The common question some clients ask is how many divorce cases have you won. Each case is subjective and each client is unique in their needs and goals. Truly there are no winners in a divorce. It is, sometimes, a traumatic unraveling of a part of a person’s life that they cannot get back. This is compounded by the division of their belongings, major assets and the separation of debts.
Colorado is an equitable division state for all assets and debts accumulated during a marriage regardless of whose name the asset or debt is in. One thing that is different in Colorado is that any property a person has before the marriage remains their separate property unless a person deliberately co-mingles the asset with marital assets. However, any increase in the value of that separate asset during the marriage can be divided.
Equitable division of assets and debts can be confusing as most people think that means everything is divided 50/50. This is not necessarily so and depends on a variety of different factors and the specific circumstances of each case. A judge may divide assets in a way which seems unequal in order to equalize the circumstances of each party. Essentially this puts both parties on the same ground financially. It can be as simple as one person gets the marital house without buying out the other party and the other gets to keep all of his/her retirement – if it is a simple exchange of values.
It is important to know what assets and debts you feel strongly you should keep or should be the other person’s responsibility. You need to understand that a lopsided division which may penalize one party is not necessarily going to be something a court will agree to or order. Being a “no fault” divorce state, Colorado does not necessarily take wrongdoing into account when dividing assets. Many judges do not want to hear about the string of affairs of one party because it is not deemed relevant to divide assets. There are always exceptions to this depending on circumstances. For instance if one party has a gambling problem, situations involving domestic violence and abuse or child abuse, and, sometimes, even one party spending lavish amounts on an extramarital affair to the detriment of the marital assets. This is not an exclusive list, but merely possible examples.
Dividing debts proportionate to each party’s income is also another way the Courts can resolve a case. If one party makes substantially more income than the other, that person may be given more of the marital debt. This can also help mitigate spousal maintenance in some cases by lowering the amount of output the spouse requesting maintenance has through debt division. Just because one spouse does not know the extent of the debt the other spouse has accumulated does not mean he/she will not be responsible for a portion of that debt. The rule is pretty clear in Colorado and anything accumulated during the marriage (asset or debt) is marital. Assets or debts accumulated after separation are not always marital but it depends on the circumstances of each case.
So equitable does not mean equal division and depending on the facts of the case can be used to a client’s advantage in negotiating settlements. Every case is different and there are a myriad of different ways to separate, divide and apportion assets and debts. Consulting a lawyer before entering into any agreement can help you achieve a level of equitable division that you can be satisfied with.
Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for http://www.rkymtnlaw.com