Divorce is a painful process. There’s no denying that. It’s perfectly acceptable to want it to be over as soon as possible, most people do. But it’s equally important to take a step back and find out your legal rights and options.
Sometimes individuals become so unhappy or apathetic they’re willing to do anything, including agree to an unreasonable divorce settlement, just to move on with their life more quickly.
While expediting the divorce process may provide some immediate relief, rash decisions can wreak havoc on your life, especially your finances, for years after the split is final.
If you’ve been married for a year or less, have no children, and no assets, then you’re probably OK to file for divorce own your own. All other couples should get an attorney who knows the intricacies of the laws and all the exceptions to the rule.
Don’t allow your current situation to sabotage your future. Let the experience of Robinson & Henry’s divorce lawyers help you reach the best outcome for your case.
When it comes to your financial security, parenting time, and rightful property, you need a family law attorney to aggressively fight for you.
Robinson & Henry, P.C., with new offices at Highlands Ranch, offers initial assessments.
Call (303) 688-0944 to schedule an appointment with one of our award-winning family law attorneys.
Can You Really Afford a Do-It-Yourself Divorce?
Colorado law doesn’t require divorcing couples to employ legal counsel to complete a separation.
Turns out, though, many clients who seek Robinson & Henry’s help for post-decree matters handled their divorce without a lawyer.
|“If I could go back, I never would have done the divorce on my own. Less than a year after it was final, I had to hire a lawyer to fight for my parenting time. Robinson & Henry helped me get equal time with my kids, but it took the better part of a year. It was incredibly stressful, and it wasn’t cheap. If you’ve got kids, do yourself a favor and get a lawyer from the beginning. Don’t chance it. It definitely would have saved me a lot of heartache and money.”
Actual Robinson & Henry client
Post-decree modifications, or changes after a divorce is final, are often time-consuming, involve expensive litigation, and difficult to attain. Many individuals don’t know this when they venture into a DIY divorce.
People divorce without attorneys for different reasons. Many couples believe it will save them money and time. For some, it does. For others, after the fog lifts, they realize they weren’t in the best frame of mind during the divorce. As a result, they’ve done themselves a great disservice.
That’s why it’s important to weigh all your options, including hiring a lawyer.
Do it Right the First Time.
Filing for divorce without consulting an attorney may be tempting. It may feel like your only option. You may think an attorney is too expensive. For most individuals, retaining a lawyer is a worthwhile investment, especially if there’s a lot to lose.
We cannot emphasize enough that trying to fix post-divorce mistakes can cost you more than if you’d hired an attorney from the beginning.
Robinson & Henry offers low retainers for divorce cases. There’s also a financing option so you can afford high-quality legal representation. Learn more during your case assessment. (303) 688-0944
10 Reasons to Hire a Divorce Attorney
Not only is divorce stressful, it can drain your emotions, energy, and finances. It’s easy to make costly mistakes when you’re going through a divorce – mistakes that can leave an imprint on your life for years to come.
A family law attorney brings order and insight to this chaotic time.
In addition to receiving sound legal advice, let’s examine some other reasons why you should consider retaining a divorce attorney.
- Complicated Laws Clarified
Divorce is rarely straightforward. The laws are complex. What you think is fair may not align with the law or the judge. You can compromise your divorce by going about it yourself. And it could take expensive litigation to resolve what could have been an avoidable issue. Only an attorney knows the ins and outs of the law.
- Protect Your Rights & Assets
Whether it’s parenting time, property division, asset and debt distribution, or all of the above, you can miss out on what’s legally yours if you don’t know your rights. A lawyer will advise you on how to best protect your interests.
- Gain Objectivity & Perspective
Divorce brings with it an array of emotions. Whether it’s anger or sadness, many couples end up placing their focus on “winning” instead of achieving the best settlement. A lawyer can help you keep your sights on the big picture.
- High Net Worth & Over-50 Divorce
High net worth and late-life divorces are considered complex cases. These divorces face unique issues that other divorces don’t, such as impending retirement and substantial real estate holdings. If you’re in one of these categories, a divorce lawyer would be beneficial to securing your financial future.
- Paperwork & Court Procedure Relief
There’s a lot of paperwork to be filled out correctly and submitted on time. If you don’t hire an attorney, you’re on the hook for it. You’ll also have to represent yourself in court. A judge will expect you to know the court process. An attorney can take the administrative work off your hands and prevent delays.
- Reduce Uncivil Communication
As expected, not all divorces are amicable. Communication often devolves into threats and angry words. Your lawyer will communicate on your behalf to reduce unpleasant interactions with your spouse and keep the process businesslike.
- Have Someone Who’s on Your Side
It can feel as if the whole world is against you when you go through a divorce. When you hire an attorney, you will gain a zealous ally. Your divorce attorney will advocate for your best interests and help you make informed decisions.
- Your Spouse Hires an Attorney
The attorney your spouse retains has a duty to serve their best interests, not yours. Hiring your own lawyer will ensure you have your own advocate who will fight for your rights.
- Protection from Retaliation
Restraining orders during divorce are sought for different reasons. A spouse who’s a victim of abuse may obtain a protection order to thwart retaliatory violence. Divorce can also provoke a spouse to seek revenge by trying to get an unwarranted restraining order. Your attorney will fight for you in either circumstance.
- Save Money in the Long Run
One of the tasks of your divorce lawyer is to ensure you receive a fair, legal deal. While legal representation during your divorce comes with a price, you’ll likely find it will prove to be an advantageous investment later.
Maintaining a Relationship with Your Kids
Having to give up time with your children is probably one of the most difficult consequences of divorce.
In decades past, courts almost always gave mothers preference when awarding custody, regardless of the child’s best interest. Today, fathers don’t have to be weekend parents.
Colorado courts consider the best interest of the child – not the gender of the parent.
In fact, the courts prefer each parent to enjoy equal time with their child. Judges also would rather parents reach their own custody arrangements, called a Parenting Plan, before the court gets involved.
In Colorado, divorcing couples with children must complete a parenting class before a dissolution of marriage is granted. Parenting has enough challenges when the couple is together. When there’s a divorce, the situation can often become more difficult.
The classes are meant to teach parents how to effectively co-parent, which creates a more stable environment for children after the divorce.
Parents also receive useful information they can apply when they devise the Parenting Plan, such as how parental responsibilities will be delegated.
What’s in a Parenting Plan
Parenting Plans are a binding court order that centers around time spent with the child and their wellbeing.
In Colorado, parents are encouraged to develop the plan. It generally covers decision-making about the child’s general welfare, medical care, school, religion, and extracurricular activities.
While decisions can fall to one parent, both parents generally want to have equal input about major decisions.
Parenting Plans also often address:
- Child Support
- Right of First Refusal
- Health Insurance Coverage and Payments
- Vacation and Holiday Schedules
- Current and Future Activities Expenses
A number of factors should be weighed when deciding living arrangements.
|· Age of the Child
|· Work & School Schedules
|· Distance between homes
Of course, there are many other factors to be considered. When the court intervenes, a judge will look at many factors, including, but not limited to, the willingness and ability of each parent to care for the child, the parent-child relationship, living accommodations, and domestic violence or substance abuse. The judge may also hear character witnesses of each parent.
The Takeaway for Divorcing Parents
There are a lot of decisions you’ll make in your divorce. Many of them will revolve around money. Time with your children, though, is not a financial decision.
We see many spouses who are guilted into giving up parenting time. When you have a divorce lawyer at your side, you have an advocate who wants to ensure you’re not put in a position where you settle on an arrangement you don’t want.
There are no standard parenting plans in Colorado. What fits one family may not be appropriate for yours. A good divorce lawyer will make sure you know your options before you agree to anything.
Call (303) 688-0944 to schedule an assessment with a Robinson & Henry family law attorney. We now have offices in Highlands Ranch.
Effects of Recent Tax Reform
If you expect to pay your spouse maintenance after your divorce, you’ll want to continue reading.
Our new federal tax laws will affect alimony, especially for longer marriages where maintenance tends to have extended or permanent terms.
There’s good news and not-so-good news. Under the new tax code, which took effect January 2019, if you pay alimony you will no longer be able to deduct it. On the flip side, if you receive spousal support you won’t be required to pay income taxes on it.
(Nothing changed for pre-2019 divorce agreements. Payees still get to deduct the payments. Recipients must continue to pay taxes on them.)
If you’re getting divorced, the new tax law needs to be considered when you negotiate your settlement.
Your High Net Worth Divorce
Distribution of assets and debt is one of the most complicated elements of divorce. When the separation involves high net worth (HNW) and a large amount of assets, the case becomes more complex.
What constitutes high net worth? It’s generally defined as someone who has $1 million or more in liquid assets. Note: You don’t have to necessarily meet the HNW threshold to have a lot to lose.
High net worth divorces have a number of unique issues, including:
|· Sizable Spousal Maintenance
|· Prenuptial Agreement Enforcement
|· Multi-State & International Homes
|· Investment Properties
|· Complex Retirement Accounts
|· Business Asset Valuation
|· Stocks and Bonds
|· Short- & Long-Term Tax Implications
If you and your spouse have minor children, inheritance will be a major consideration in the settlement. Also, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended is a factor in child support awards.
Discovering Actual Net Worth
Financial disclosures are a first step to identifying the amount of assets in the marriage. When one spouse has a majority of assets and financial responsibility, the other spouse may not know what’s actually out there.
When you provide your financial disclosure, it’s important to ensure it’s up-to-date and correct. If there are inaccuracies, you could be held liable for or lose something you shouldn’t.
Don’t Hide Assets.
Just don’t do it. As a high income earner, it may be tempting to not disclose valuable property or to transfer it to someone else. The truth is, it will probably be discovered sooner or later.
If the case goes back to court because you hid assets, you may not receive a favorable outcome. In addition to possibly footing the whole legal bill, you could end up losing more of the assets than if you’d disclosed it in the first place. You also could get sanctioned by the court.
While some assets have a straightforward value, others will require a closer valuation process.
In Colorado, all property owned during your marriage is considered marital property.
In HNW divorces, businesses are often a big one. Now, you and your spouse can agree on the value of your assets, including the value of your business. But that’s not always a great idea. Consider this scenario:
|You and your spouse agree your business is valued at $1 million. One party keeps the business and buys the other party out. Two years later, the party who was bought out discovers the business was actually worth $4 million.
Due to the improper valuation, the case will likely be reopened, and that can get expensive.
When it comes to you and your spouse’s assets, it’s critical to ensure they are valuated properly, particularly businesses.
Remember… Colorado is considered an equitable division state, so it’s critical to ensure that what you agree to is fair for you in the long term.
High net worth divorces are complex. Your attorney will guide you through the entire process and make sure your interests and rights are protected.
Late-Life Divorce and the Unique Challenges
Young adults aren’t getting divorced as much as they used to, but older adults seem to be making up for those splits. The Pew Research Center finds the number of people splitting up after age 50 has more than doubled since 1990.
So-called gray divorces happen for various reasons.
Empty-nesters can discover they no longer have anything in common. Others may be in search of greater contentment during their golden years. Greater financial independence has given more women the green light for divorce. And remarriages tend to end in divorce more often.
Whatever your reason for divorcing later in life, you face different considerations than if you were separating earlier.
The Financial Ramifications
Finances are a major concern in any divorce. But the scenarios are different for people over 50. With retirement looming, or possibly already underway, older couples have more post-divorce financial issues to weigh than their younger counterparts.
By the time someone reaches their late 50s, their retirement accounts, hopefully, have amassed enough funds to live comfortably after they stop working.
Retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and pension plans, are considered marital property in Colorado. That means your nest egg is subject to equitable distribution.
Did You Know?
Equitable distribution doesn’t mean “split down the middle.” The courts define equitable distribution as “fair, but not necessarily equal.” If you and your spouse cannot agree to a settlement, the court will decide how your assets will be decided.
Even if you began contributing to your retirement before you married, your spouse has rights to its increased value.
Social Security Benefits
While Social Security benefits are not considered property to be divvied up like a 401(k), it is income.
Since an individual may be able to claim Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse’s work record, instead of their own, it’s worthwhile to talk with a divorce attorney about how this potential income could affect your divorce.
Spousal maintenance, sometimes called alimony, carries more significance in a late-life divorce. Before we delve into why, let’s take a quick look at how Colorado determines alimony.
In the last five years, Colorado adopted a formula-based alimony guideline. The change was an effort by state legislators to even the alimony playing field. Until recently, maintenance was awarded at the court’s discretion. That resulted in extreme ranges, from no alimony to thousands of dollars a month for life.
The current calculation takes into account each spouse’s income and the length of the marriage, but judges still have discretion to award maintenance that differs from the formula.
In Colorado, lifetime maintenance can be awarded in marriages that lasted 20 years or more.
The length of the marriage isn’t the only determining factor. Older couples who have been married for much less time, let’s say for six years, can end up with life-time alimony that isn’t modifiable.
If your spouse isn’t in a position to work or had little retirement savings before the marriage, a judge can order permanent maintenance.
The Gray Divorce Takeaway
Grey divorces have more post-divorce financial issues, and the stakes are high.
Generally speaking, older individuals have less time to replenish retirement accounts after divorce. As a result, you may have to change your lifestyle or postpone retirement.
If you’re over 50 and facing divorce, Robinson and Henry’s divorce attorneys want to try to help you get a fair settlement.
Highlands Ranch Divorce Attorneys: Powerful Advocates
We know divorce is a difficult and sensitive time. In addition to all the uncertainty you’re experiencing right now, you may also be worried about your privacy within your social circles. You can let go of that fear when you work with a Robinson & Henry divorce attorney.
Your case is confidential beginning with your initial assessment.
Robinson & Henry’s divorce lawyers have years of experience helping individuals get through complex divorces. We aggressively fight for our clients’ rights and negotiate for a fair settlement so you can begin to make a fresh start.
Schedule an assessment online or at (303) 688-0944. Robinson & Henry: More Than Just Lawyers.