Q&A on Colorado Same Sex Couple Divorces

What are some concerns same sex couple going through a divorce?

One of the biggest concerns for same-sex couples is that you have relationships that have extended over many years, although same sex marriage itself has only been legally recognized since 2014. The downside party, the person whose name isn’t on the property or the person in the relationship who doesn’t make as much money, is greatly disadvantaged.

For example, courts are reluctant to order spousal maintenance (alimony) for marriages that are less than 3 years in length. Same-sex marriage hasn’t even been legal that long, so it’s hard to ask the court to issue spousal maintenance.

Common concerns I hear are “Am I going to be able to survive financially after we get this divorce?” or “Is this court going to be willing to offer me some sort equitable support”?

Likewise, marital property only includes property that was acquired by the couple after the marriage began. Again, although sex couples may have been together for years and purchased property together, depending on the titling it may be that only property purchased in the past couples of years is going to subject to equitable division under the law.

What characteristics should I look for in an attorney when going to court with a difficult spouse?

Level-headedness and attention to detail. These traits go hand in hand because a difficult spouse is going to cause a spike in the emotional intensity in something that’s already a highly emotional event. You need an attorney who is not going to get sucked into the emotional power plays and lose awareness because an attorney that loses awareness and cannot maintain focus becomes an ineffective advocate.

I want a divorce but my spouse won’t engage in the paperwork that has been served, What do I do?

As people tend to say these days “You do You!” A client whose spouse is not going to engage in the dissolution of marriage process actually has a fairly easy road. If we follow the rules, complete the documents, and attend the required meetings we will be fine. You can still get a divorce when your spouse won’t engage at all. As always, there are exceptions but generally this circumstance is better than the partially participating spouse.

It is the spouse who is only partially participating who can create much more complication. You can have a spouse that only participates sometimes when it is convenient or is seen as valuable to them personally. This can increase the volume of work for your lawyer and therefore the cost of litigation. That behavior can even get the courts quite frustrated. An attorney can help to move the proceedings along and ask for attorney’s fees when a party causes unnecessary delay.

My spouse won’t pay the court ordered child support/alimony. What are my options?

If child support or alimony (called “maintenance” in Colorado) is court ordered and not being paid then there are a couple options for enforcement. To manage future payments, you can file an income assignment to ensure that future payments are made. This should address the concern that the history of non-payment will also mean that the future payments are also not going to be paid.

You can also submit a verified entry of support judgment to recover money that has been previously owed. This allows you to use normal collection devices such as wage garnishments, bank levies, and liens.

Finally, you can initiate a contempt action, but these are very difficult and complicated legal matters. Contempt can be remedial or punitive. Remedial contempt is designed to compel compliance with the order that was for your benefit. Punitive contempt is designed to vindicate the dignity of the court, and is very sparingly used. Because of the complexity of contempt proceedings, it is imperative to speak with a lawyer before engaging in this type of litigation.