APRIL 13, 2018
The court is often the first thing people think about when they consider divorce or separation. For some, having the court involved in making decisions for their family is the last thing they want. Others hope the court will become deeply involved and make specific orders in their case.
If you bring a divorce, legal separation, or parental responsibilities case to the court, it will eventually enter a decree ending the marriage, granting a legal separation, or allocating parental responsibilities. Whether the court also makes orders regarding property and debt division, parenting, and support depends upon you.
If the two parties are able to reach an agreement that resolves the issues in their divorce or separation, the court will generally adopt that agreement as an order and will enter the decree without any further involvement. Even if the agreement resolves the issues in ways that the court cannot or would not, the court will usually approve the agreement as long as it is fair and is in the best interests of the children.
Courts are reporting a large increase in the number of family cases being filed without attorneys. Many courts have forms available at little or no cost for people without attorneys to be able to file the necessary court documents for their family case. There are often also complete instructions available to help you fill out the forms correctly. To look for free or low cost forms in your area, call the court clerk in your county or search the internet for "family court forms your state." If you stick to sites that are official government or court sites, you are likely to find official forms. In Colorado, all the forms you need can be found for download at no cost at www.courts.state.co.us.
Because of huge caseloads, courts often require the parties to a divorce or separation to attend mediation before the court will allow the parties to schedule a contested hearing. Even parties who think mediation would be a waste of time are often surprised to find that they can agree upon some or all of the issues when they are forced to sit down with a neutral third person who can help the parties break down the issues and deal with them one piece at a time.
If you do end up in a court hearing, it's important to keep in mind that the court has only a limited amount of time to devote to each case before it. Be prepared and be organized about what you want to present to the court. You can help the court help you by presenting your case clearly and without anger. If you feel the other side is a scoundrel, give the court specifics and then trust the judge to "get it". If you know the other side will tell the court something bad about you, you might want to consult with an attorney about whether you should consider telling the court yourself. Your honesty and forthrightness might make the issue seem less important to the court.
Finally, when you are trying to navigate the courts on your own, be nice to the clerks and court personnel. These are the people who can help you the most. They are often overworked and underpaid. Smile at them when you are asking for their help and thank them when they give it. These courtesies can help you have a successful and positive court experience.
© 2016, The Wollard Law Firm PC, dba Foothills Family Law