The basic elements of Colorado family law include marriage, divorce, custody, child support, property, and other financial affairs involving you and a spouse. They also encompass issues such as domestic violence and child welfare. At Elizabeth Henson, Attorney Mediator, P.C., I try to educate parties about Colorado family law, as well as help them navigate their divorce using mediation to find mutually beneficial outcomes regarding each of these matters. If you find that your marriage is ending, taking control of your future starts with learning more about Colorado family law. Here is a brief summary of some of the many areas that fall under this rather broad category.
- Marriage – Colorado law dictates who can marry. For example, one requirement is that both parties must be 18 years of age and able to consent to the legal contract of marriage. Girls and boys who are 16 and 17 require parental approval. There are also laws in place to nullify unions in certain situations such as one party not being of sound mind or in cases of coercion and fraud.
- Divorce – The dissolution of a marriage also falls under family law. There are numerous laws in place regarding procedures, filing requirements and costs, division of property and debt, along with spousal support (maintenance) and child custody/support. Did you know that Colorado is an equitable distribution state, not a community property state?
- Child Custody – Now called parental responsibilities, the basics of Colorado family law include determining the best interests of your child or children, including how major decisions will be made (such as health care, religion and schooling), and what the parenting time schedule will be. This area of the law isn’t cut and dried, and taking your divorce to court will mean that a judge has the final say.
- Child Support – The goal of state statutes is to provide the same financial support that a child would receive if their parents were together. Strict, even complex rules and calculators are used to determine this amount. While parents can attempt to put together their own alternative agreement, the court may not approve anything that strays too far from the established amount. You should work with a professional who is familiar with the laws to ensure your submitted divorce documents are approved and finalized by the court.
- Maintenance – Spousal support (which used to be called alimony) also falls under family law. This type of support assists spouses who cannot support themselves financially after the dissolution of the marriage. In 2014, a new law took effect which implemented advisory maintenance guidelines for the courts to consider in deciding maintenance. However, the court still has significant discretion in determining maintenance.
No matter where you are in the process of dissolving a marriage, being familiar with the basic elements of Colorado family law will provide you with a better understanding of what needs to be addressed in your divorce. As a mediation practice focusing exclusively in family law and divorce mediation, Elizabeth Henson, Attorney Mediator, P.C. can provide further information and assistance throughout this very complicated and difficult process.