What is an Initial Status Conference in Colorado? And How Do You Prepare?
I just got a notice about a court date. What do I do?
Don’t panic! An Initial Status Conference (ISC) in Colorado divorce court is just a way for the court to assess where each party is and what you agree upon. It’s informal and not a hearing. You present no evidence or testimony, and you don’t need a lawyer.
In this post, we break down the ISC process so you know what to expect.
Determining the date of your Initial Status Conference
Every Colorado court must schedule an ISC within 42 days after a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage or Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR) is filed.
- If you are the served party (respondent), it’s a good idea to call the court clerk to learn the date of your first hearing.
- If you are the petitioner, you will likely learn the ISC date when you file the documents initiating the case.
The petitioner usually serves the petition, summons, and a copy of the Notice of ISC. This informs the respondent of the ISC date and time as soon as possible.
What to expect before your Initial Status Conference
You'll need to have completed your financial disclosures
In an ISC, the court asks the status of each party’s mandatory financial disclosures (Step 2). Financial disclosures are governed by the Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2.
Many issues that arise in divorce cases hinge on information contained in the 16.2 disclosures. For instance, if you and your spouse disclose complicated financial facts—ownership of a business, ownership of stock or trusts, self-employment, unemployment, underemployment – the court may consider that a “red flag.” Hence, extensive discovery and more experts may be needed.
Discovery and expert involvement can extend the time it takes to conclude your case. Therefore, this information may be important when selecting a date for a permanent orders hearing. Note: You only need a “permanent orders” hearing if you and your spouse do not completely agree.
You'll need to have completed your parenting class
If applicable, you should generally complete your parenting class before your ISC.
Even if you agree on all child-related issues, you must take a parenting class if your case involves dependent children. Generally, courts ask that children do not attend court. It’s best to arrange childcare ahead of time.
What to expect during your Initial Status Conference
Depending on the county, you will meet with a family court facilitator, magistrate, or judge.
In some jurisdictions, if you file your case as a pro-se party (i.e., “self-represented”) and do not timely object to having a magistrate hear your case and request a district court judge hear it instead, your case will be heard by the magistrate. This can complicate matters when it comes to the rights of appeal, but that’s a topic for a separate discussion. (It’s really only relevant if you’re facing a messy or contentious divorce.)
Raising important issues during to the judge
If both parties hire counsel and can appear before a judge or magistrate for the ISC, this is a good time to raise any concerns or complicated issues. It sets the tone for the entire case, and the judge or magistrate may even decide to enter interim orders right then, if needed.
For example, if one party alleges that the other party abuses substances, the court can order substance use testing immediately. This is an extreme (but important) example concerning the safety of both adults and children.
Most orders have to do with parental responsibility allocation and temporary spousal support.
Temporary orders hearing
At the ISC, it can be decided whether a temporary orders hearing is necessary.
A temporary orders hearing provides temporary solutions for issues such as child support, parenting time, the payment of a debt, or who may reside in the marital home.
Temporary orders are valid until permanent orders are issued near the end of the divorce process.
Bottom line about Initial Status Conferences
Unless your case is contentious or complicated, expect your ISC to be relatively straightforward and more of a formality.
The more time you spend on Steps 1, 2, and 3, the less likely it is you will have to attend court again.