Colorado is an “equitable division” state. Equitable does not mean equal; it means fair. The concept of equitable division requires that the court consider various factors, such as length of the marriage, contribution by each spouse, marital waste, if any, and the individual resources of each party when dividing all marital property in a manner it deems fair. If you are considering or are in the process of a divorce or legal separation, you may be concerned about how your assets and debts will be divided.
Denver Property Division Lawyer
Sharon D. Liko, P.C. represents men during divorce and legal separation by helping them obtain their fair share of the marital estate. If you own substantial assets including real estate, a business, partnership, a professional practice, a large stock portfolio, stock grants or stock options, pension plan, IRA, 401K, retirement accounts or any other valuable asset, Sharon D. Liko, P.C. can identify the best strategies for obtaining your desired results, including hiring experts for valuation. Contact Sharon D. Liko, P.C. today at (303) 534-4888 to schedule a consultation.
Sharon D. Liko, P.C. is located in Denver, and represents clients in the Denver metro area and throughout the state of Colorado, including including Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County and the communities of Littleton, Englewood, Centennial, Castle Rock, Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Golden and Arvada. Ms. Liko is also licensed to practice in Texas.
Denver Property Division Lawyer
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
All property owned by you and your wife is classified as either marital or separate property. The distinction between separate property and marital property is important because only marital property will be divided. The court must award each of you all of your separate property. Any property that you acquire after the marriage is presumed to be marital property subject to division, unless you can show it meets one of the statutory exceptions or is otherwise protected by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
Marital property includes all property acquired during your marriage until the court issues a decree of dissolution or a decree of legal separation regardless of how it is titled or who paid for it unless it meets an exception under Colorado law. Marital property includes real estate, investments such as stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, money market accounts, businesses, professional practices, IRAs, 401Ks, pension plans, retirement accounts, stock grants, stock options, automobiles, boats, planes and the like. Marital property also includes any appreciation in the value of separate property. For example, although an inheritance is separate property, if you invest it and it grows in value, the growth is considered marital property subject to division.
It does not matter how the property is titled. Whether property is titled individually, in joint tenancy, in a tenancy in common, or in a tenancy by the entirety, Colorado courts will consider it marital property subject to equitable division if it was acquired during the marriage.
Since Colorado values all property at the time of the final hearing, any property acquired after you physically separate regardless of the number of years you may be separated prior to the final hearing, is considered marital property subject to division.
Separate property includes property that you owned prior to the marriage, property that you inherit before or after the marriage, or property that you receive as a gift before or after the marriage.
While separate property is not a part of the marital estate, any increase in the value of separate property is considered part of the marital estate. For example, a house or business owned prior to the marriage will remain your separate property. However, any appreciation in the value of the house or in the value of your business is considered marital subject to division unless protected by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
You can protect property which otherwise would be deemed marital property by the execution of a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. To be enforceable, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements must strictly conform to certain statutory requirements which require the knowledge and skillful drafting of an experienced attorney. These agreements are commonly used to protect substantial premarital assets such as family inheritances and trusts, or to protect the inheritance rights of children from a first marriage. A valid prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement will be enforced.
If you own a business, partnership, or professional practice it will be valued, and your wife may be awarded a percentage of that value. Choosing the right expert to value your business, partnership or professional practice is critical.
Debts are treated like property: Debts acquired during the marriage are marital debts, while debts acquired before the marriage or after a decree of legal separation are separate. Usually, the court will award marital debt in proportion to the gross income of the spouses, so that the spouse who earns higher wages will receive a higher portion of the debt.
Factors for Equitable Distribution
The court must consider all “relevant factors” under Colorado law in equitably dividing marital property. Examples of relevant factors defined by statute include the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contributions made as a homemaker; the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective and the depletion of separate property for marital purposes.
The court may take into consideration whether the parent with whom the children reside the majority of the time should be awarded the family home, or the right to live in the family home. Therefore, child custody may be an issue that affects property division
Although not a statutory factor, courts will consider the duration of the marriage. Generally speaking, the courts will split property equally for marriages longer than 10 years.
The court may not consider marital misconduct, including infidelity, as a factor. It is also irrelevant as to who left whom, or which spouse initiates the divorce proceeding.
Negotiations in a Divorce
Most courts will require the parties to attend mediation in an effort to settle some if not all of the issues in a divorce prior to conducting a final hearing.
Parties are often successful in settling issues such as property and debt division, maintenance (spousal support) formerly known as alimony, allocation of parental responsibilities including decision making parenting time, and child support. In that event, a Separation Agreement will be drafted and signed by the parties and their attorneys.
Unless the court finds the Separation Agreement to be unconscionable, it should approve the Separation Agreement, and make it an order of the court. Creativity and strategy in negotiating Separation Agreements is important as you can offset values of one asset against values of another, thus enabling you to keep your most valuable assets. Maintenance can also be used as a bargaining tool to offset imbalance in property division.
Helping Men Maintain Assets in a Divorce
Sharon D. Liko, P.C. has been in Colorado divorce courts representing men for over 30 years. Their preparedness and tenacity on every case have gained them a successful reputation in the Colorado Family Court System. Call (303) 534-4888 today to schedule a consultation.