REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY TO FILE FOR DIVORCE
- In Colorado, the only grounds for divorce is an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. If you and your spouse have unresolvable conflicts, that is sufficient cause for a divorce.
- Colorado is a no-fault state. In other words, the courts will not consider issues like adultery or domestic violence in granting the divorce.
- Under Colorado law, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce.
- A $230 filing fee is usually required, but if you file a Motion to File without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit and the judge approves, you may avoid paying this fee.
- The minimum amount of time necessary to complete a divorce in Colorado is 91 days, but most divorces take longer than 91 days between initial filing of the petition and the final hearing.
- Filing a divorce in Colorado can be difficult for you if you have no legal training. Using an online divorce service can help you by providing a step by step guide which makes this process simple and easy. At only $159, MyDivorcePapers.com can save you thousands in legal fees.
- If you have any additional questions regarding the divorce procedure in Colorado, you can receive free legal assistance at avvo.
- Colorado offers an expedited process of divorce if it is uncontested, i.e. you and your spouse agree on the major issues of your marriage dissolution. If you choose this route, you may not even need to appear at a judicial hearing; you must merely sign an affidavit.
- If you do go to trial, you should choose a legal representative that will work hard to protect your interests during negotiations with opposing counsel as well as in court.
Grounds for Divorce in Colorado
- Colorado is a “no fault” divorce state and only requires that you and your spouse cannot resolve your differences.
- A judge may allow a divorce to proceed even if only one spouse is seeking a dissolution to the marriage.
STEP 1: HOW TO INITIATE A DIVORCE PROCEEDING
A divorce proceeding in Colorado begins with the submission of a completed Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation to a county clerk.
- You must also provide the following documents
- Summons for Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation
- Case Information Sheet
- Sworn Financial Statement (along with supporting schedules if necessary)
- Child Support Worksheets (if child custody is at issue)
- Make at least two copies of all submitted documents.
- You must file the Petition with the Clerk’s Office of the county court in the county of residence. You must also pay the appropriate fees at the time of filing.
STEP 2: LEGAL NOTICE
Under Colorado law, you must provide legal notice of the divorce petition to your spouse.
- Joint filing—if you and your spouse file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation jointly, your spouse should be legally aware of the divorce process and does not need to be served.
- In person—any person other than you may serve the divorce papers in person as long as they are over 18 years of age, a resident of Colorado and not listed in any of the court documents. This means friend, family member, professional process server or county sheriff may provide them to your spouse, but your spouse must sign the papers in their presence.
- If you are unable to reach your spouse, you may publish a notice of divorce if the court approves.
- Once the divorce papers have been served, the process server must sign and notarize a Return of Service and file it with the County Clerk.
Once your spouse has been served, they will have 20 days to respond to the Petition. These responses are classified as
If your spouse does not provide any response to the divorce petition, then the judge will assume that the Respondent has abdicated any right to participate in the case. The judge will probably grant many, if not all of the requests by the petitioner regarding child custody, support and property distribution in the original petition. However, some Colorado judges demand a filed response before allowing the petitioner to submit evidence.
If your spouse files a Response with the court within 20 days of service, but agrees with all of the details in the petition, this is considered an uncontested dissolution.
If your spouse files a Response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation which disputes various aspects of the Petition, then the court will likely have to step in and make decisions regarding contested issues. The court will schedule an Initial Status Conference that both parties must attend, which will identify disputed issues, and if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, you will proceed to a trial.
STEP 3: CONTESTED OR UNCONTESTED DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE?
Contested Divorce (High Cost)
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the major issues in how your marriage should be dissolved, you will probably need to hire an attorney to represent you in this complex divorce proceeding.
- In contested divorce cases, you must attend an Initial Status Conference where the judge will determine the format of the trial, including major issues litigated and what evidence is admissible.
- Contested divorces typically involve attorneys for both parties.
- Most divorce attorneys charge substantial legal fees in a contested divorce procedure due to the added time and effort of participating in a trial.
- Attorneys are likely to engage in a prolonged period of discovery where they will investigate you and your spouse’s claims. This long and costly process may include document requests, subpoenas and witness interviews.
- Contested divorces may cost several thousands of dollars or more in court and attorney fees, depending upon the number and complexity of disputes.
Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost)
In Colorado, there are many low-cost alternatives to a contested divorce.
- Joint petition—if you and your spouse agree on all of the issues involved in the divorce, the two of you can file for a Decree upon Affidavit. To qualify for a Decree upon Affidavit, you must meet the following criteria:
- Submit an Affidavit for Decree without Appearance of Parties attesting to an amicable dissolution of the marriage
- Both spouses must have resided in the state for at least 90 days
- Both spouses must sign a Separation Agreement (if minor children reside in the household)
- A Separation Agreement stipulates the details of child custody, child support and visitation if minor children remain in the household
- The judge will schedule a hearing to finalize the divorce at least 91 days following the initial filing.
- In many cases, an uncontested divorce is considerably more inexpensive because there is no need to hire an attorney or complete a trial.
STEP 4: WHICH OPTION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Self-Representation (Lowest Cost)
If you and your spouse can agree to a settlement prior to going to trial, it will dramatically reduce the cost and emotional stress related to the divorce. That is why you should do everything possible to resolve any major conflicts with your spouse prior to engaging in a divorce. By filing an Affidavit for Decree without Appearance of Parties, you will sidestep any expensive legal proceedings and can conclude the divorce without an attorney. MyDivorcePapers.com can offer guidance and the forms necessary to complete this process with minimal cost and effort.
Mediation (Medium Cost)
The state of Colorado offers couples who are considering a divorce the opportunity to use mediation services. Mediators are independent, conflict resolution professionals with expertise in resolving personal issues. Although they may not have the legal authority to force a couple to remain married, they are usually quite capable of providing useful dispute solutions. A court may appoint or recommend a mediator prior to or during a divorce proceeding.
Divorce Trial (Highest Cost)
In cases where you and your spouse cannot agree on major issues, the judge will schedule a trial that may last a single morning or several days.
- Hiring an experienced divorce attorney to defend you is sound advice, as your spouse will probably do likewise.
- In the discovery phase, both legal teams will investigate the allegations made by each party. This may take weeks or even months to complete.
- At the trial, both sides will argue using evidence and testimony.
- Even with highly experienced legal representation, there is no assurance of a successful outcome.
STEP 5: RESOLVING THE MAJOR ISSUES
Almost always, the major points of contention in most divorces involve issues of property division, child custody or spousal support. If you and your spouse fail to come to an agreement on these issues, you should know how Colorado courts often rule.
Colorado bases its property distribution upon the principle of equitable division, which allocates property fairly but not necessarily equally. Colorado courts consider many factors about property at issue, including:
- If it was owned prior to marriage
- If it was received as a gift or inheritance
- The fair value of the asset
- Any increase or decrease in value during the marriage
- How much either spouse contributed to its acquisition
- The financial situation of both spouses
Once the marital property and debts are identified, they are assigned a monetary value, usually by an independent appraiser.
Division of property may occur in several ways. Colorado courts favor a 50/50 division when it comes to marital property, but they may use many methods for the actual distribution. Indivisible assets may be provided to one spouse, while another asset of equivalent value is assigned to the other spouse; or they may be sold with profits divided accordingly. In some cases, property may be co-owned by both spouses.
Debts are distributed wholly to one spouse or the other, relieving the other of almost all responsibility. While the judge may assign a debt to one party, the other spouse may be allocated a similar sized debt.
As in most states, Colorado determines “parental responsibilities” based on the best interests of the child, and usually awards joint custody to both parents. The judge will consider many factors including:
- Parent’s wishes
- Child’s preferences
- Emotional relationship with parents
- Ability to adjust to new setting
- Physical and mental health of parties involved
- Proximity of parents’ homes
- Past instances of domestic violence
Colorado does not grant preference based on parent’s gender or any misdeeds of spouses that contributed to the marriage’s dissolution.
Spousal support or spousal maintenance, as it is known in Colorado, is not mandatory and a judge may award it depending upon several factors:
- Future earning capacity of both spouses
- Each spouse’s educational level
- Time needed for professional training or education
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Ability to pay maintenance
- Length of the marriage
- Age and health of each spouse
Colorado courts prefer to grant temporary alimony, except in cases where one spouse is unable to work due to poor health and maintenance may go on indefinitely. The length of the marriage often influences how long alimony payments must be made, but other factors including time needed for professional preparation are also used in the judicial formula. The courts apply a strict set of rules to determine the amount of maintenance; if the couple earns less than $75,000 annually, a spouse is awarded 40 percent of the higher earner’s monthly income minus 50 percent of the lower earner’s income.
STEP 6: FINALIZING THE DIVORCE
If a trial is scheduled, then you and your spouse must attend the Permanent Orders hearing or trial to resolve any unresolved issues. Following these courtroom proceedings, the judge will issue a judgment.
If the divorce is uncontested, the court will decide to grant the divorce with or without a hearing. A hearing may be required to learn if both parties agree with the Separation Agreement.
After the trial or hearing, the judge will then issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, finalizing the divorce.