessarily an equal division of property. The court does so by looking at a variety of statutory criteria found in §14-10-113, C.R.S which include the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker, the value of the property set apart to each spouse, the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse with whom any children reside the majority of the time, and any increases or decreases in the value of the separate property of the spouse during the marriage or the depletion of the separate property for marital purposes.
Separation agreements can be entered into between the parties which resolve some or all of the issues in the case, including property division. Once these agreements are approved by the court, they become binding orders of court.
Maintenance was formerly known as alimony. Maintenance can be awarded to be paid by one spouse to another depending upon a number of circumstances which include the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, whether a spouse can meet his or her needs through appropriate employment, the age and physical condition of the parties and other relevant circumstances.
Special Issues Concerning Children
Parenting Class must be completed prior to the Initial Status Conference. This class is required for any domestic relations case involving children. It is a class that meets for 3-4 hours. A Certificate of Completion will be issued and must be brought to the Court and filed in your case. Weld County does accept online parenting class certificates. A list of classes is available by clicking here.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities refers to decision-making and parenting time with children. Colorado no longer uses the terms custody and visitation. Decision-making addresses how the parents will make decisions regarding a child's medical care, educational needs, extracurricular activities, and other such matters with respect to a child's upbringing. Parenting time addresses when the child(ren) will spend with each parent.
Best Interests of the Child is the legal standard that the court must apply in making decisions regarding decision-making and parenting time. There are several considerations regarding the child's best interests. To review the statute that defines this term, visit the On-Line Law Library and click on the Colorado Revised Statutes link. The statute defining best interests is §14-10-124, C.R.S. which can be found in the Colorado Statutes, Title 14, Domestic Matters.
Parenting plans can be agreed to by the parties and approved by the court. These plans resolve who will make what decisions and how much time the child or children spend with each parent. If the parties cannot agree upon a parenting plan, each may propose a parenting plan to the court. The court may accept, modify or reject a parenting plan in whole or in part. A parenting plan should identify how the parents will make decisions for the children, when they will spend time with each child, and should include a dispute resolution plan that outlines how the parents will resolve any conflict in the future.
If there are children of the marriage, you must submit a parenting plan to the court.
Child Support Guidelines are created by Colorado law to determine how much money each parent will contribute to the support of their child(ren). The parent with whom the child or children primarily reside are presumed to pay child support through the actual payment for the living expenses of the child or children. The parent with whom the child or children do not primarily reside must pay his or her portion of the expenses associated with the living expenses of the child or children through child support payments.
Child Support Worksheets
If there are children, child support must be provided for, and parents cannot waive their right to child support. It is mandatory that a child support worksheet be completed and submitted to the Court. It is the responsibility of the parties to make all calculations and have the worksheet(s) completed in accordance with statutory guidelines in order for a divorce/separation to be granted. If the calculations or worksheets are not fully or properly completed, the Court may not enter a Decree. A child support worksheet may be completed on line on the Colorado Court’s Homepage at www.courts.state.co.us. Only under very special circumstances will the court order an amount of child support less than the amount determined by the worksheet.
If you have additional questions about child support, you may make an appointment with the Court Facilitator by calling (970) 351-7300 ext. 5496.
A Support Order is required if child support or maintenance is to be paid. It is the responsibility of one of the parties to complete and submit accurate forms to the court prior to entry of any orders. The Support Order must have the date of birth and social security number for both parties and the child(ren), and current addresses for both parties. The Support Order must indicate whether the payments will be made directly between the parties or paid through the Family Support Registry. An incomplete support order could result in the delay of your child support/maintenance payments.
Child and Family Investigators may be appointed to make recommendations regarding what is in the best interests of the child(ren) regarding allocation of parental responsibilities. Child and Family Investigators are regulated by Chief Justice Directive 04-08. Child and Family Investigators must have a demonstrated expertise and participate in ongoing training to insure that their recommendations serve the best interests of the child. You will be required to pay the Child and Family Investigator for his or her services unless you are indigent.A partial list of Child and Family Investigators who practice in the Nineteenth Judicial District can be found on the Child and Family Investigators* page. The Child and Family Investigator must submit a written report to the court and can be called as a witness by either party. *Become a Nineteenth Judicial District Child and Family Investigator.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Evaluations can be ordered by the Court upon request. These evaluations require that a qualified evaluator investigate the family's circumstances, including the children's interaction with their parents, and then make a written report with recommendations regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities. If you request such an evaluation, you must pay for it.
Parenting Coordinator is a person with specific qualifications that can be appointed by the court or by agreement of the parties to resolve parenting disputes after the initial permanent orders have entered. You can agree to make the recommendations of a third person binding by jointly requesting the appointment of a decision-maker whose decisions can be enforced by a court order. If you elect to request a parenting-coordinator, decision-maker, or both, you will be responsible for paying them. Neither a parenting coordinator nor decision-maker can be called to testify in the case in which the allocation of parental responsibilities is ordered.
Colorado Family Support Registry
Since October 12, 1999, all child support payments have been required to be paid through the Family Support Registry, P.O. Box 2171, Denver, Colorado 80201-2171. The telephone number for the Family Support Registry is (303) 299-9123. The toll free number for the Family Support Registry is (800) 374-6558. The Colorado Child Support Enforcement Program web site has all of the information that you will need to either make child support payments or obtain information regarding child support payments. When making payments to the Family Support Registry make certain that:
Family Support Registry
You must notify Weld County Combined Courts of any name and address change in writing including both the court case number and the FSR number.
You must notify the Family Support Registry directly of any address change.
Instructions and Forms
If you are considering using the services of the Child Support Enforcement Unit, you can obtain the information needed by going to the Weld County Child Support Services Page. Complete the form and submit it to the Child Support Collection Unit along with a one time $25.00 processing fee. More information can be found at the Child Support Services Page.
Once you have completed the application, you can either mail the application to the Child Support Enforcement Unit at the address listed below or take it to the Child Support Office, at the following address:
Weld County Child Support Enforcement Unit
Information regarding Weld County Child Support Enforcement Unit and Child Support Collection can be obtained by calling 970-352-6933.
Mediation is an informal process in which a trained, neutral third party helps people in conflict negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. A mediator has no authority to impose a solution. Each party will have the opportunity to express their point of view, and the mediator assists by helping the parties to communicate, to identify issues needing to be resolved, to develop options for resolving the issues, and to come to agreement on resolution if possible. The mediator may meet with the parties together or separately or both. A list of Weld County mediators is available here.
Pro Se Divorce Clinics
Home Courts By County Weld County Domestic Relations Division of Family Court
Home Courts By County Weld County Domestic Relations Division of Family Court