Colorado Legal Terms
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR):
ADR is a procedure for settling a dispute by means other than litigation or court intervention. The most commonly used methods of ADR are mediation and arbitration.
Also known as a "prenuptial agreement" or "marital agreement." A contract or agreement made before marriage to resolve issues of support (maintenance/alimony) and property division in the event that the a spouse dies or the marriage is dissolved.
A method of alternative dispute resolution involving the use of a neutral third-party whose decision is binding and cannot be appealed to the court. Arbitration is usually cheaper and quicker than resolving a dispute through the court system; however, there is some risk involved because the decision of the arbitrator cannot be appealed.
An unpaid or overdue debt (usually referred to as child support arrearages).
Best Interests of the child:
The standard, which includes a detailed and specific list of factors, used in all parental responsibilities cases in Colorado to determine the allocation of decision-making resonsibilites and parenting time.
Child and Family Investigator (CFI):
The role of a CFI is to collect relevant information needed to make an informed recommendation concerning the best interests of the child. A CFI must be appointed by the court, pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-116. CFIs can be mental health professionals or attorneys.
Child's Legal Representative (CLR):
A CLR is tasked with representing the best interests of the child. CLRs investigate and make recommendations to the court.
Civil Protection Order:
A Civil Protection Order is commonly known as a restraining order. A Civil Protection Order can be issued to protect victims of domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, abuse of the elderly or at–risk adult, physical assault, or threats. In order to obtain a temporary protection order, the victim must first prove to the court that imminent danger exists to the person or persons seeking the protection. After a temporary protection order is issued, the protected person and the restrained person are required to return to court for a hearing to determine whether the temporary protection order should be made permanent. Although a Civil Protection Order is not issued under the criminal statute, violation of a Civil Protection Order can be considered criminal.
A legally recognized marriage between a man and a woman who have not obtained a marriage license or participated in a solemnization or ceremony but whose actions otherwise show that the parties acted in good faith as husband and wife. Colorado has recognized common law marriage since at least 1907, and Colorado is one of only a few states recognizing a common law marriage as a valid marriage. Once a common law marriage is established, Colorado does not differentiate in any way between a common law marriage and a statutory marriage.
This term is no longer used in Colorado. The term "custody" has been replaced with the term "parental responsibilities," which is an umbrella term for decision-making and parenting time.
Decision-making refers to the ability of parents to make a binding, major decision concerning the child. Courts will allocate decision-making authority either jointly to both parents or solely to one parent. Generally, courts prefer an award of joint decision-making.
A method of discovery where a witness answers questions out-of-court but under oath. The answers given in a deposition can later be used in court for various different reasons. This method of discovery is rarely used in family law cases.
Discovery is the act or process of gathering information in litigation. The primary methods of discovery are interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, and depositions. In Colorado family law cases, the statutes automatically allow limited discovery without seeking permission. It is standards in the family law cases that we handle to issue interrogatories and requests for production of documents.
Dissolution of Marriage:
The technical term for "divorce."
A legal term that is usually interchangeable with "residence." If a person has more than one residence, "domicile" refers to the person's permanent home, the place to which that person intends to return and remain even though currently residing somewhere else.
Emancipation occurs when the child turns 19 years of age. The child can be "emancipated" before he or she turns 19 if the child marries, enters the armed forces or is otherwise self supporting. Child support can continue beyond the age of 19 if the parties agree in writing or if the court determines that child is mentally or physically disabled.
Equitable distribution is the division of marital property by a court in a divorce proceeding under statutory guidelines that provide for a fair, but not necessarily equal, allocation of the marital property. Equitable distribution is the theory of property division applied in most states except California, Louisiana, and New Mexico.
Guardian Ad Litem (GAL):
A GAL is a lawyer appointed by the court to appear in a case on behalf of a child or an incompetent person. A GAL is responsible for representing the best interests of the child or incompetent person.
Initial Status Conference:
In Colorado, at the commencement of each case, the parties are required to attend an Intial Status Conference within 40 days of a filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. There are a few narrow exceptions, but generally, all parties and their attorneys are ordered to attend the ISC. The purpose of the ISC is to orient the parties to the case management process and to identify issues that are disputed or agreed upon. Sometimes, usually in the event of an emergency, the court may enter interim orders. Additionally, the ISC is an opportunity to request a temporary orders hearing.
A method of discovery whereby one party issues a set of written questions to an opposing party.
Invalidity of Marriage:
Also known as "annulment." An invalidity of marriage, or annulment, is a judicial declaration that the marriage is void and establishes that the marital status never existed. A dissolution of marriage terminates the marriage as of a certain date whereas a declaration of invalidity establishes that the marriage never existed.
In Colorado, the only distinction between a "legal separation" and a dissolution of marriage (divorce) is that the parties to a legal separation are not free to remarry. In a proceeding for a legal separation, the same type of division of marital property, maintenance, child support and allocation of parental responsibiliities take place. Additionally, parties to a legal separation are treated as “unmarried” for federal income tax purposes.
Also known as alimony, maintenance is financial support given by one spouse to another which is paid as a result of divorce or legal separation. Maintenance may end after a specified time or upon the death, cohabitation or remarriage of the receiving party. An award of maintenance is not guaranteed, and the amount and duration of maintenance varies from case to case.
Marital Agreement/ Prenuptial Agreement:
A contract or agreement made before marriage to resolve issues of support and property division in the event that the a spouse dies or the marriage is dissolved.
Marital property is all property acquired by either spouse between the date of the marriage and the date of the dissolution or legal separation unless the parties have a valid and enforceable prenuptial agreement detailing what property will not be considered "marital property." Additionally, any increases or decreases in the value of a spouse's "separate property" is considered marital property. There are a few exceptions to the rule that all property acquired during the marriage is marital. An example is property acquired by gift or inheritance. Marital property in a divorce or legal separation, regardless of who acquired the property, is subject to "equitable distribution" by the court, unless the parties have agreed otherwise in a prenuptial agreement.
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution involving a neutral third party who tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution without seeking court intervention. Colorado courts often require parties to a family law case to participate in mediation before allowing them to participate in a court hearing. Unlike arbitration, mediation is non-binding on the parties.
Parental Responsibilities (APR):
In 1999, the Colorado Legislature changed the term "custody" to "allocation of parental responsibilities." Parental Responsibilities is comprised of decision-making authority and parenting time, which are two distinct concepts.
Parental Responsibility Evaluation (PRE):
In all proceedings concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court has the authority, either upon the motion of either party or upon its own motion, to order a PRE. However, unlike a CFI, a PRE must be a licensed mental health professional. The purpose of the PRE is to assist the court in making its orders concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities.
A parenting coordinator is a statutorily created role. A parenting coordinator is a neutral third party who assists the parents in resolving disputes concerning decision-making and/or implementation of the parenting plan. A parenting coordinator can be appointed by the court or by an agreement of the parties. However, a court may not appoint a parenting coordinator absent agreement of the parties unless the court makes specific findings about the necessity of a parenting coordinator.
A Parenting Plan is a legal document which sets forth with specificity the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parenting Plans can be entered into by agreement of the parties or by order of the court.
A common set of "requests for production of documents" or "interrogatories" which have been approved by the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Pattern discovery is the most common type of discovery that we use in our family law cases.
Permanent Orders can be entered once the court finds that one of the parties has been domiciled in Colorado for at least 90 days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceedings, that the parties' marriage is irretrievably broken, and that at least 90 days has elapsed since the court acquired jurisdiction over the responding party. Permanent Orders are entered into in conjunction with the decree of dissolution of marriage, and they are orders respecting all issues over which the court has jurisdiction, such as parental responsibilities, maintenance, child support, attorney fees and division of marital property.
Presumption of Paternity:
The presumption that the faither of a child is the man who (1) is/was married to the child's mother when the child was conceived or born, (2) married the mother after the child's birth and agreed to either have his name on the birth certificate or to support the child, or (3) welcomed the child into his home and later held the child out as his own.
A Latin term that refers to a party who represents oneself in a court proceeding without the assistance of a lawyer.
Qualified Domestic-Relations Order (QDRO):
A QDRO is a domestic relations court order that recognizes or provides for an alternate payee's (usually the spouse's) right to receive all or part of any retirement, pension or profit-sharing plan. QDROs are required to satisfy the ERISA rule prohibiting the assignment of plan benefits.
Requests for Admissions:
A method of "discovery whereby one party issues a set of factual statements to the other party who must "admit" or "deny" the substance of the statement.
Requests for Production of Documents:
A method of "discovery." A party's written request that another party provide specified documents or other tangible things for inspection and copying.
Separate property is property owned by either spouse prior to entering into the marriage or after the marriage is dissolved. Separate property also includes property received during the marriage that the spouse receives as a gift or inheritance. However, any increase in the value of a spouse's separate property is considered "marital property." Separate property is not subject to equitable distribution.
A written agreement entered into on behalf of both parties to resolve all issues incident to the dissolution of marriage or legal separation containing provisions for maintenance, the disposition of any property owned by either parties, and the allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, and parenting time for the children. A Separation Agreement is entered into in lieu of attending the permanent orders court hearing. The provisions of a Separation Agreement (excluding issues involving children) are binding upon the court unless the court finds that the separation agreement is "unconscionable."
In a proceeding for a dissolution of marriage, legal separation or allocation of parental responsibilities, either party may request that the court enter orders regarding the temporary use of property, payment of debts, maintenance, parenting time, attorney fees, etc., to govern the parties' actions until the case is fully resolved at permanent orders. Temporary orders can be entered into without going to court, by both parties agreeing to a stipulation, or if the parties cannot agree, they can attend a temporary orders hearing where a judge or magistrate will enter orders.
Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA):
The UCCJEA is a model statute that provides uniform methods of expedited interstate custody and visitation orders. In 1997, the UCCJEA replaced the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdication Act (UCCJA) and reformed the UCCJA by bringing the UCCJA in conformity with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and the Violence Against Women Act.
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA):
UIFSA is a model statute establishing a one-order system by which a child support order issued by one state can be enforced in another state. UIFSA has been adopted in every state. The purpose of UIFSA is to make the pursuit of interstate child support more effective, consistent, and efficient by requiring all states to consistently recognize and enforce support orders issued in other states.
Venue is the term that refers to the proper place for a lawsuit to proceed, which most commonly refers to the county in which the case should be heard.
The state of Colorado is divided into 22 judicial districts. Judicial district boundaries generally are aligned with county borders, but most districts are comprised of multiple counties. The following is a list of districts and the counties they serve:
- First Judicial District - Gilpin County, Jefferson County
- Second Judicial District - Denver County, Denver Juvenile Court, Denver Probate Court
- Third Judicial District - Huerfano County, Las Animas County
- Fourth Judicial District - El Paso County, Teller County
- Fifth Judicial District - Clear Creek County, Eagle County, Lake County, Summit County
- Sixth Judicial District - Archuleta County, La Plata County, San Juan County
- Seventh Judicial District - Delta County, Gunnison County, Hinsdale County, Montrose County, Ouray County, San Miguel County
- Eighth Judicial District - Jackson County, Larimer County
- Ninth Judicial District - Garfield County, Rio Blanco County, Pitkin County
- Tenth Judicial District - Pueblo County
- Eleventh Judicial District - Chaffee County, Custer County, Fremont County, Park County
- Twelfth Judicial District - Alamosa County, Conejos County, Costilla County, Mineral County, Rio Grande County, Saguache County
- Thirteenth Judicial District - Kit Carson County, Logan County, Morgan County, Phillips County, Sedgwick County, Washington County, Yuma County
- Fourteenth Judicial District - Grand County, Moffat County, Routt County
- Fifteenth Judicial District - Baca County, Cheyenne County, Kiowa County, Prowers County
- Sixteenth Judicial District - Bent County, Crowley County, Otero County
- Seventeenth Judicial District - Adams County, Broomfield County
- Eighteenth Judicial District - Arapahoe County, Douglas County, Elbert County, Lincoln County
- Nineteenth Judicial District - Weld County
- Twentieth Judicial District - Boulder County
- Twenty-First Judicial District - Mesa County
- Twenty-Second Judicial District - Dolores County, Montezuma County
All Litvak Litvak Mehrtens & Carlton, P.C. attorneys are licensed to practice in all 22 judicial districts; however, the majority of our cases are handled in the following districts:
- First Judicial District - serving cities and communities in Gilpin County and Jefferson County, such as Arvada, Lakewood, Conifer, Evergreen, Genesee, Golden, Green Valley Acres, Hidden Valley, Ken Caryl, Morrison, Wheat Ridge, and more.
- Second Judicial District - serving cities and communities in the City and County of Denver such as Cherry Creek, Washington Park, Stapleton, West Highlands, LoDo, and more.
- Fourth Judicial District - serving cities and communities in El Paso County and Teller County such as Colorado Springs, Fountain, Monument, Manitou Springs, and more.
- Fifth Judicial District – serving cities and communities in Clear Creek County, Eagle County, Lake County, and Summit County, such as Georgetown, Empire, Idaho Springs, Avon, Eagle, Edwards, Vail, Gypsum, Leadville, Dillon, Frisco, Breckenridge, Keystone, Silverthorne, and more.
- Seventh Judicial District - serving cities and communities in Delta County, Gunnison County, Hinsdale County, Montrose County, Ouray County, and San Miguel County such as Crested Butte, Telluride, and more.
- Ninth Judicial District – serving cities and communities in Garfield County, Rio Blanco County, and Pitkin County, such as Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Snowmass, Carbondale, Basalt and more.
- Fourteenth Judicial District - serving cities and communities in Grand County, Moffat County, and Routt County, such as Craig, Granby, Grand Lake, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, and more.
- Seventeenth Judicial District - serving cities and communities in Broomfield and Adams County including Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Northglenn, Thornton, Westminster, and more.
- Eighteenth Judicial District - serving cities and communities in Arapahoe County, Douglas County, Elbert County, and Lincoln County such as Aurora, Centennial, Cherry Hills Village, Englewood, Glendale, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Sheridan, Park Meadows, the Denver Tech Center (“DTC”), Inverness, Castle Pines, Castle Rock, Parker, Lone Tree, Highlands Ranch, Meridian, and more.
- Nineteenth Judicial District - serving cities and communities in Weld County such as Greeley, and more.
- Twentieth Judicial District – serving cities and communities in Boulder County such as Longmont, Boulder, and more.