Marriage & Child Matters
Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union (Separation & Divorce)
The dissolution of a marriage or civil union, commonly known as divorce, typically includes at least two matters - division of marital property, and spousal maintenance (also referred to as alimony or spousal support). There are exceptions, such as when parties waive the court's jurisdiction or they choose not to seek court resolution on these issues. Your divorce may, and likely does, include additional matters, some of which are described in the paragraphs below (APR, Modifications, Paternity).
- Spousal Maintenance is initially based on a statutory guideline. A deviation from that guideline is granted only if the court finds sufficient reason to do so and that the deviation is in the best interest of the child(ren). For the court to order deviation, there are statutory factors that must be considered. See C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3).
- Division of Marital Property includes and is applicable to all property, real or personal, acquired during the marriage as well as to property owned prior to marriage that has appreciated during the marriage. See C.R.S. §14-10-113.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (Child Custody & Support)
The Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, also referred to as APR, includes issues related to the minor children of a marriage such as child custody (physical custody, parental visitation, and decision making) and child support.
- Child Custody is the determination of if and how the parties will share decision making and/or physical custody (called parenting time or visitation) of any child(ren) of the marriage. See C.R.S. §14-10-124(1.5).
- Child Support is based on a statutory guideline that takes into account many factors, including the income of the parties, the number of overnights with the children, and child related expenses incurred due to work or education. This guideline is much firmer than the spousal support guideline and deviation from it must be justified and demonstrated to be in the best interest of the children. See C.R.S. §14-10-115 and §14-5-401.
- Relocation of Minor Children requires either parental consent or a court order in cases where there is a previously issued order establishing child custody and support. In some cases, relocation is necessary for a parent due to work, health, or other reasons. However, it is a contentious issue that impacts both child custody and support, and parenting time schedules. This often makes visitation more difficult, expensive, and less frequent. See C.R.S. §14-10-129(II).
Modifications of Court Orders (APR & Support Orders)
The most common requests for changing court orders (called motions) involve the allocation of parental responsibilities, such as changes to child support, parenting time, and/or decision making. Motions regarding spousal maintenance are less common as parties frequently waive the right to spousal maintenance (a waiver that must be made with knowledge of what is being waived, and which may not be addressed at a later time as it is permanent).
- Modification of Child Support is likely the most common request for changing a court order. There are strict guidelines that govern the modification of a child support order. Primarily, the statutory factors must be met. See C.R.S. §14-10-122.
- Modification of Parenting Time is also a very frequent request to the court. Modifying parenting time can be appropriate for a wide range of reasons and require a court to consider certain statutory guidelines. See C.R.S. §14-10-129.
- Modification of Decision Making, while a less frequent request, is a serious one. Modifying decision making changes the rights and obligations of co-parents. However, this is often appropriate in cases of a parent returning from over-seas, long term, long distance employment, a parent's return from incarceration, and many reasons related to health, education, and employment. See C.R.S. §14-10-131.
- Modification of Spousal Maintenance is only possible if the terms of the original maintenance order explicitly state that the maintenance terms are 'non-contractual' (as opposed to 'contractual'). In cases of non-contractual maintenance, either party may request its modification for good reason, such as a significant and continuing change in circumstances such as earnings, earning potential or ability to earn, or remarriage. See C.R.S. §14-10-114(b)(5).
Paternity Determinations (Summons & Petitions for Paternity)
Cases involving issues of paternity may be brought by either party to determine the existence of a biological relation between the child and a named man.
- Summons for Paternity are issued when a mother files a petition with the court seeking to establish whether or not a particular man is the biological father of the minor child at issue. Often this is done to establish and/or enforce child support obligations. See C.R.S. §19-4-107.
- Petition for Paternity is the document filed by a man who seeks to determine if he is the biological father of the minor child at issue. Often this is done in order to receive an Order of Paternity which may then be used to alter the child's birth certificate to include the biological father's name, to receive or enforce a child support order, to eliminate a child support order, as well as to establish and preserve paternal rights. C.R.S. §19-4-107.
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