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What is an Initial Status Conference? And How to Prepare.

Don’t panic! The Initial Status Conference (ISC) is just a way for the court to assess where each party is at and what you agree upon. It’s informal, not a hearing, there’s no evidence or testimony required, and you don’t need a lawyer. That said, we’ve broken down the ISC process below so you can know what to expect.

Every Colorado Court is required to schedule an ISC to occur within 42 days after the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage or Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR) is filed. If you are the party being served (Respondent), it is in your best interest to call the court clerk to determine the date of your first hearing immediately.  If you are the Petitioner, the person who initiated the case, you will likely be informed of the date of the ISC upon filing the documents that initiate the case.  It is also common practice for the Petitioner to serve the Petition that initiated the case, along with the Summons, with a copy of the Notice of ISC so that the Respondent is aware of the ISC date and time as soon as he or she is personally served.

COVID Update: ISCs are currently being done by phone for the most part. The Court will inform you on how the ISC will be done, if not, contact the Court to confirm.

Here is what you can expect before, during, and after your Initial Status Conference.

To prepare for an Initial Status Conference, one of the first items on the Court’s agenda will be to inquire into the status of each party’s mandatory financial disclosures (Step 2), which are governed by Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2.  Many issues that may arise during your case will hinge on the information contained in the parties’ 16.2 disclosures.  For instance, if you and your spouse disclose complicated facts in your financial disclosures – such as the ownership of a business, ownership of stock or trusts, being self-employed, being potentially underemployed or unemployed – the court may consider that a ‘red flag’ that more extensive discovery and experts are likely to be necessary in the case.  Because discovery and expert involvement can extend the duration of time it takes to bring your case to a conclusion, that may be important information to know when selecting a date for a Permanent Orders hearing. (But remember: You only need a “permanent orders” hearing if you and your spouse are NOT in complete agreement).

You should generally also have your parenting class completed, if applicable to your situation. You must take a parenting class if your case involves dependent  children, even if you agree on all child-related issues. Generally, Courts ask that children are not brought to Court so it’s best to make child care arrangements for this time.

Depending on which county your case will be heard in, you will either meet with a Family Court Facilitator, Magistrate, or Judge for the ISC.  In some jurisdictions, if you file your case as a pro-se party (i.e. “self represented”), and if you do not timely object to having a Magistrate hear your case and request a District Court Judge hear it instead, your entire case will be heard by the Magistrate. This can complicate certain matters when it comes to the rights of appeal, but that is a topic for a separate discussion and is really only relevant if you have a messy or contentious divorce.

If both parties are represented by counsel and you are able to appear before a Judge or Magistrate for the ISC, this is a good time to raise your most concerning and complicated issues.  This can set the tone for the entire case, and the Judge or Magistrate can even enter interim Orders right then if needed.  For example, if a party is alleging that the other party has substance abuse issues, the Court can Order substance use testing immediately.  This is an extreme, but important, example concerning safety for the other party and any children involved; most Orders have to do with parental responsibility allocation and temporary spousal support.

At the ISC, it can be determined if a Temporary Orders hearing is necessary.  A Temporary Orders hearing will provide temporary solutions for issues such as child support, parenting time, the payment of debt, who may reside in the marital residence, etc. The Temporary Orders will be valid until Permanent Orders are issued towards the end of the divorce process.

Bottom line: Unless your case is really contentious or complicated, you should expect that your ISC will be relatively straightforward and more of a formality. The more you have completed in Steps 1-3, the less likely it is that you will have to attend Court again!

If you are a paid member and the court has requested that you provide notice to your spouse of the ISC, click the link below to get started!

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