Do I Need a Lawyer for My Divorce?
Many people think that a divorce is a minor legal matter and that hiring a lawyer to counsel and assist in the process is unnecessary. If you are thinking of going it alone, take the Pop Quiz: Do I Need A Lawyer For My Divorce, before making a decision. You can better decide if you need a lawyer after checking your score.
1) True or False: Child support ends when my youngest child turns 18 years old?
False (but sometimes true). This one is easy as a warm-up. Colorado is one of only a few states that places the age of emancipation at 19 years, instead of 18 years. It wasn’t until 1991 that the State lowered the age to 19, from 21 years old. LEGAL TWIST: Even at age 19, child support will continue if the child is still in High School (not to continue past age 21 years); or if the child is physically/mentally unable to be self supporting (child support continues indefinitely). LEGAL TWIST II: The answer could be True–Child support sometimes stops before age 19, if the child moves out on his/her own and is self supporting; joins the military; or gets married. Are we having fun yet?
2) True or False: If I pay child support of $500.00 per month for two kids, it will drop to $250.00 when my oldest child turns 18 years old?
False. First of all we now know that the age of emancipation is 19, not 18 years (see #1 above). Second, child support is calculated on a child support worksheet that takes into consideration both parents’ incomes; the number of overnights each parent has with the kids per year; any other kids the parents have from other relationships/marriages; the cost of health insurance for the kids; the cost of daycare; and a few other factors. Therefore, when Suzie turns 19, and young Johnny is still 15, the child support does not just get chopped in half, instead both parties have to exchange all financial information (like they did at the time of the divorce) to recalculate a new child support amount for Johnny, using all updated figures. This new amount for one child is frequently higher than one-half of the amount for two kids, because incomes usually increase in the years following the divorce, and because the child support guidelines recognize that it doesn’t take twice as much money to raise two kids versus one.
3) True or False: If I have the kids one-week on, and one-week off (i.e. 50-50), there is no child support?
False. As noted above, the child support worksheet considers each parent’s percentage of annual overnights as one factor in calculating child support. Only in cases where both parties earn the same income, would a 50-50 custody split cause zero child support. Even then, if either of the parents is paying for daycare and/or health insurance, there will be a child support obligation owed by one to the other to pay for these expenses. When custody is split 50-50, and the incomes are not equal, the parent earning more income will owe the other parent child support. Legal Twist: There are situations where the child lives with a parent more than half of the year, yet that custodial parent still has to pay the other, “minority” parent child support, if their incomes are wide apart.
4) True or False: The corvette is titled in my name, so I get it in the divorce?
True and False. Holding title to property and assets acquired during a marriage does not entitle you to ownership in the divorce. Rather, property acquired while married, regardless of how titled, is up for grabs. Legal Twist: This is not true if the property or asset you received while married was gifted to you, or you inherited it. Gifts and inheritances received during the marriage are separate property, and not subject to division in a divorce. Legal Twist II: If you get a gift or inheritance during the marriage (say a $50,000.00 inheritance) and you put that money into a jointly titled account, it is presumed to be a gift to the marriage, so your inheritance just got jammed and is up for grabs in the divorce. Legal Twist III: Assume the $50,000.00 inheritance was placed in a solely titled account, but that by the time of the divorce the account had grown to $80,000.00. Colorado law says that the original $50,000.00 is separate, but the $30,000.00 growth of the separate account is up for grabs.
5) True or False: The corvette is jointly titled, so we have to divide it in the divorce?
True (but sometimes false): Assuming the Corvette was purchased during the marriage it is up for grabs in the Divorce, and the joint title supports this. Legal Twist: If the evidence and facts prove that one party gave the Corvette to the other (i.e. for his/her birthday, etc.), despite the joint title, the party who received the gift will receive the Corvette as separate property in the divorce.
6) True or False: All of our property and assets will be divided equally in my divorce?
False (but sometimes True): Colorado is an “equitable” state, meaning that a divorce judge is to divide all marital property in a manner that is fair, equitable and not unconscionable. The word “equitable” does not mean “equal.” So, assets and property can be split 60/40; 70/30; 80/20, etc. Unless there is a major disparity in the parties financial circumstances (eg. large income difference), the court usually divides property/assets roughly equally. Legal Twist: A Colorado Supreme Court case requires that military pensions be divided equally.
7) True or False: Alimony cannot be awarded to a Husband?
False: This could be considered a trick question, because there is no such thing as “Alimony” in Colorado. The technical name for “Alimony” is “Maintenance.” Beyond the trickery, the answer is still “False,” because divorce law in Colorado is to be gender neutral in all areas (including child custody). While the law is theoretically neutral, cases involving Husbands receiving alimony are very rare (but becoming more common place every year). Click on the heading “New Maintenance/Alimony for important information regarding Colorado’s recent changes to maintenance law in this State.
8) True or False: I have lived with my boyfriend for the past 8 months, so we are now common law married?
False (but sometimes True): Common law marriage has nothing to do with the amount of time two people live together. Two people could cohabit for 50-years, and as long as they never hold themselves out to the public as being married, they remain unmarried. On the other hand, if two people live together for only a short time, yet they hold themselves out to the public as being a married couple, they are common law married.
9) True or False: My wife is dating a millionaire, and she intends to marry him as soon as my divorce is final. This will eliminate my child support?
False: As noted in #2 above, child support is calculated based on the parents’ incomes. The income of a subsequent spouse has no relevance to the determination of child support, because the second spouse had nothing to do with creating the child.
10) True or False: My husband caught me boinking the pool boy, so my chances of getting custody of the kids, child support, and/or alimony went down the drain?
False: Colorado is a “no fault” state. This means that all legal rights in a divorce remain the same, regardless of whether one of the parties is at “fault.” In the old days, proving that either party had an extramarital affair would either help a wife receive alimony, or disqualify her from receiving alimony, if it were she who had strayed. This is no longer true, and regardless of either party’s moral character, the legal divorce rights are not affected. Legal Twist: Maintaining a lifestyle that involves a revolving door of lovers can hurt a party’s right to custody issues if the children are being frequently exposed to numerous different “lovers” due to the harmful effect this has on their emotional well being.
The above is just a brief glimpse at only a few issues that come up in a divorce. As you can see, rarely is there a clear “True,” or “False” answer to any issue. Every case has different twists and turns. It would be impossible to answer every divorce question in a quiz like this, so as to equip someone to handle their divorce without expert advice from an attorney, who is trained and educated to know these answers. Many people are lucky and their do it yourself divorces do not involve complex legal issues. On the other hand, I have been hired more times than I can remember to undo a mess that was made when the parties did the divorce on their own–and frequently the cost was higher than if they had simply hired attorneys at the outset. Also, some mistakes that get made with do it yourself divorces are not fixable at any cost, due to numerous laws aimed at promoting the finality of divorce cases. While it may appear self-serving, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having an attorney to assist in all but the most basic, very short marriages which end up in divorce.
To schedule an appointment with Rick, contact the firm online or call 303-534-7884.