Divorce is one of the most difficult transitions that any family can navigate. Many people who are facing the prospect of divorce find themselves overwhelmed, scared, stressed out, and completely unsure of what to do next. You’re not alone if you are feeling those things!
If you have never been through the process before, or have only been through it one other time, you may have a lot of images in your head of what you think divorce means (a high-conflict court battle, fighting and nastiness, loneliness and the loss of friendships, financial scarcity, etc.) and you also may have hundreds of questions (“How will this affect my kids?”, “How much is this going to cost?”,“What is my new ‘normal’ going to look like?”).
Because divorce is a legal matter (though it is more than just that), one of the most common questions people have is whether or not they need a lawyer to get divorced in Colorado.
The best and most honest answer to that question - the answer you will probably find elsewhere online, through talking to experienced professionals, and even through talking to friends who have been divorced - is yes. However, because divorce isn’t a simple issue, there are plenty of nuances involved. It’s important to know why you need a lawyer before choosing one to represent you so that you can make an informed decision.
Let’s take a closer look at how divorce works in Colorado, why we’re maintaining that you need an attorney to guide you through the process, and what you need to know about hiring a divorce firm.
You May Be Technically Able To Get Divorced In Colorado Without A Lawyer, But That’s Never Recommended. Here’s Why.
In Colorado, divorce (or “dissolution of marriage”, as it is legally called) begins by completing and submitting the petition for dissolution of marriage to the court of the county in which you reside. The petition can be filed jointly together with your spouse or separately, in which case your spouse will need to be served the papers by a third party after they have been reviewed by the clerk. Within a certain time frame, financial disclosures and documentation from both you and your spouse will need to be submitted to the court. The court will set a date for an initial status conference, where the details of your case can be presented and discussed. If you and your spouse can agree on most issues, or have already decided to take an uncontested route and present previously agreed upon terms, the court may grant you a divorce and the process may end at this stage; if not, and there are unresolved disputes, more hearings and paperwork will be necessary.
Technically, you don’t have to have legal representation to get to the ICS stage. You can file the paperwork yourself and gather your financial information yourself. The initial status conference isn’t a formal hearing, so you can attend and speak on your own. On the surface, none of that may sound terribly difficult or complicated, which is understandably why many people think that they don’t need a lawyer to get divorced in Colorado.
Hiring a lawyer can be expensive. You may desperately want to save money and time. If you’re on good terms with your spouse, you may want to avoid conflict - you probably just want everything to be “over”, and it can seem like a DIY divorce will avoid all the red tape and lead to a faster, smoother result, especially if it seems like you are one of the lucky few who can file for an uncontested divorce.
But that just isn’t realistic.
We know because it happened to us. One of our lead attorneys and divorce coaches, Penn Dodson, had all of the same thoughts at the time of a previous divorce and decided to represent herself. She’s regretted that decision ever since, as it led to many complications later on that could have been avoided. Her story isn’t unique - we’ve heard the same things over and over again from our clients, friends, and colleagues who end up paying much more in money, time, and stress than they would have had they enlisted the assistance of the right divorce lawyer.
That’s because a Colorado divorce lawyer not only has gone to law school for years to learn the ins and outs of the divorce process, be able to file all the necessary paperwork without mistakes and in the most advantageous way possible, and advocate for a fair outcome for you, but they also have experience with dozens or hundreds of various types of divorce cases. They know the local courts, and they know how to help you avoid getting taken advantage of; they can explain all of the options available to you and protect you from common pitfalls!
Would you rather set out on a steep hike you know almost nothing about in a dense forest in a foreign country on your own, or with a tour guide?
It’s an easy answer. In the same way that a guide could make your travel experience less dangerous, faster, and more enjoyable, a divorce lawyer can make your divorce journey less stressful, less expensive, and keep you on track to your destination.
However, Hiring A Lawyer Without Knowing What You Want Can Lead You Down A Path That May Not Take You Where You Need To Be….
Working with a lawyer to get divorced in Colorado doesn’t mean that you want things to turn antagonistic, or that you want to ruin your spouse’s life, or even that you want to “get more” than you and your spouse have already more or less agreed upon. That’s not why you should retain legal counsel. The “right” kind of lawyer will engage you in a process that clarifies the way forward for you and your family. They can give you advice on a number of things that you didn’t even consider, before they ever become problems, and supply true resolution on any disputes.
Sadly, not all divorce lawyers in Colorado are the right kind to work with. Many divorce lawyers start by telling their clients what they can do for them (which may or may not be what the clients really want) and then asking them to spend large amounts of money to get that outcome, often leaving a bloodbath of conflict along the way and leaving the clients in the aftermath wondering “How did I get here?”, unhappy with the results.
It’s no wonder that people facing a divorce attempt to do it themselves rather than work with these types of lawyers; indeed, working with a lawyer who wants to increase their billable hours and who only treats your case as a legal issue rather than a family one may leave you even worse off than if you just did it on your own.
The truth is that until you know what you really want, and what it will practically mean for your life if you get it, you shouldn’t make consequential legal decisions that will shape your future. A good divorce lawyer should first listen to you and work with you to determine what your ideal destination looks like!
Your Best Option Is To Enlist Comprehensive Divorce Support From The Beginning. New Leaf Family Empowers You Through The Journey To Arrive At The Best Result.
New Leaf Family is a family law and divorce firm in Colorado that takes an entirely different approach. We don’t take on cases; we work with clients. We take the time to get a holistic, accurate picture of your current situation and your goals so we can answer your questions and help you discover your options. It may turn out that divorce isn’t actually what you and your spouse want at all, and that a legal separation or even reconciliation is possible and more beneficial for your current family needs.
We don’t speak legalese - we want you to clearly understand what the process will look like. We don’t charge large up-front retainers; we charge affordable, predictable fees to cut down on your worries. We don’t instigate unnecessary conflict; we work to resolve your issues and give you peace of mind, although we are more than capable of defending you against adversity if collaboration isn’t possible. And we provide you with practical guidance beyond the final judge’s order as you encounter various life transitions related to your divorce.
If you are seeking to get divorced in Colorado, you need a lawyer whose main goal is to empower you to grow through change and who is focused on helping you lay the best foundation for your future. Call New Leaf Family today to schedule a no-cost consultation and learn more about what we can do to serve you!