Denver, Colorado Divorce Mediation Definitions

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities:  Also known as "APR."  Colorado law was changed years ago to replace the term "custody" with this phrase.  APR has two basic aspects, 1) the time which the children spend with each parent (formerly known as visitation), and 2) how decisions about the children are made, whether solely by one parent, together by both parents, or some decisions being made jointly and others being made solely by one parent.

Child and Family Investigator (CFI):  An individual with a mental health background or legal background, or both, who is appointed by the court to investigate the parties, their children and individuals involved with the family, in order to make written recommendations to the court as to issues such as parenting time (visitation) and decision-making authority regarding the children, in areas such as health, education, and religion.  The court is not required to accept the CFI’s recommendations as to what is in the best interest of the children, but it happens frequently that a majority, if not all of the CFI’s recommendations, are accepted by the court and made part of the court’s orders on contested issues.

Child Support Guidelines:  A mathematical formula calculating child support as set forth in Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-115 based primarily upon the number of children, the parties’ incomes or earning capacities, the number of overnights the children will spend with each parent each year, and specific expenses for the children such as work-related child care costs and health insurance.  There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount calculated under the guidelines should be the amount of child support ordered, with the presumption to be followed unless its application would be “inequitable, unjust or inappropriate.”  The court will not likely approve a deviation from the calculated amount of support unless there is a very good reason for the deviation which is in the best interest of the children. 

Colorado Judicial Department Website:  Located at, and produced by the Colorado State Judicial Department, there are a large number of domestic forms available, which can be either printed up and then filled in, or with data entered by the user before being printed.  Particularly helpful forms are separation agreement, parenting plan, decree of dissolution of marriage, and support order attachment to the decree.  By going through the forms, parties can often determine what issues they can or cannot agree upon.  The forms should not be seen as a substitute for adequate legal advice, since what is appropriate for a party in a particular case may be more complex and uncertain than what the forms themselves may indicate.  There is also software available on the site to calculate child support under the support guidelines.   

Decree of Dissolution of Marriage:  The final order signed by the Court making required findings under Colorado law and which grants the divorce.  The decree of dissolution may also incorporate the terms of a memorandum of understanding, separation agreement or parenting plan.  The decree may also be in the form of a decree of legal separation if both parties agree.

Decree of Legal Separation:  The order signed by the court in which the parties are legally deemed separated rather than divorced.  Since the parties’ marriage is not dissolved, neither party is able to marry a third party while the decree of legal separation is in effect.  The decree of legal separation may also incorporate the parties’ agreements just as in a decree of dissolution of marriage, such as a separation agreement, memorandum of understanding, and parenting plan.  Under Colorado law, a decree of legal separation will be converted by the court into a divorce decree upon the request of either party after six months or more has passed since the entry of the decree of legal separation, and the other party has been given written notice of the request.

Emancipation:  Under Colorado law, support for a child terminates when the child reaches age 19 unless the child is earlier emancipated, generally meaning the child is self-supporting and residing away from the parents.  Child support may also be ordered beyond age 19 if the child is disabled and unable to support himself or herself.  Child support may extend beyond age 19 if agreed to by the parties in their documents.  If the parties have a child or children who remain unemancipated after a child emancipates, child support should be recalculated under the guidelines given the parties’ circumstances at that time.  Emancipation of a child does not result in an exact proportional reduction in support.  For instance, support under the guidelines does not result in an exact one-half reduction, if the older of two children emancipates. 

Higher Education Expenses:  Under current child support laws in Colorado, the court does not have jurisdiction to order payment for college expenses for children beyond age 19 unless agreed to by the parties.  The court may enter orders

Marital Property:  Generally, any property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, and the court is required to divide the marital property in an equitable although not necessarily equal manner.

Memorandum of Understanding:  A written document setting forth agreements reached by the parties in mediation, signed by the parties and any attorneys involved.  Unless there is a written agreement signed by the parties at the conclusion of a mediation session, it is very difficult under Colorado law to have the agreements enforced by the Court.

No-Fault State:  Colorado law generally provides that issues in domestic relations cases are to be determined without consideration as to whether one of the parties has engaged in marital misconduct (oftentimes a euphemism for infidelity in marriage, but with a broader meaning under some circumstances).  In order to grant a divorce (or dissolution of marriage) under Colorado law, the court must make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning that there is no chance of reconciliation.  The court may refer the parties to marriage counseling but cannot require the parties to participate in the counseling.  As a practical matter, if one of the parties testifies that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no chance of reconciliation, it is very likely the court will ultimately grant the divorce decree.

Parenting After Divorce Class:  A class of approximately four hours which the parties in a case must attend by court order, either together or separately.  The focus of the class is to understand the effect of divorce on children, to minimize the conflict which children are exposed to in divorce or custody cases, and to avoid placing the children in the middle of the conflict.  PAD classes are also generally required in custody cases in which the parties were never married, since the situation of parents having a child in common and residing in separate residences is similar to a divorce situation.  PAD classes which are approved by the court to comply with the PAD requirement, are generally set forth in the case management order provided to the parties when a case is filed with the court.  In some cases where the parties continue to have serious conflict over their children even after the divorce is granted, the parties may be required to attend a more intense Level II series of parenting after divorce classes.

Parenting Time:  Time that the parties’ children spend with each of the parents, or with other individuals involved in the case.

Permanent Orders:  Orders issued in the case resolving the issues between the parties either after a contested hearing or approving agreements of the parties, or some combination of the two, usually as part of the court entering a decree of dissolution of marriage or legal separation.

Petition:  The document filed by the petitioner (or by both parties if filing jointly) which starts the domestic case, and sets forth information such as the date of the marriage, date of separation if the parties have separated, current addresses of the parties, children of the marriage, and other required information.  A form for the petition may be found at the Colorado State Judicial Department website.

Protection Orders:  Orders entered by a district, county or municipal court which may prevent a party from having contact with the party requesting the protection order or their children, excluding a party from particular locations such as a residence or schools, as well as other provisions set forth in the statute which are designed to prevent domestic violence.  Protection orders in some circumstances may be issued ex parte, meaning that the other party is not given notice of the hearing at which the temporary protection order is being requested.  The restrained party must be personally served with a copy of the protection order, and if a temporary protection order is issued, there must be a hearing within 14 days of issuance of the temporary protection order to determine if the order should become permanent, should be modified, or should be vacated.  There is also an automatic temporary injunction set forth in the summons, which is issued when a dissolution of marriage or legal separation action is filed, under which among other provisions, the parties are restrained from molesting or disturbing the peace of the other party, and from engaging in certain financial or property transactions except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life.  The temporary injunction is in effect upon the respondent being served with a copy of the summons and petition, or signing a written waiver of service, or the parties filing the petition jointly.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO):  A detailed form of order which accomplishes the transfer of all or part of a party’s retirement account to the other party, as a part of a separation agreement or permanent orders issued by the court.  The drafting of a QDRO may require the use of an expert who specializes in QDROs, and may cost several hundred dollars.  The retirement account institution may also have a form which they require to be used in the drafting of a QDRO.  

Rule 16.2 Disclosures:  Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure automatically requires the parties in each dissolution of marriage or legal separation case to provide certain documents to the other party, such as a signed and notarized sworn financial statement, tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, and other documents.  Information regarding the disclosures can be obtained at the Colorado State Judicial Department website,

Separation Agreement:  A formal written document setting forth in great detail the parties’ agreements for permanent orders in a case, addressing many issues such as division of property, spousal maintenance (alimony), payment of debts, attorney fees, and tax filing provisions.  The separation agreement may also address matters pertaining to the children such as allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, tax dependency exemptions, and health insurance for the children.  It is also common for child-related issues to be addressed in a separate written document known as a parenting plan.  A separation agreement and parenting plan are required to be reviewed by the court before being made a court order as part of a decree, and the agreements will not be approved if the court finds they are unconscionable or not in the best interest of the children.

Spousal Maintenance:  Formerly known as alimony, spousal maintenance is an amount which one party pays to the other party for support of the other party, as opposed to support for the parties’ children.  Maintenance may be for a specific period of time or open-ended, or may terminate upon certain events such as the death of the payor or recipient, or remarriage of the recipient.  As agreed upon by the parties, maintenance may be made contractual, generally meaning that the amount and duration of the maintenance cannot be varied despite any change of circumstances of either party, except as otherwise specifically set forth in the agreement.  Statutory provisions regarding maintenance may be found at Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-114.  For purposes of temporary orders only, there is a presumed statutory formula for calculating maintenance if the parties’ combined incomes or earning capacities are $75,000 or less, basically calculated by subtracting 40% of the higher earning spouse’s income or earning capacity, less 50% of the lower earning spouse’s income or earning capacity.

Summons:  A document issued by the clerk of the court when a case is filed (or by the attorney for petitioner, if petitioner is represented), which notifies the other party that the domestic relations case has been filed.  The summons also contains the automatic temporary injunction in effect as to both parties once the case has been filed and the other party has been properly served.

Sworn Financial Statement:  A document setting forth the income, expenses, assets and liabilities of a party, which is required to be signed by that party and notarized, and provided to the other party.  The sworn financial statement is very detailed, and requires a considerable amount of time to properly prepare.  The sworn financial statement is required to be substantially in the form set forth at the Colorado Judicial Department website.

Tax Dependency Exemptions:  In connection with the parties’ children, the exemptions for federal and state income tax purposes is an issue which must be agreed upon by the parties in their written documents, or the court is required to allocate the dependency exemption as part of the permanent orders.  Generally under Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-115, the court is required to allocate the exemptions in proportion to the parties’ income percentages unless the parties have otherwise agreed.

Temporary Injunction:  Automatic provisions set forth in the summons which, among other provisions, prohibit each party from molesting or disturbing the peace of the other party, and from engaging in certain financial transactions unless in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life, and requiring the other party to be given notice of any unusual transactions.

Temporary Orders:  Orders which remain in effect until permanent orders are entered by the Court as a result of permanent agreements of the parties, or after a contested permanent orders hearing is conducted by the court.  The orders may address issues pertaining to the children such as allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, spousal maintenance, payment of debts, attorney fees and use of property.  Absent an emergency situation such as a danger of foreclosure of real estate, the court at temporary orders is without jurisdiction to order the sale of property.  By statute, temporary orders are without prejudice as to orders which may be entered at permanent orders, and the purpose of temporary orders is to preserve the status quo pending the entry of permanent orders.  If temporary orders are not resolved by agreement of the parties, it is not uncommon for the court to allow only a very limited period of time for the temporary orders hearing, such as one hour or two hours.

Uninsured Medical Expenses:  Under Colorado law, the parents are required to split the uninsured health insurance costs for the children in proportion to each parent’s income percentage of the total income, after the parent who has the primary care of the children pays the first $250 per child per year of uninsured amounts.

Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment: Situations in which a party declines to work to his or her full capacity given his or her experience and training.  If a court determines that a party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court will impute to that party the income which the court determines that party is capable of earning.  The court cannot require a party to work, but can enter orders based upon the potential income of that party.