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Colorado Divorce Laws

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The divorce rate in Colorado is among the highest in the United States. According to NCHS data for 2021, for every 1,000 people, three have ended their marriages in the Centennial State. This ranked Colorado’s 3.0 divorce rate as the 15th highest in the country, not far behind those of Alaska and Virginia.

Divorce is called the “dissolution of marriage,” as specified in Colorado Revised Statutes Section 10-14-106. This law lists the basic requirements for obtaining a divorce in the state, and people who wish to end their marriage will not be able to do so without going through the procedure that the law requires.

If you are someone who is contemplating divorce, this article will help you learn more about the state’s divorce laws, the steps involved in obtaining a divorce, and frequently asked questions about the dissolution of marriage. By having this knowledge, you can prevent potential delays and hurdle obstacles to getting a divorce in Colorado. 

Is Colorado a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?

Yes. If you are filing for divorce in Colorado, you do not have to prove that your spouse committed any wrongdoing that justifies ending a marriage. 

A Colorado divorce petition only needs to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The spouses do not even have to jointly declare that their marriage is unsalvageable. It is enough that one of them sees no more hope of restoring the relationship. 

The old grounds for divorce in Colorado, such as cruelty, adultery, and abandonment, no longer apply. In addition, objections to a divorce petition can no longer cite insanity, condonation, and collusion to stop the court from issuing a divorce decree. The only impact that fault could have is on issues like parenting, such as when a spouse is accused of abusive behavior. 

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Colorado

If you and your spouse disagree on matters like property division and child custody, you are headed for a “contested” divorce, which is more time-consuming. But if you are on the same page on issues like who should keep the house or how to share custody of the kids, you are likely to have an “uncontested” divorce, which is easier to complete. You and your spouse simply need to file a joint petition and come up with a divorce settlement agreement on the following:

  • Property division

  • Spousal support

  • Child custody

  • Child support

  • Parenting time.

To help you navigate the divorce application procedure, the following sections will discuss what happens in key stages of the process. These, together with your lawyer, will aid in your preparation for the potentially grueling journey to freedom that divorcing couples go through.

How to File for Divorce in Colorado

Before going out to file your divorce papers in Colorado, make sure you or your spouse and, if applicable, your minor children meet the following residency requirements:

  • You or your spouse must have lived in Colorado for at least 91 days before the divorce petition is filed.

  • The children must have resided in Colorado for at least 181 days before custody proceedings begin. 

1. Fill Out the Divorce Forms

One of the basic forms you must fill out is the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage. The law does not require that you make a joint petition with your spouse. Filing may be done separately. If you are the one who initiated the divorce, you are called the “petitioner” and your spouse the “respondent.” 

In addition to filling out the petition, you must complete a Summons for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation if you are the sole petitioner. Make sure that you also sign the Case Information Sheet, which gathers your family details. 

2. File the Divorce Papers in Court

After filling out the forms, go to the court clerk’s office in the county of your or your spouse’s residence. This is where you will file your divorce papers. 

As of 2023, there is a filing fee of $230, but the court may waive it if you are unable to pay. To apply for a waiver of the filing fee, you must submit a Motion to File Without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit

3. Serve the Divorce Papers on Your Spouse

In a contested action for dissolution of marriage, it is important that the spouse named in the petition or complaint (the respondent) is served with the divorce papers. 

This stage in a divorce application is called “service of process.” It gives the respondent 21 days, or 35 days if they live outside of Colorado, to examine and respond to the petitioner’s demands. 

The respondent may waive formal service in writing. The waiver must be signed before a notary or court clerk. Otherwise, the following methods are acceptable to have the documents delivered to your spouse:

Regular Mail

This option is preferable if your spouse is willing to cooperate. All they need to do is sign the Acceptance of Service form to confirm receipt of the papers. They then must mail a signed copy of the divorce papers back to you. 

Certified Mail

Serving the divorce papers by registered or certified mail provides proof that you did send the documents to your spouse. You do it by going to the Post Office to mail the papers. You will receive a slip from the postal service as proof of mailing.

A green card called the “return receipt” will be attached to your letter. Your spouse must sign this card and mail it back to you. When you receive the return receipt, keep it and the slip in a safe place. The court will collect them, together with the Proof of Service form. 

Hand Delivery

This is also known as personal service. Someone, except those involved in the case, may physically hand the divorce papers to your spouse. There are three possible process servers:

  • Anyone at least 18 years old

  • A professional process server

  • The County Sheriff.

If your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown, service by publication or posting is acceptable. This method requires court approval, so it is recommended that you get a divorce attorney to file the necessary motion.

4. Submit Financial Disclosures

Within 42 days after your spouse receives the divorce petition, both of you are required to exchange financial information. Full disclosure of income, assets, and monthly expenses is mandatory. If the court finds out later that you withheld financial information, it may decide to assign the undisclosed asset to your spouse.

5. Attend Settlement Negotiations

The next step in your divorce is to discuss how you and your spouse will divide the marital property, custody of the children, and the cost of supporting the children. The outcome of the following talks and hearings could have a significant impact on your life after divorce. Thus, it is advisable that you hire a competent divorce attorney to have a good chance of getting a reasonable settlement. 

Initial Status Conference

The ISC takes place during the 42-day period after service of the summons. You, your spouse, and your lawyers, if any, will make a list of issues in your divorce case that must be resolved. The court will also schedule hearings to review requests for temporary orders, such as those relating to child custody and support.

Temporary Orders Hearings

The court issues temporary orders to protect parental rights and marital assets while negotiations for permanent arrangements are ongoing. Whether the parties in a divorce need temporary orders depends on the specifics of the case. 

Discovery

You may use this opportunity to gather additional financial information from your spouse. For example, if a family asset has gone missing, you may ask your spouse to account for it. The court allows discovery only after you or your attorney has reviewed the initial financial disclosures.

Mediation

Couples have the option to resolve issues in their divorce through mediation. Here, a neutral third party will help the parties reach an amicable settlement to avoid going to trial.

6. Appear in Court for Permanent Orders Hearing and Final Divorce Decree

If you and your spouse still cannot agree on certain matters, the next step is to let the court decide for you. The judge will hear testimonies from both parties throughout the trial before deciding on child custody and financial matters. After the permanent orders hearing, the court will finalize the divorce by issuing a Decree of Dissolution of the Marriage.

How Property Is Divided in a Colorado Divorce

Colorado courts divide marital property fairly, rather than equally. This means that instead of splitting the property 50/50, the judge will divide it by considering several factors, including:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, not just in terms of money but also in terms of their role in taking care of the home and the children; 

  • The earning capacity of each spouse; 

  • The family’s standard of living prior to the filing of the divorce petition; 

  • The value of each spouse’s separate property. 

The law defines separate property as any property that a spouse acquires before marriage or receives through inheritance or gift during the marriage. In a divorce, separate property is not divided unless the property has become part of the marital property. An example of this is when a husband inherits a sum of money and deposits it into a joint bank account with his wife.

Colorado Divorce FAQs

Divorce has broad implications, not just legal but also financial, psychological, and even social. The parties face a multitude of issues before and after the marriage is finally dissolved. Below are some of the common questions that arise from divorce. The answers will give you additional insights into how you should prepare for this arguably tedious process.

Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Colorado

For many couples, ending a marriage is a difficult decision to make. If you have a contested divorce case, having an experienced divorce attorney beside you can make the process less complicated than when you are handling it alone. In addition, the following legal resources are available to keep you informed about Colorado’s divorce requirements, so you avoid making costly mistakes along the way.

Colorado Judicial Branch

All the forms that you will use to file for divorce are available on the Colorado Judicial Branch website. You can also find information on filing fees and instructions on serving the divorce papers on your spouse. While users are reminded that information on the website is not to be taken as legal advice, it will give you an idea of the paperwork and processes involved in your divorce.

Colorado Bar Association

People in Colorado who need legal advice can go to the CBA website to look for professionals licensed to practice law in the state or information relevant to their case. The State Bar comprises lawyers specializing in different practice areas and providing a variety of payment options. Although it does not have a lawyer referral service, its website has a tool that visitors can use to find a lawyer near them. It also has information on mediation, which divorcing couples can explore.

Denver Bar Association - Metro Volunteer Lawyers

MVL is co-sponsored by bar associations throughout the Denver Metro Area. Its volunteer lawyers are available to assist low-income individuals in their civil cases. Their services are pro bono, giving those who cannot afford attorney’s fees access to legal representation. The MVL website also provides links to self-help forms and publications about a wide range of legal topics, including family law and the Colorado Bar Association’s Parenting Plan.

Colorado Office of Economic Security Division of Child Support Services

Child support is at the center of divorce cases that involve kids. The Colorado Child Support Services Program assists with child support payments to ensure parents meet their children’s financial needs. It allows parents to fulfill their obligations through the Colorado Family Support Registry online payment system. If you need more information about child support, including how it is calculated, you can go through the frequently asked questions. A search tool to help you locate a county child support office is also available on the website.

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