Divorce In Colorado - Disclosures (Part I)
By Courtney A. Ryder
Domestic Relations Paralegal
The Gasper Law Group
(Note: Courtney is no longer with the firm as she was "PCS'd" with her husband who is serving our country in the United States Army. We would like to thank Courtney for her time with us and thank her husband, John, for his service to our country)
So here we are. You or someone you know is either starting a new case, or already underway in the Domestic Relations process. I say Domestic Relations rather than Divorce or Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (Child Custody) because both are considered Domestic Relations cases as described by Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 16.2, therefore both include Form 35.1: Mandatory Disclosures.
Mandatory Disclosures is a legal description of everyday financial paperwork that everyone has. This includes, but is not limited to, bank accounts, housing paperwork (rental agreements, mortgage payments, buying/selling paperwork, etc), and Debts (student loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.). I say not limited to, not only to poke fun at our profession, but also to point out that Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 16.2 (e) and Form 35.1 are quite extensive. Most people do not take the time to read the Instructions thoroughly and therefore it causes a bottleneck in the disclosure process.
Before we delve too deeply into why disclosures are important you must understand the importance of the Financial Statement. The Financial Statement is the main ingredient of you meal while disclosures are the spices that satisfy the palate of the judicial system. The Financial Statement is a calculating spreadsheet of your finances during that particular period of your life. You may submit an updated Financial Statement if you get a promotion/lose your job, or have any other significant monetary change in your life. The Financial Statement is the best way to ‘explain’ to the Court what you are making, spending money on, and what sort of debts you have incurred during your marriage, for example. This is a Statement that the Court will scrutinize when deciding Child Support and/or Spousal Maintenance.
Hopefully you are starting to realize that although calling banks, pulling out your old statements and delving into personal trusts may feel awkward and a violation of some sense of personal space, however the alternative may be an even bigger violation. To not to comply with Rule 16.2 (e) means you may unfairly be penalized (i.e. strict Child Support regulations) when you may have very well received a verbal pat on the back (i.e. less than what you are already paying). This is not to say to that you do all the right things (i.e. comply with Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2 (e)) and you may not be asked to pay more in Spousal Maintenance or Child Support. Weirder things have happened. Some people feel that if they ‘hide’ their uncle’s trusts or ‘hide’ their second income they may not have to pay any sort of Support…this is completely incorrect. The more forthright you are on your Statement and with your disclosures the better your Counsel will be able to represent to the Court your current financial situation and may be able to work with the Court to find some middle ground.
So back to our bottleneck. The bottle neck occurs when people push to have the divorce/case filed and then do not pay attention to gathering their disclosures. Disclosures must be exchanged with the other party/parties within 40 days of filing a new case. As a Paralegal I have seen countless individuals come through our doors that do not fully understand or embrace what C.R.C.P. 16.2 (e) Form 35.1, state. However they are the ones that are often are unhappy with me, the Court, and the Attorney on the 41st day after filing as we have been slapped by Opposing Party, Opposing Counsel, and the Court because we are not in compliance with exchanging our disclosures.
If you want to save some time and money (since a Paralegal’s time is similar to an Attorney’s time, i.e. money) you may want to take an active role in this process. The disclosure and discovery process (we will save the topic of Discovery for a later date) are very Paralegal-time intensive. The bottleneck occurs when the client receives multiple financial statement packets, phone calls, emails and letters from the Paralegal assigned to their case regarding missing bank statements, paystubs, or other disclosures. The time (i.e. money) that the client has just spent dodging, not paying attention to, or just plain not caring, has started to greatly increase. Usually this amount is more than the client would like to spend therefore creating animosity rather than creating solutions for the case.
I urge those of you reading this (you get an A+ for being proactive) to start to gather any financial documents described in Rule 16.2 (e) and Form 35.1 for your Attorney’s review. Though you may not understand them or think they matter, your Attorney may disagree. Something as simple as a $20.00 check to Opposing Party can show ‘good-faith’ payments of Child Care (i.e. medicine) for example.
Please be sure to listen to your Attorney and Paralegal as they are there to help and guide you through this process. When they ask you for these documents they are not trying to pry or to be nosey, but rather they are trying to gather as much information as possible to represent your case to the best of their ability in Court.
I have included a link to view Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 16.2 (e), Form 35.1, and a link to view a sample Financial Statement.
Please review them and if you have any questions please feel free to contact the Gasper Law Group at (719) 277-7779.
As always thank an Attorney and hug a Paralegal. ;)