Divorce & Separation

 

divorcedTogetherWhether a child or children are involved or not, “Divorce Together.”  Ending a marriage or partnership  is a difficult time in most people’s lives. Balance Advocate therefore established a simple 3-step process for you to amicably finalize your divorce or separation.  Mediation is a healthier choice for you emotionally and financially.

Take your first step towards paving the way for a happy future by giving us a call! Click through the step-by-step menu below to learn more.

 

Ties off, meet your Mediator.

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TIES ON: I am a dedicated professional with a commitment to mediation based on my belief that, with help, couples can find a less traumatic, less costly and an altogether better path to arrive at an agreement to move on in your respective lives. I am committed to bring the best alternatives and tools that I possibly can through continued education and training to make your divorce or separation less stressful.

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TIES OFF: Living in Colorado was an easy choice. When I am not working I am skiing, snowboarding, mountain and road biking, rafting and generally enjoying our great state.  Divorce can be a set back yet you can also choose to take a step forward.  I have experienced the pain of divorce both emotionally and financially yet I have found a productive path to lead a happy life.  I want to do all that I can to help couples reach constructive and fair agreements in hopes that you too will find a path that leads to your next step towards a happy life.

Overview of the 3 Step Process

I. Advantages of Mediation Over Divorce Trials

If you don't make the decisions lawyers will influence your Judge to issue Orders that may not reflect the best plan for your future. The fact is preparation for trial is costly as attorney fees add up for separate attorneys billing for every phone call let alone the cost to prepare for and to attend trial. Couples face the gamesmanship of the legal system often played by two attorneys -- rather than one mediator -- which commonly depletes assets you have accumulated during your marriage.  Mediation provides a means to avoid repetitive temporary hearings and the related cost for trials making divorce mediation your most affordable choice.

You have taken the first step to preserve control over your future to establish:

1. How your property should be divided and debts assigned;

2. Your parenting plan to determine: (a) how you will make major decisions about your children; (b) how you will share time with them; and (c) how you you arrange to support their needs;

3.  What type of spousal support, if any, should be included in the final orders for one partner or the other.

II.Balanced Solutions Based on Collaboration

The process is informal and is intended to empower couples to make decisions for themselves while meeting the obligations of the legal system to arrive at a parenting plan if children are involved and an equitable distribution of assets and debts based on the individual circumstances of each couple.  The Balance Advocate process walks you through a step-by-step process to assist you in making important decisions while lessening the chances that you will forget to address unique issues to your divorce or separation.  Each step is designed to walk you through a check list of considerations to prepare for your mediation with the ultimate goal of arriving at a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that you will file with the Court from which you will ask the Court to issue Final Orders based on the MOU.

Have unique tax issues, a family business or two?  Balance Advocate will help you identify and align the resources you need to make informed decisions based on the facts related to your individual situation.  This is all part of Balance Advocate's step process.

III. Mediator is Neutral and Shall Act as Your Scrivener

CONFIDENTIALITY: Mediators or attorneys acting in the capacity as a mediator may not provide legal advice to you and all your communications are strictly confidential.  Even the Judge cannot insist to hear what you talked about with few exceptions involving public safety issues.  This unique relationship allows each party to speak to the Mediator with the complete confidence that what you share will not be repeated without your authorization. This provides the Mediator a chance to assist both parties to arrive at a solution that is mutually acceptable and most beneficial, with balance, to all parties.

MEDIATOR AS NEUTRAL:  As neutral, we assist both parties regardless of who contacted us first.  Both parties must call us to confirm their willingness to participate as the process is strictly voluntary and, thus, we won't initiate a call to the second party.  Once we have spoke to both parties we will forward an engagement letter together with a list of helpful information to gather in advance of the mediation.

IN PERSON OR SKYPE: We prefer to conduct the mediations in person but life circumstances do not always permit or may not be best for other reasons if, by example, protection orders exist between the parties.  Balance Advocate provides innovative solutions through its Business Skype account including multi-party video and/or audio conferencing.

 

Step 1 - Agreement to Mediate & Assembly of Documents

I. Agreement to Mediate

  • The first step is for couples to mutually agree to mediate and then both parties must call Balance Advocate to express their interest to do so. When you call you can talk directly with your mediator to answer any questions you may have at no charge.
  • Balance Advocate is committed to support Colorado's Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) who sets hourly rates well below market rates (about 50% off Balance Advocates normal billing rates for Commercial mediation).  Balance Advocate will honor the then existing ODR rate (currently $60/hour per party).
    • If you have hired an attorney ask your attorney to explain the cost of going to trial versus arriving at amicable terms via mediation.
    • Balance Advocate's primary mediator, David Fiore, is a trained legal professional but his role is very different as a neutral mediator tasked to help you arrive at mutually agreeable terms without the role as advocate that an attorney is charged with. Attorneys have a duty to advocate for your individual respective interest which can result in costly trials if the parties are adverse.
    • If you have not hired an attorney and are self represented (pro se), this alone saves you 50% of the cost if you were to each hire an attorney.  Attorney's rates vary but commonly range from $200 per hour to as much as $1,000 per hour.
    • Balance Advocate provides an added resource with significant, diverse commercial and small business experience to assist you and/or your attorney to sort through the complexities of your personal situation including couples with complex property or business interest.
  • Balance Advocate will send an agreement to mediate to both parties who must  sign the agreements which may be signed in counterpart (separately).
  • Balance Advocate accepts all major credit cards that you can make the required payment to schedule your mediation.
  • You are then on your way to schedule the mediation and to complete the few simple tasks required by the Court so that your mediator can help you work out a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Judge to consider when issuing temporary and final orders.

II.  Assembly of Documents & Mandatory Disclosures

A.  Sworn Financial Statement: Colorado requires that both parties must complete a Sworn Financial Statement on the forms provided by the Court. It is likely that your Family Court Facilitator, an officer of the court, will required you to fill this out prior to being referred to mediation. You should complete this form and the supporting schedule and submitted it to both the Court and provide a copy to Balance Advocate in advance of your scheduled mediation.  For your convenience, you may click on the Colorado Court's logo below for a direct link to all the court forms or simply download the Sworn Financial Statement from the Word version or PDF version links below all located in the Forms section of Step 1.

B.  Other Legal Mandatory Disclosure Requirements: Colorado law requires that you must provide complete and accurate copies, which may replace originals, of certain documents.  You will need to provide Balance Advocate with copies of these documents so that your mediator can review the documents in advance of your first scheduled mediation. Your mediator is trained to assist you in organizing the mandatory disclosure documents by creating spreadsheets specific to your own disclosure of assets and debts to help both parties make informed decisions about how to make property divisions.  Both parties must assemble the documents and cannot rely on the other party.  The documents you must assemble include:

  • Sworn Financial Statement noted above
  • Income Tax Returns (Most Recent 3 years)
  • Personal Financial Statements (Last 3 years)
  • Business Financial Statements (Last 3 years)
  • Real Estate Documents
  • Personal Debt
  • Investments
  • Employee Benefits
  • Retirement Plans
  • Bank/Financial Accounts
  • Income Documentation
  • Employment and Education-Related Child Care Documentation
  • Insurance Documentation
  • Extraordinary Child(ren) Expense Documentation
  • Other not listed above

Complete explanations of the above are provided on the Mandatory Disclosure Form 35.1. which you may download from the link below.

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Balance Advocate's system provides you with a side-by-side analysis of assets and debts so that you can work through real time allocations to achieve the balance both parties mutually agree to.

C.  Form:  Below are links to the required forms in both Word and PDF versions plus a link to the Colorado Judiciary web site for a complete list of forms for your convenience.

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Special Task - Parenting Plan, Best Interest of the Child(ren)

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN GO TO STEP 2.

I. Balance Advocate Parenting Plan Overview

A.  Overview: This step is a guide prepared by Balance Advocate for you to think about prior to your first mediation.  You can either write down concrete answers or simply show up ready to discuss your thoughts and your mediator will act as your scrivenor.  Your Balance Advocate mediator will help you prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) setting forth the plan that you have mutually determined to be in the best interest of your children.

B. Temporary Orders:  It is possible that interim orders will be entered in a domestic relations or divorce case pending the final orders hearing.  Balance Advocate can help you jointly outline a plan from which you can ask the court to issue temporary orders based on the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both parties.

C. Final Orders: Final Orders are not bound to any temporary orders that may be issued by the Court but if they are based on a mutually agreed to MOU then you are on your way to finalizing an MOU for the court to consider when it issues your Final Orders.  This Step only addresses issues pertaining to your children.  Step 2 and subsequent steps will address other issues to be covered in your final orders.

II. Allocation of Parental Responsibility

A.  Overview:  The court takes a children first approach and will to to determine what is in the best interest of the child when it ultimately approves an agreement reached in Mediation with regard to (1) Decision Making; and (2) Parenting Time.  It does not matter whether you are married or not, the same determination applies to non-married parents who are separating.  Balance Advocate will assist you to ensure any agreements you reach with regard to a Parenting Plan reflect that your children's interest were considered.

B.  Decision Making: Typically decision making is joint or sole with regard to major decisions.  Common major decisions include:

1.  Education

2. Health, including dental and mental

3. Religion

4. Extra-curricular activities

C. Parenting Time & Plan: Presuming there are no child abuse or domestic violence issues or related protection orders then couples need to consider how they want to jointly raise their child.  Through mediation, the choice is yours. Balance Advocate will guide you through the decision making process with regard to these matters including, but not limited to:

1.  Residence - Primary / address for school

2. Removal from State

3. Parenting Time (a) schedule (overnights); (b) exchange details (communications, location, waiting, unforeseen circumstances, etc.); (c) additions, changes, unforeseen circumstances (one time only / make-up or no); (d) Transportation (safety, who, when); (e) child illness affecting parenting time; (f) right of first refusal; (g) cancellation; (h) phone calls, child telephone access, etc.

4. Holiday Parenting Time (a) start, stop, defining holiday; (b) conflict, priority with vacation.

5. Vacation Parenting Time: (a) conflict, priority with holiday

5. Communication: (a) preferred method not via children; (b) telephone, email, text; (c) mutual calendars / apps (e.g.g Google or 3rd party software); (d) non-parenting time communication (out of town itineraries, contact)

6. Extracurricular Activities: (a) who pays, (b) schedule conflict (e.g. music lessons v. sports).

7. Parents Dating, Significant Others, Overnight Visitors affecting child.

8. Health / Well-being of child: (a) notification mode or mechanism, (b) can individual act without further consent; (c) medical insurance, extraordinary expenses, uninsured medical expenses.

9. Child Support: (a) who pays who if at all; (b) when; (c) amount; (d) how, registry; (e) pay until (date of last payment); (f) deviation.

10. Education

11. Life Insurance

12. Dependency Exemptions

13. Other

 

Step 2 - Intake, Telephone Interview & Mediation

I.  Initial Intake Review

Once each party has submitted, to Balance Advocate, copies of the Sworn Financial Statement (PFS), other Mandatory Documents plus Balance Advocate's Parenting Plan Intake Form your Mediator will review all documents.  Your Balance Advocate mediator will review the documents prior to calling both parties to:

  • Develop property, assets and debt schedules in a spreadsheet form to provide an illustrative presentation to the parties so that they can work in real time to make informed decisions about allocations.
  • Identifying differences between both parties PFS and other documents provided as part of the intake process.  Differences will be discussed with both parties by telephone in advance of the mediation.
  • Developing a mediation work plan so that your mediation may proceed as efficiently as possible to minimize the time necessary to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  Balance Advocate is sensitive to minimizing your expense to lessen the burden of divorce or separation.

II.  Telephone Interview

Your Balance Advocate mediator will arrange to discuss with both parties individually, by telephone or Skype, the work plan prior to your mediation.  If further documents are needed he will inform you at this time.  This is also a time to make sure that your concerns are being addressed, all your questions are answered and to make sure the mediation is set to proceed in a manner that meets your expectations giving you the greatest chance for success.

III. Mediation In Person

A.  The Goal:  The goal of the mediation in person is to arrive at terms that are mutually agreeable by the parties covering all matters pertaining to your divorce or separation required by the court and that are important to you. Upon success of reaching an agreement your Mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as discussed in the final step of the process.

B.  Process & Ground RulesAt the beginning of the mediation your Mediator will go over the process and will set the ground rules to make sure there is complete agreement on how to proceed if matters become uncomfortable or contentious.  The process is designed for you to succeed and your buyin is very important.

C.  Mediation, Work Plan as a Guide:  The work plan developed in collaboration with both parties, based on information provided during the intake process, will guide the mediation.  Things come up that you did not think about during the initial process.  That is okay.  The mediator will work with both parties to guide you through the process to successfully arrive at terms that can be reduced to an MOU. In most cases we can reach an MOU with one session.  Others, depending on the complexities of your own situation, may take two or more mediation sessions.  Expect to finalize:

  • A parenting plan
  • Allocation of property
    • Debts / Assets
    • Real Estate
    • Cars and Recreation Vehicles
    • Cash on Hand
    • Life Insurance
    • Furniture, Household Goods, Other
    • Stocks, Bonds, Securities, Investments
    • Pensions
    • Misc. Assets
  • Maintenance issues
  • Income tax matters (past, transitional and future)
  • Attorneys fees, if any
  • Modification / Future Dispute Resolution matters
    • Mediation as a prerequisite?
  • Other agreement clauses
    • Full/Partial Agreement
    • Dates / Effective Dates
    • Signatures
    • Compliance and Disclosures
    • Intentions
    • Other

The State of Colorado's Form JDF 1115T is a guide, but not all inclusive, of what you should be prepared to finalize.  For your convenience you may download the forms from the links provided from Balance Advocate below.

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Step 3 - Memorandum of Understanding to File with the Court

I.  Mediator Draft of Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU)

Your Balance Advocate mediator will finalize a draft MOU incorporating all the terms that both parties agreed to.  If there is a complete agreement your MOU will indicate that you are in full agreement.  If there is not a complete agreement, that is okay.  You should memorialize what you can agree on and file an MOU that reflects that it is reflects a partial agreement of the parties.  Balance Advocate will draft the MOU on whatever basis of agreement is reached.

II.  Party Review of MOU / Legal Review

Balance advocate will provide the agreement to both parties for review.  If you have an attorney this would be submitted through your attorney for their respective review.  Balance Advocate will sheppard through any changes desired by the parties until an agreement is reached with finality.

III.  Parties Responsibility to File MOU with the Court

It is the parties responsibility to file the MOU with the Court.  Your mediator will simply file a report on the status of mediation with the court.

With an MOU in hand, you are on your way to move on with your life and, most certainly, you have spared yourselves the cost of going to trial and the emotional trauma often involved with trial!

Questions & Answers

Q: How long is the mediation?

A: Your mediation session without attorneys is usually a two hour session.  With attorneys it expect a half day mediation or 4 hours.

Q: How much will the mediation cost me?

A: Most divorce or separation cases can be mediated for $300 per party or 5 hours. Each party will be billed at the ODR rate of $60 per hour for the intake process and the mediator's time to prepare a work plan, telephone interviews, the mediation process and the drafting of the MOU. More complex cases will cost more.

Q: How can I control the cost?

A: Balance Advocate will provide an estimate of time based on the initial intake upon request.  The more thorough you are in providing documentation the more efficient the process will be.

Q: Why choose Balance Advocate?

A: David Fiore, the primary mediator of the firm, is professionally trained as a mediator and holds his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Denver College of Law. He is a committed professional and active in the Mediation Association of Colorado.  Most important, however, is do both parties trust your mediator as a neutral.  I would hope to earn your respect and trust after our initial phone call and I look forward to hearing from you.

Q: I work during the week and can't afford to take off.  Do you offer weekend mediations?

A: Balance Advocate is open to making special arrangements on a case-by-case basis to mediate on Saturdays.  Give us a call.

Q: Do you accept credit cards?

A: Yes, all major credit cards via PayPal.