For the next several months, the Andersen Law PC blog will spell out the 12 steps of divorce.
Spoiler alert: Art and Angela Aingel take the high road. While divorce is not usually a fun process (I have yet to hear someone tell the judge at final orders, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”), the Aingels have a relatively straightforward experience before moving forward with their separate lives. Meanwhile, Draco and Desdemona DeVille make choices that, while initially tempting, detour them down a bad road laden with unnecessary drama, painful court appearances and skyrocketing costs.
The following is a roadmap of the 12 steps of a divorce proceeding as told through the stories of the Aingels and DeVilles. You can read a basic explanation of the steps of divorce here.
And if you want to discuss your specific situation, feel free to call me with. I am happy to walk you through your own next steps and to answer questions in your complimentary initial phone or videoconference consult.
Here is how we will cover the 12 steps of divorce:
3 – sworn financial statement, disclosures, and parenting classes
8 – temporary orders
9 – mediation
Step 3: School and Homework: Completing your Sworn Financial Statement, Disclosures and Attending Parenting Class
Angela Aingel sighed at her computer screen. It was overwhelming to have to get together all this paperwork for her divorce. She hated bills and paperwork. Art had handled all of those things during their marriage, and she was glad to have nothing to do with it.
Now that she was getting a divorce, however, Angela was disturbed by how much she did not know. Her attorney had asked her about basic things, like the amount of the monthly mortgage payment, how much they owed on the house and whether her husband had retirement accounts and a pension. Angela was both alarmed and embarrassed to answer each question with a sad shake of her head and shrug of her shoulders. She had no idea about any of it.
So there she sat, learning for the first time that Art had a pension from his former employer, that he had over $400,000 in an IRA, and that their mortgage payments were $4,000 per month due to the first and second mortgages, as well as a HELOC (home equity loan) used to finance the kitchen remodel and to pay off credit cards. They had a lot of debt too. No wonder Art got so worked up every time he went over the bills, snapping at the kids and her and running through the house turning off all the light switches to bring down the electric bill.
Angela was learning a lot by doing her disclosures, but it was not easy going. She was glad she had not put this off until the last minute. For example, when Angela tried to log into her bank account, she realized she did not have the password. She emailed Art, and the email bounced back. He had changed his email account. This was a bit upsetting. Another sign of endings and change. She texted him and he called back with the password. He could not miss the opportunity, however, to tell her that she did not have a head for numbers and that she should just rely on him to prepare all the divorce papers. She would just mess it up, he said. They began bickering and the call did not end well.
Angela went back to work and moved on to the Visa account, but when she sent the latest credit card statement to print, the printer was out of ink — again! Grrr.
It was all too much, and it did not help that her friend, Desdemona DeVille, kept texting selfies from her Cherry Creek shopping spree, trying on and buying designer clothes with comments like “U shd be here gf!” Desdemona always did whatever she wanted, and divorce was no different. She refused to go to the parenting class, refused to do her financials, refused to get a job and insisted on spending money like an heiress.
Angela received a text with a photo of a man’s back end in tight Lucky jeans. “Do these jeans make my boy toy’s butt look phat?” said the latest text from Desdemona.
Gross! Angela set her phone aside and looked at the time on the computer screen. She had been at this almost two hours. Maybe Desdemona was right that Angela was a goodie-two-shoes and that her attorney was too strict.
Angela decided to take a break, fitting in a quick walk before the children returned from time at their father’s house. Her attorney had recommended pacing herself. Both her attorney and her therapist had reminded her that she should practice good self-care during the divorce process. “It is a marathon, not a sprint,” both had frequently said. Come to think of it, Angela’s mother had said the same thing.
Angela decided to treat the homework like another workout, spending a half hour each day on it and doing her best to get every document she could. As her attorney recommended, she made a list of any missing documents or passwords she could not access. She used form JDF 1125 (Mandatory Disclosures Form 35.1) to make a list of what she needed to obtain and what was missing.
She also filled out her sworn financial statement, form JDF 1111sc. Her attorney had given her some pointers for filling it out:
For “SALARY” (support, stipends, etc.) AND “SPENDING” — what you are paid and pay, what you get in and give out, income and outgo, earnings and expenses, all money coming into your household and going out of your household, it is only the children and you “SEPARATELY” as a “SINGLE” mother “STARTING” your new life. This is because you need to calculate your expenses and to see if your income will cover them going forward.
“For everything you “OWN” and “OWE” — assets and debt, as “OURS: ONE and the OTHER” jointly or together “OVER” your lifetimes put both your husband and you in your “OLD” life (married life) which you are now dividing. He will be P for petitioner and you will be R for respondent and things owned together are J for joint. This is for the division of property, and they need to look at everything in order to divide it.
And, yes, Angela bit the bullet and attended a parenting class, despite Desdemona telling her to skip it. Angela found a list of online and in-person classes at the Colorado judicial website and elected to go in person. She invited Art to attend with her, but it turned out that he had already completed the online class. By going together, they could have shared ideas, but his work schedule did not permit it.
Art emailed Angela’s attorney a copy of his mandatory Certificate of Completion of the Parenting Class (which the instructor gave him) and must be filed with the court. For some reason, it really bugged Angela that he had completed the class before her, as if she were behind. But her attorney reassured her it was fine, and it was good that they both were on track.
Knowing that Art was working hard to hit all the deadlines on his end inspired Angela to do the same thing. She did not want to get a bad result in the divorce simply because she did not do her homework.
The parenting class was not so bad. Angela learned that you are not supposed to put the kids in the middle and should never put down the other parent to them. NEVER discuss the divorce court proceedings with them. These things stress out the children. Angela realized that she should keep her discussions of court away from them. Desdemona talked about it all the time with her children though, as if they were attorneys. No wonder they were always so upset and acting out, both of them getting suspended from school for using cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol, adult behaviors and arguably unsavory ones at that. Desdemona treated her children like confidantes, and they were not equipped for the role. Angela decided to protect Asher and Abby, allowing them to stay kids and not forcing them to take sides.
Angela realized that she had done the right thing when Desdemona showed up at her doorstep, a bottle of wine in hand and her eyes full of tears. “I haaate divorce!” Desdemona wailed melodramatically, mascara streaming down her cheeks. “Look what this horror show of a judge did to me!” She shoved a crumpled court order into Angela’s hands.
Angela could not understand the details of the court order, but it appeared to state that Desdemona was in contempt of court for failing to turn over required disclosure documents and gave her five days to turn over all required documents as well as to attend the required parenting class.
“I am going to be working around the clock to get all this done!” Desdemona shrieked. “And I had to pay his attorney fees too! His attorney already put in a bill for over $5,000 — for one motion! And I can’t even pay my own attorney. He said he will be withdrawing if I do not replenish his retainer by the end of the week! You don’t happen to have any extra cash, do you?” Desdemona looked up sheepishly at Angela.
“Gosh, I am really sorry, but no,” Angela said (thinking of the shopping spree. Hopefully, Desdemona had not removed all the tags yet and had saved the receipts.) “And I have to leave now too. Sorry. Asher is in the spelling bee. Do you want to come watch?”
“No,” Desdemona sighed. “I guess maybe I should do some of the things the court ordered me to do. Can you believe he told me I was in La La Land? The nerve of him! And to think I wore my tightest skirt and had been flirting with him the whole hearing too … for nothing!”
Desdemona continued, “The judge said he was sick of hearing both parties point the finger at each other for not doing disclosures. He said the wife always says the husband has all the documents and then the husband says the wife has them. The judge said both parties need to try to find them as best they can. And my attorney just sat there agreeing with him. My own attorney said he told me to turn the documents over and that I refused. Which is true. But still! My cousin’s neighbor’s girlfriend’s nutritionist said that her brother’s uncle’s dog walker got divorced and never had to turn over a single document and got alimony for life! It’s sooooo unfair!”
“I’m sorry, honey,” Angela said. “But I do think you need to take this seriously. Our financial futures are at stake, not to mention our children’s welfare.”
Angela took Desdemona’s poor result to heart. She finished up her own disclosures and filed her certificate of compliance with mandatory disclosures with the court. For some reason, she liked knowing that she completed everything before Art did and that she did it by herself.
Another interesting thing happened as Angela crossed this dreaded task off her “to do” list. By learning about her finances, Angela felt empowered and more confident about planning the next step of her divorce. Doing the work gave her butterflies at first, but having it done felt great. She could not help mentally dividing the assets in her head and thinking about how to negotiate for a good result. Maybe this was what her attorney meant by getting ahead of the game.
Meanwhile, Art received a case management order and notice of an initial status conference. He mentioned to Draco DeVille that he would be missing out on the annual spring bike trip in Moab to attend the status conference.
“That’s utter bull!” Draco shouted. “You don’t have to go to that stupid thing. It’s just a conference, not a trial. I skipped mine and who cares? I heard you are in some office with a court facilitator lady half the time, not even a real judge. Just tell your attorney to make them reschedule. Bros first; court’s the worst. Yolo!”
QUESTIONS FOR NEXT MONTH: Should Art skip the initial status conference? Should he get a continuance postponing the conference?
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