Saying goodbye to your marital relationship may present unexpected legal hurdles. However, staying in an unbearable marriage is worse for your happiness than the legal obstacles. If for better or worse no longer cuts it, I hope this step-by-step guide can help you move to the next stage of your life seamlessly.
Divorce in Colorado Summary
Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Colorado.
Divorce Petition Requirements
Your residency status is the main criterion for eligibility to petition for divorce in Colorado. In order to be eligible for divorce under Colorado family law, at least one of the parties must have resided in the state for 91 days or more.
How to File A Divorce in Colorado
To file your petition, you must acquire and complete the necessary divorce documents. The divorce documents that apply to you depend on a number of factors, including whether you file for divorce alone and whether you have children.
To submit the paperwork to the court clerk, go to the district court that is housed in the county where you or your spouse reside.
This is the procedure step of the service. It entails informing the respondent, who is your spouse, of the divorce case. You are not allowed to do this alone according to state legislation. By using the sheriff’s office or a private professional to deliver the divorce forms, personal service is feasible.
In Colorado, the divorce proceedings begin with the Initial Status Conference, which both parties must attend. The filing party must notify their spouse of this conference at least 14 days before the event to ensure the conference takes place even if the respondent is absent.
If the marital partnership is irretrievably destroyed and needs to be dissolved, the court will issue a divorce decree. The specifics of your case determine the specifics of the divorce decree.
This completes the divorce process in Colorado.
Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Colorado
You need to meet certain requirements to file for a divorce in Colorado. The primary factor that qualifies you to file for divorce in Colorado is your residential status. Per Colorado family law, at least one of the parties to the divorce must have lived in Colorado for a minimum of 91 days to qualify for the divorce process.
The residency requirement is the most important factor because it gives the Colorado judicial branch the authority to terminate your marriage.
If your marriage involves minor children, the court may order child support and custody arrangements pending the dissolution of your marriage. Colorado divorce laws require that the children involved should have resided in the state for a minimum of 181 days for the court to preside over such matters.
How to File for Divorce in Colorado
Before going ahead with a Colorado divorce, you have to decide if you will file the divorce papers independently or jointly with your partner. The process involves many steps and may become overwhelming if you do not understand them.
Alternatively, you can employ the services of legal professionals online that will carry out the legal process on your behalf.
The journey to dissolving a Colorado marriage involves the following steps:
Step 1: Obtain the Necessary Divorce Forms
You must obtain and complete the required divorce papers to file your petition. The divorce forms applicable to you depend on certain circumstances, such as if you file for divorce alone and if you have kids.
If you file on your own, the court will regard you as the petitioner and your spouse shall be the respondent. Your spouse will be the co-petitioner if you file a joint petition.
The divorce forms you need to complete to proceed with your petition include the Case Information Sheet and the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Legal Separation. If you are filing alone, you must add the Summons for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation form. All the family law forms are available on the Colorado judicial branch website.
Step 2: File your Divorce Paperwork with the Appropriate Court
Visit the district court located in the county where either you or your spouse lives and submit the forms to the court clerk. You can determine the appropriate district court using the court finder website. Note that the clerk will expect you to pay a stipulated amount for the filing fee. Payment waivers are available if you cannot afford the filing fee.
NOTE: If you’re filing a joint petition, the law requires you to file a separation agreement detailing the terms of your divorce. This contains property division, child support and parental plan arrangements for life after the divorce.
Step 3: Serve the Divorce Paperwork to Your Spouse
This is the service of process stage. It involves notifying the respondent (your partner) of the divorce case. State law prohibits you from doing this by yourself. Personal service is possible by employing the service of the sheriff’s department or a private professional to deliver the divorce forms.
Likewise, you can send someone aged 18 or older who has no personal interest or involvement in the divorce proceedings. Your spouse can respond upon receipt of the paperwork by giving it to the court where the initial petition was filed. This step is dispensed with in an uncontested divorce since both you and your spouse have jointly approached the court for a divorce.
Step 4: The Divorce Hearing
In Colorado, the divorce proceedings begin with the Initial Status Conference, which both parties must attend. The filing party must notify their spouse of this conference at least 14 days before the event to ensure the conference takes place even if the respondent is absent. Here, you and your spouse will be briefed on the court process, the requirements for the divorce, and related matters. The court may also set deadlines and hear requests for temporary orders pending the conclusion of the proceedings.
The court may also mandate you and your spouse participate in divorce mediation to settle the contested issues, including child custody or spousal support.
The case will eventually proceed to the final hearing, where the court will decide if the mediation was successful. Agreements made during the meditation will be sustained and entered as a final divorce decree. If mediation fails, the court will order a trial to determine the appropriate terms of your divorce.
Step 5: The Divorce Order
The court will issue a divorce order if the marital relationship is irretrievably broken and in need of dissolution. The content of the divorce order depends on the peculiarity of your case. Generally, you can expect the divorce order to contain judgment on child custody, parenting time, property division, and alimony payment.
If you need help with your divorce . . .
Divorce can get complicated, and you will need the best assistance you can get. The Colorado judicial branch website hosts a divorce self-help page that provides extensive information on the process. I have also curated a list of the best online divorce services to help you weather the storm.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get a divorce in Colorado?
The duration of the divorce process in Colorado depends on the circumstances of your divorce. However, some procedures are standard in all divorce proceedings. For instance, there is a mandatory minimum waiting period of 90 days from the initial filing of the petition to the court ruling.
The court may also require the parties to perform certain actions like sharing their financial information with the court. Each spouse must do this within 20 to 40 days of filing the petition.
A divorce case with little or no contested issues may be finalized in as little as three months. On average, you can expect the court to grant the final decree dissolving the marriage between six and nine months after filing.
What are the different types of divorce in Colorado?
In Colorado, you can have either an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce. An uncontested divorce is the easier option if you and your spouse are on the same page about the failure of your union. The advantages of an uncontested divorce include less time to finalize, parting on amicable terms, and a minimized divorce cost.
However, you and your spouse must meet the following requirements to file a joint petition for uncontested divorce:
- Either side satisfies the Colorado residency qualification of more than 90 days.
- A mutual agreement is reached that the relationship does not work and cannot be fixed.
- There is no need for the division of marital property, or you both agree to an equitable distribution of the marital estate.
- The marriage does not involve minor children, and neither spouse is an expectant mother. If you have kids, you and your partner must file a separation agreement detailing parenting plans (child support, custody, and visitation schedule).
If you and your spouse satisfy these requirements, you can file for an uncontested divorce. On the flip side, you will have a contested or litigated divorce if your spouse disagrees with you on divorce matters, such as child support or custody arrangements. You can get a family law attorney to handle the litigated issues.
Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Colorado?
No. Colorado laws do not make it compulsory to hire a divorce attorney, but you should consider getting legal advice. Enlisting the help of a Colorado divorce attorney may better your chances if litigation ensues and keep you aware of your legal rights throughout the process.
Alternatively, you can also decide to represent yourself and use self-help resources to file your petition. Self-representation is more common in uncontested divorces because both parties intend to settle it amicably. You can also use online legal services to assist you whether or not the divorce is contested.
Does Colorado require proof of separation?
No, Colorado does not require proof of separation for you to obtain a final divorce decree. One or both parties involved must be Colorado residents for more than 90 days to kickstart the divorce process.
Legal separation is a thing in Colorado but slightly different from getting a divorce, also referred to as a dissolution of marriage. By getting a legal separation, both sides enter an agreement to be legally separated but remain married. They cannot marry another person under the law except by approaching the court to convert the legal separation decree to a divorce decree. However, this is only possible six months after the court grants the separation request.
Divorce and legal separation operate in the same manner. A settlement agreement containing the division of assets and debts, child support payment, alimony, and custody arrangements must be agreed upon.
Can I get a divorce in Colorado if I was married in another state?
Yes, you can get a divorce in Colorado regardless of the state in which you got married. Colorado typically requires that you or your spouse has satisfied the residency prerequisite of living in the state for at least 91 days to get a divorce.
Is spousal fault necessary for the dissolution of marriage in Colorado?
As a no-fault state, Colorado does not consider the misconduct of you or the other party as a precondition for a dissolution of marriage. The court will disregard the submission of evidence that shows the other party’s wrongdoing but consider relevant factors to grant the divorce.
Abolished Colorado laws had considered domestic violence, adultery, desertion, and similar reasons as relevant grounds for divorce. Likewise, a respondent could argue mental incapacity or collusion as defenses against divorce.
Currently, the sole reason necessary for divorce in Colorado is the irretrievable breakdown of the spousal relationship. This means that it is impossible to salvage the marriage.
What factors influence alimony and child support payments?
Alimony is the monthly financial payments that the court orders one spouse to pay to the other to support them after divorce. It is commonly known as “maintenance” in Colorado. Similarly, child support payments are made by one spouse to the other for the child’s upkeep and benefits. The paying spouse is usually the one without custody of the child.
The court will consider the following statutory factors before granting alimony:
- Duration of the marital union
- Nominal alimony to sustain an alimony claim for future claims
- Whether the financial resources of the other spouse are sufficient to cover alimony and self-sufficiency needs
- The standard of living of the spouses during the marriage
- Property sharing agreements
- The incomes, jobs, and employability level of both spouses
- The financial resources of the party filing for alimony, the marital property due to them, and the capability to meet basic needs
- The age and health of the spouse
- Assistance rendered by one spouse to the other during the marriage, including their education, career, debt payment, or development of an individual property
- Tax implications of the payment
- Other relevant factors that the court deems considerable
In granting a child support order, the court will consider the following conditions:
- The gross income of both parents
- Parenting time schedules
- Certain high childcare-related expenses, such as medical bills and education expenses
How are assets divided in a divorce in Colorado?
One of the issues you and your spouse will need to work through in a divorce is how to share your marital assets. If you and your spouse agree on the arrangements for the division of marital property, litigation is not necessary. Otherwise, the court may recommend mediation to ensure amicable property division. Where these fail, the court divides marital property per state laws.
Colorado laws stipulate that the division of the considered marital property must be on equitable and fair terms. Property division does not necessarily have to be equal, but it must be a fair ratio among the spouses. The court distinguishes between property acquired separately by one party and property owned by both parties. Assets jointly owned by both parties are regarded as marital assets and subject to equitable division.
To determine who gets what equitably, the judge considers the following factors:
- The financial condition of each party
- If the parent awarded custodial rights of minor children wishes to reside in the family home
- The growth or reduction of a spouse’s separate property during the duration of the relationship
- Reduction of the separate property of a spouse for marital reasons
Divorce can be unnerving, especially when you have no idea how to navigate the entire process. Colorado has many divorce laws that may apply to the circumstances of your case. This guide provides you with the necessary details you should know about what you can expect. If you find the process is too complicated to navigate, you can always seek legal advice from a divorce lawyer. For information on the best online divorce service in Colorado, read my article on the topic.