Lawyer Up, Hit the Gym, Delete Facebook? Tips for Getting Divorced in Colorado
Considering divorce? Served with legal paperwork? A common phrase instructs divorcing parties to "lawyer up, hit the gym, delete Facebook." In this guide, I will evaluate and expand on these points to help you prepare for the case ahead.
1. Lawyer Up?Many people believe that they cannot afford representation or there is no pressing need to spend the money. Those assumptions are often incorrect and can lead to damaging outcomes.
First, a large percentage of lawyers offer completely free consultations! And a recent trend in the legal community is to offer "unbundled" or "limited scope" representation at a relatively low flat fee. The scope of such representation varies with the client's needs and resources, but might typically include reviewing legal documents or drafting agreements regarding property division and child custody. Even if you and your spouse agree on matters, you should get the agreements drafted correctly by a lawyer - especially if the agreements pertain to a child. You would not want to attempt car repairs without automotive experience and you should not establish legal rights and obligations without legal advice.
Full representation by a lawyer is inherently superior than a limited scope of representation. However, for full representation, lawyers generally ask for a retainer up front, keep track of their time, and charge an hourly rate. As a result, a lawyer would not be able to predict the final bill so how would a client know whether the representation is affordable? The best place to start is a free initial consultation to discuss the issues in your case and learn more about how legal fees might work. For example, it is possible that your spouse will pay for your lawyer or reimburse you for legal fees.
Lastly, some people may qualify for free legal representation through a legal aid service. Colorado Legal Services accepts online applications and a link to their website is provided below.
2. Hit the Gym?A divorce normally involves extreme emotional stress. Adding to such psychological burdens are the orders and procedures that you will be required to comply with. Even with a lawyer helping every step of the way, you are going to be busy during your divorce. Collecting and reviewing financial documents, long discussions about difficult issues with your lawyer and/or your spouse, and preparing for and attending court hearings all implicate a massive time commitment. On top of the work in your case, you may be juggling your regular employment or raising a child. Hiring a lawyer will help spread out the workload but you need to be mentally equipped to do your share.
Do not assume that the rules are mere suggestions or that your lawyer will do everything for you. Every requirement deserves your best effort and noncompliance will jeopardize your future. If you are not normally organized, get into the habit of using a calendar and making lists. Create a filing system. Take a deep breath and get ready for the administrative tasks ahead.
Becoming prepared for litigation obviously looks different for each individual. Studies do link physical activity and exercise with increases in motivation, stamina, and focus. As such, hitting the gym is rarely bad advice. However, if you are not a fan of the gym or not physically healthy enough for a strenuous workout, the point remains the same: do something for yourself every day that helps your mental and emotional stability. Now is the time to prioritize your overall wellbeing.
Finally, it is natural for some people to suffer depression, anxiety, or other mental health crises during the pendency of a divorce. Everyone approaching divorce should consider therapy or similar professional assistance.
3. Delete Facebook?Colorado is a "no-fault divorce" state, meaning that the only grounds available to obtain a divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. If someone files for divorce, it logically follows that the marriage is broken and this element is satisfied. Thus, evidence that a spouse is a bad person, a drug addict, or that s/he cheated on or abandoned the other, is irrelevant to the question of whether the marriage should be terminated.
However, in a case where parental rights and responsibilities may be decided, the court is guided by the central principle of what is in "the best interests of the child(ren)." With such a necessarily vague standard determining relevance for parenting issues, the door is wide open to introduce otherwise inadmissible evidence. Indeed, all social media, including Facebook, have become a common portal into the best interests of a child.
Whether you decide to delete Facebook or not, it is likely impossible to truly erase your online interactions. You should assume that every single thing you have posted online, texted, and emailed will be scrutinized by lawyers and judges and admitted into evidence. Plus, Colorado generally permits one party in a conversation to record the other party without their consent.
In sum, your online presence can absolutely be used against you in regards to issues like parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. The court's perception of your ability to effectively co-parent following divorce may hinge on what you say leading up to and during the divorce. Rather than delete Facebook, I would recommend just not posting or saying things that you might regret. If you already said something you might regret, speak with a lawyer about your concerns.