We often receive questions about how the Center For Out-Of-Court Divorce’s (COCD) “out-of-court” model works. We sat down with Judge Larry Naves, who performs our final orders hearings on a volunteer basis, to ask some questions and help families understand what the divorce process and outcome look like.
This is the first blog post in a two-part series, as Judge Naves walks through the process, and benefits of completing a final orders hearing outside of the courtroom.
COCD: First, what is your background and how did you come to volunteer for the COCD?
Judge Naves: My background is as a trial judge primarily. I was a Denver district court judge for 23 years, presiding over family law cases as a part of a regular rotation of a Denver district judge in Denver. I retired six years ago and now work in alternative dispute resolution. I found COCD through my former colleague Judge Robert Hyatt and now complete final orders hearings for COCD, on a volunteer basis.
COCD: What is a final orders hearing, exactly?
Judge Naves: It’s the final part of the separation and divorce process. You come into the room married, and leave divorced. The divorcing parties come together to complete a dissolution action (or, if they are not married, it could be an action for allocation of parental rights). The judge reviews the separation agreement with both parties. Each party has the opportunity to ask the judge questions, and judge then establishes the agreement order, as enforceable by the court. The marriage is then dissolved.
COCD: Can you walk through the steps you take during a final orders hearing, in more detail?
Judge Naves: It’s a formal hearing, meaning it is recorded for record. The steps are as follows:
- I review the separation agreement with both parties. It will already have been signed, with signatures notarized. I go through it in detail and highlight things I want to emphasize. There are things that are unique to each party that I want to make sure they understand (even though they have already agreed to it). I have to be assured that decisions are being made in the best interest of the children.
- After asking all of my questions, and answering questions from each party, I establish the agreement as an order of the court. I don’t expect to change anything because of thorough job that is done by COCD before parties reach this step. I try to get the parties to relax and just tell me: is this your agreement? Do you have questions you want to ask me?
- We remind them, they don’t have to go through with this. I talk with them about their right to take the agreement to a lawyer and get some advice.
- Then I say “now I’m going to go forward and dissolve your marriage” and they know I am going to incorporate the agreement as part of the decree. I make the finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and I officially dissolve the marriage and sign a decree of dissolution. Sometimes there are also child support orders or maintenance orders, and I sign those too.
- Then the COCD staff sends all of the documentation back to court office where the case came from, thereby preventing the clients from having to return to court.
- You come into that room married, and leave the room divorced. The length of the hearing can vary depending on the complexity of the proceedings, but is generally completed in less than one hour.
Look for part two in our blog series, “Understanding the out-of-court divorce model,” next week.