Certified Financial Analyst, Boulder Colorado

Divorce FAQs

Most Frequently Asked Questions About The Divorce Process

"I have to tell you that I'm happy to pass your name to anyone because I was so pleased to work with you. It saddens me every time another person tells me their marriage is breaking up. I'm thankful that there are people like you working in mediation. I truly believe that by going through mediation (instead of lawyers) made coping with a sad and stressful situation a little bit easier."

Q. What types of services do you offer?
A. I work with individuals and couples in three settings: 1) pre-divorce, which I call ‘getting your ducks in a row’, 2) during the divorce process and 3) post-Decree.

Pre-divorce an individual, or a couple, may come in and want to know what to expect during the process or want to begin taking steps to separate their lives but aren’t ready to file yet. These parties are looking for information or want to ensure they don’t do something that they must undo, or regret, during the divorce process.

During the divorce process I work with couples in a mediation setting as the neutral. Either party may or may not have an attorney that they are working with.

I also work with individuals during the divorce process. Those individuals may be involved in a mediation setting with another mediator, they may be litigating their case and need the advice of a financial expert, or just be looking for a ‘sanity’ check while they are working through the negotiations themselves.

Post-Decree work is usually with couples. They may want to change their Parenting Plan, rework Child Support, need to tweak their Separation Agreement-in other words to work out any issues that may come up after the Court has entered their Decree.
Q. Do I need to have an attorney to go through divorce?
A. Approximately 65-95% of the cases initially filed in Colorado are pro se, meaning without legal representation. I would recommend you, in the very least, see an attorney for legal advice before signing any final paperwork, as much of what is agreed to may not be able to be changed post-Decree. You can use an attorney on an ‘unbundled’ basis, meaning you just pay for the time you use.
Q. Can you give me/us legal advice?
A. No mediator, whether they are an attorney or not, or financial expert can give you legal advice. We can provide as much legal information as we can, but not advice. If you are wanting names of some attorneys who adhere to the principles of mediation, I can provide those to you.
Q. What can I/we expect in my/our first meeting?
A. Once a meeting is set up, I’ll send out a confirmation letter with a list of documents to begin gathering. No documents are required for the first meeting. However, it’s a good idea to begin gathering what the Court will require you to eventually exchange and most parties come to a meeting hoping to be as productive and efficient as possible in order to save time and money. We’ll go over each party’s concerns and then begin looking at the details of the marital estate and talk about the children.
Q. How much does mediation cost?
A. It depends on the complexity of the financial issues of the case, whether or not children are involved, emotional issues of the parties, how prepared the parties come to the meetings, etc. Generally speaking, the cost of mediation is less than one party’s retainer in a litigation setting. Usually within a couple of meetings I am able to begin drafting the Memorandum of Understanding, which is memorializing the agreement between the parties.
Q. What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve seen that we may encounter during the divorce process or afterwards?
A. Two things. The first one is the tax effect of settlements, including maintenance, Child Support, the division of retirement plans and the transfer of marital property from one party to the other. While the Court has the final say whether or not they’ll accept the parties’ Agreement and make it an Order of the Court, the IRS has the final ruling on how those Agreements will be interpreted.

The second major hurdle is financing or refinancing a home. Since 2008 nothing has given us more headaches than the underwriting process. The agreement the parties come to, and how it is written, is critical to one, or both, of the parties securing a mortgage after the divorce is final. Not much can be worse than one spouse being awarded the home and then finding out after the divorce is final that they don’t qualify for a mortgage.

I work with parties on both of these issues during the process to try and make sure the greatest tax benefits are realized and that the parties know beforehand whether or not they are in a good position to qualify for a mortgage post-Decree. I refer parties to a mortgage broker who is extremely familiar with the divorce process, settlement agreements and outcomes in the hopes of ensuring a smooth financing or refinance after the final Decree has been issued.
Q. Is my IRA considered marital property if it's in my name only?
A. Retirement accounts can only be titled in one party’s name. Keep in mind it’s not how an account is titled, it’s when it was earned that is important.
Q. I have never worked. Can I get Social Security after divorce?
A. If your spouse has worked and contributed to Social Security and if you have been married for 10 years or more, than you are entitled to one-half of your spouse's calculated amount of Social Security benefit or your own, whichever is higher--even if you are divorced. Your spouse still retains 100% of his/her Social Security benefit. Having one of the spouses belong to PERA, or participate in a Federal retirement plan, could change how much a spouse receives from Social Security.
Q. I heard we have to take a parenting class. Is that true?
A. Yes, if you have a child/children under a certain age, you will be required to attend a parenting class. Each District Court has a list of their approved parenting classes. You do not need to take the class with your spouse.
Q. Should my spouse and I try to work out as much as we can before coming in for a meeting with you?
A. Regarding parenting issues, I’ve seen parties able to reach consensus on many details regarding the child(ren)’s overnight schedule, activities, schools and other major decisions before they’ve come in for an initial mediation session. And if they can’t reach an agreement, we’re able to work through those issues together and also work on the communication skills and techniques that they’ll need to be able to do so on their own. The financial issues are a different matter. Money is so often a very emotional topic and one that the parties may have had a difficult time with during the marriage. What I’ve seen happen if the conversation doesn’t go well is that the parties can become very entrenched in their positions. That will make the conversation much more difficult in the mediation setting.
Q. What is a QDRO and why do I need one?
A. A QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is the legal document that divides up a qualified pension or retirement account (pension plans, PERA, 403b, 401a, 401k plans) pursuant to a divorce. The Separation Agreement and Decree are not sufficient to divide up a qualified plan; a QDRO is needed. There are many nuances that go into QDROs which make it an advocating (versus neutral) document. I refer all my QDROs to Thomas Toxby. An IRA can be divided using the Separation Agreement, provided the language in the Separation Agreement is sufficient.