Requirements for divorce in Colorado
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.
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.
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: Starting the Colorado divorce process
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:
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: Notify your spouse
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. Uncontested divorce in Colorado or any state is the best option to filling a divorce without needing a lawyer. Remember that both parties will have to be willing to work together in order to move the divorce forward.
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: Uncontested or contested divorce?
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.
Contested divorce can cost alot as you can see but using a divorce mediator would be a good alternative in saving thousands before using an attorney. If you both are willing, go to a mediator to try and hash out each others objections before going the costly route of hiring an attorney.
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:
A eparation 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: The cost of filing a divorce
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.
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: Property, child custody and spousal support
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:
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 your Colorado 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.
We hope this guide on how to file for divorce in Colorado will help in making the process easier.