Colorado courts are expected to divide marital (joint) property in a fair and equitable way. The ultimate goal is a just apportionment of all marital assets over time. The law requires that marital property be divided without regard to fault. So the court will consider many factors when dividing property, but the underlying causes of the divorce, including infidelity or other perceived wrongs committed by a spouse are usually not among those factors. Some factors the court will consider include how much each spouse contributed to a particular acquisition, the value of all the property each spouse is getting, the specific economic circumstance of each spouse after divorce, and accommodations for children.
But what is marital property, and what is personal property? The answer can be a central issue in contested divorces. Generally, marital property includes everything acquired by either spouse after the marriage, regardless of whose name the property was purchased in or the type of ownership. However, there are many exceptions. Some of those exceptions are property received by one spouse as a gift or inheritance, property exchanged or traded for personal property that was acquired prior to marriage, and property that is excluded by agreement or a court order. Although these are common exceptions, they may not always apply. For example, if the value of personal property has increased during the marriage, it may be considered marital property, as will some gifts from one spouse to the other.
Retirement assets and benefits may be subject to property division by the court.
Some retirement plans require a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). In these cases, even a decree or other court order directing division may not be enough to actually make that division happen. Many attorneys contract out the preparation and drafting of a QDRO, due to the complexity of these documents, and due to the variety of retirement plan requirements. If a QDRO is not prepared correctly, a party to a divorce may learn years later that they are not able to collect from a retirement benefit they are entitled to. Ready Law can assist you with determining the need for a QDRO. Where a QDRO is required, Attorney Ready will coordinate the complex elements required to protect your interests.
Agreements regarding division of retirement plans and the rules that govern them differ based on which approach is adopted by the court or whether the parties can come to their own agreement. Some government plans are handled differently than private plans. Due to the obvious long-term importance of this aspect of asset division, it is important to discuss your own specific circumstance with a capable divorce attorney.
Agreement between the parties regarding division of property means lower litigation costs, and greater bargaining power. Those who fight over items that are not really important to them can expect exactly the same behavior from the other side, and the cost of owning that item can rise dramatically by the hour. If no agreement can be reached, the court will step in and decide the matter, usually leaving everyone unhappy in some way. On the other hand, it is dangerous to give in on the important things, and growing tired of negotiations can lead to unreasonable concessions that one party later regrets.
Your attorney can help you remain grounded and focused on your most important goals during emotionally charged disagreements.