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5 Tips to Foster a Peaceful Colorado Divorce and Co-parenting Strategy

We often view divorce as an event. As if one day you announce, “I’m getting a divorce,” and the next day your marriage is over. The truth is, it’s a journey. It’s a process. It’s a method by which you transition out of your marriage and re-prioritize your relationships, especially your relationship with yourself. Sometimes there is still love. Sometimes the love that once was has long been extinguished. 

But one thing is certain, hardly anyone leaves their marriage hoping for a nightmare, never-ending, high conflict, expensive divorce that never ends. They breed animosity, undermine already broken relationships and drain precious resources of time, energy and money from the family. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If your divorce is headed down the (legal) rabbit hole, there are things you can do to stop it from barreling out of control, or at least slow it down significantly before court becomes the only option. 

As the founder of Hello Divorce and a 15 year veteran of the divorce legal industry (I’m a Certified Family Law Specialist), I work every day to make divorce more understandable and more affordable so the process can work better, faster and easier for everyone. We know that information and transparency help neutralize conflict, so we are constantly working to help our clients understand all of their options and  build a strategy that best suits their goals and the restructuring of their family. Sure, there are complex issues to work through in divorce and decisions can sometimes be painful. But my goal is always to resolve issues outside of court, through sound strategy and a commitment to helping our clients understand where they have leverage and how to use it, to the benefit of both parties — because divorce doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. These are my best tips for fostering a peaceful divorce and co-parenting strategy:

Knowledge is power

There is nothing scarier than starting a divorce without understanding the basics. Without a ‘plan’ or for some of us, a ‘list,’ we can feel really out of control. Divorce is both procedure and substance. The procedure includes all of the divorce paperwork that must be completed and understanding when and why you may have to “appear” online or in-person at court. Start with reviewing our divorce process flow chart to understand what the legal process looks like and/or watching my recent Colorado divorce webinar. The substance includes all of the issues that you and your spouse need to come to an agreement on (think: co-parenting plan, property, assets & debt, child and/or spousal support). We’ve got loads of information-packed resources on Hello Divorce that will help you get a handle on all things Colorado Divorce including this shared parenting worksheet. You’ll feel so much better when you have a better understanding of the tasks at hand. 

Get a strategy in place

That sounds bad. Like I’m encouraging you to trick your ex. I’m not. A strategy will actually help both of you (especially if you are the ‘do-er’ spouse). You don’t have to know or do everything – you just need to have the right information, support and resources. By developing a strategy at the start of your divorce, you will feel so much more comfortable living in transition and facing the unknown. It doesn’t mean your strategy won’t change throughout the course of your divorce. It might. And that’s ok. But let’s get you started on the right foot. 

Get the party started before tackling the hard(er) stuff

Do yourself a favor, don’t start talking settlement at the start of your divorce when emotions are most heated and often feelings are most hurt. Remember the procedural stuff I discussed above? Start with that. There are three main steps to a Colorado Divorce. It isn’t until the third step that the two of you need to have an agreement. And often, handling steps 1 and 2 peacefully, often sets the stage for peaceful (but still grueling) settlement discussion(s). And of course, you can’t really discuss substance until you have what you need. If you don’t know the marital interest in your spouse’s retirement account (for example), how can you decide if it’s better to take your share of the pension or keep the house? 

Don’t delay any longer

Did you know that 70% of divorces are filed by women after they’ve been thinking about it for 5-8 years? You, and only you know if your marriage is worth saving. If it truly isn’t, move forward. And if you think there may be a legal issue that would justify a delay, schedule a meeting with a lawyer.  Almost always, delaying is a bad idea. It could put you at financial risk, ruin your credit, and let’s face it, emotional baggage gets very heavy after a while.

Choose (wisely) your legal help

It used to be that you had two options – hiring a traditional divorce attorney (which in Colorado costs on average, $21,700 per person) or navigating the process on your own through a DIY service. Fortunately, you now have options and I urge you to do a little investigating of your own. At Hello Divorce, we offer several options – ranging from  a modified “DIY” Divorce (you follow a secure guided interview that auto-populates your divorce forms and we file and process them for you) to a “Divorce with Benefits” that includes legal coaching from an experienced (and kind) divorce lawyer or mediator. Regardless of your choice, you can always sign up for a free membership to access the loads of tools, worksheets and resources we share to support you. 

In partnership with Mile High Mamas.

 

Custody Battles in the Time of COVID-19

Protecting Your Family Through the Toughest Times

It may seem obvious, but you need to think about your child’s best interests when going through your custody arrangements. In a time where your children might not have any buffer between them and their parents’ personal lives, you will need to be even more sensitive than usual. We’ve seen a lot of divorces through our firm, and not all of them were pleasant or collaborative, and none of them would be made easier by a stay-at-home order.

Of the messy divorces we’ve handled, some of the most difficult arguments we’ve seen are related to custody arrangements. The thing is, not all the parents we’ve negotiated with and argued with are bad parents. In fact, a lot of them are great and loving parents. In times such as these, when your entire case may be up in the air and tensions may be running even higher than usual, it’s especially important to be empathetic. You might be stuck at home with the very spouse or ex-spouse that you have been arguing with, increasing the stress on your child.

Saving Face

Right now, we are in a stressful situation. From our experiences, stresses and situational tensions often bring out couples’ ugly sides, making them want to deny their co-parent as many rights as possible. Sometimes this is justified if the other parent has proven themself to be dangerous. But most of the time it hurts the child more to be separated from their parent.

This is why it’s important to take an outside view of your agreement. How will your child see it? Is your child going to get the time they need with both parents? Is the child currently separated from one of their parents due to quarantine? What can you do to make this process easier for them?

Colorado’s custody laws are quite clear in the fact that they want the best for the child, and you should too. Take a moment and seriously consider the benefits both you and your ex-spouse bring to your child’s life. Chances are they’re adding something to your child’s life and chances are a nasty custody dispute is going to be more damaging than either of you intend. If you can, try and take this time to notice the role they play in your child’s life, and the impact taking that away would have.

Our Experience

In all honesty, our advice on family law cases is changing quickly. If you are in an ending marriage and are looking for the most painless options, we have seen a lot of success for couples pursuing collaborative divorces. These are divorces that follow specific guidelines to expedite and de-escalate the process.Not only are these divorce often faster and more painless, they require less time in court, time which may be drastically extended as courts close and take fewer cases. We’ve also witnessed firsthand how this process has shown children of divorce that amicable solutions can be found for even the most personal disagreements.

As family lawyers, we are often on the front line of conflicts. We often see the very direct impacts of parental conflicts on children, and the best way we’ve found to mitigate these impacts is by finalizing the process as quickly as possible. If you are worried about disruptions to your case, contact your lawyer to learn about how you can keep your case moving remotely. By reducing the amount of time the family spends in legal limbo, you’re giving your child more time to adjust to their new life.

Divorce is never easy, which is why we wrote the Colorado Guide to Divorce. The Guide is a resource that can help you understand the process. Finding a child custody arrangement that everybody is happy with is an added challenge. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. As you can see by the countless amazing mothers on this website, being a parent is about so much more than the person you had your child with. It’s about your dedication to your child’s wellbeing.

Leslie Hansen, Griffiths Law PC

In partnership with Mile High Mamas

Divorce, the Gambler and apologies to Kenny Rogers

When it comes to parenting, you’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to scold ’em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run to the therapists. I’ve got it all down pat. EXCEPT the scolding part. This is where my kids would roll on the floor laughing like people who’ve recently discovered that, indeed, a platypus should be feared. They’d be quick to correct me by saying that Mom has NO PROBLEM in the scolding department.

But oh, how I do. Or DID.

Like any mother worth her salt, I had my excuses reasons for lacking in disciplining skills. Initially, I blamed it on the divorce several years ago. It was then that I seemed to lose all perspective. Not to mention part of my backbone.

The three-year-old wants to stay up late watching Sponge Bob? Well, he’s been through a lot lately. And, c’mon, it’s Sponge Bob! Lemon cake for dinner? Okay. Just this once. And only if you promise to share! What? You used my lipstick to paint your shoes red? Fine. But do Mommy a favor and use the pink one next time.

This went on for a lot longer than it should have. I felt like I needed to give them time to mourn the separation of Mom and Dad. How much, you ask?

My mom: A forever student whose forgiveness and vivacity are a wonderful example

Dear Mom:

I am not sure how to begin a letter to someone who is responsible for my existence here.

We have so many memories and I learn more from you in my adulthood than ever (having more than something to do with my maturity).  Some of my favorite memories from childhood involve parties, food and always something creative.

One of my first memories with you, was of the smell of clay as you were throwing pots in the garage of our house.  I loved the smell and I was captivated by the graceful movement of your hands, molding the clay.  You would squeeze the sponge and I would stare, trying not to blink, as a big lump of mud would magically form into a beautiful bowl or a vase or be pulled into a plate.  I was amazed at how your thumb would create a groove around the outside of the plate.  It was an amazing partnership between your fingers and the Earth.  I also loved to see you working in the garden.   You loved flowers, plants, trees.  You were (are) amazing at designing the shape of the garden itself and, every season, I couldn’t wait to see how the blooms exploded.

A memory that will always seem like yesterday is that of my 6th grade birthday party.  I was nervous about it, because some of the more “popular” girls were coming.  It was a smashing success… You had arranged a delicious dinner,  beautifully coordinated table decor, fun activities/games that my friends thought thought were so “cool.”  That was HUGE!

The lessons I’ve learned from you over time are many and cover all kinds of topics.  The divorce and other life events presented seemingly insurmountable obstacles, however, you have taken so much responsibility for healing over the years.  Forgiving.  Renewing.  Watching you learn how to value yourself through your faith has been incredibly encouraging.  Over the years, as I have grown into a woman, a mom, a wife, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the freedom that grace has to offer.

You are forever a student of everything around you.  Your curiosity and vivacity come together to exhume a celebration of life and God’s creation that is so inspiring!!!!  I am desperate to imitate that.  Lastly, your art is contagious and your love for children and teaching encourages my love for my children and teaching.  You embrace/support my family and all of your grandchildren with abandon.

Mom.  Noni.  Barbara Lee Sparks.

I love you.

AnneMarie

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AnneMarie Anderson is a 41-year-old wife, Real Estate broker, mother of two (8 & 6).  She grew up here in Colorado, went to CSU and moved to NYC for 9 years, then returned to the Mile High City.

How can I navigate my marriage problems with a child in the midst?

Dear Mama Drama:

My husband and I have recently been struggling with our relationship. We are going to counseling, but I’m concerned about how the situation and our interactions are impacting our three-year-old son.

(Photo Credit)

I don’t know how much he understands when things get tense between my husband and I or when one of us needs to leave due to intense feelings. We don’t argue in front of him, but there are times when the tension is thick and I know he can feel it.

We are contemplating separating and I am wondering how to talk with him about this if that happens as well as how much to tell him about what is going on.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Assess, Ask and Act: How You Can Support Someone Through Loss and Transition

Trying to support a friend or family member while they are going through a major life transition can be a very helpless feeling.  We don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to act.  Are we being supportive enough?  Are we too much “in their business”?  I haven’t heard from her in awhile…does that mean she wants me to leave her alone?

My “major life transition” happened four years ago when I became a widow.  Since then, I have realized that the need for support doesn’t just happen when someone dies:  Divorce, job loss, infertility…so many things can completely change the scope or our lives.  And in fact, that’s what loss is:  Losing the life you thought you were going to have.