Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. This means a couple can file for divorce simply based on the claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Even though Colorado Springs is lax with the reason for the dissolution of marriage, they still have a few eligibility requirements for couples to have their divorce decree approved by the state. These include:
- The spouses must have lived within the state of Colorado for more than 90 days
- A 90-day waiting period after the divorce summons are served
- Colorado must have personal jurisdiction over the respondent's spouse
- If the couple owns the marital property, both spouses must have signed a separation agreement that outlines the asset division
- If minor children are involved, both spouses must have signed a parenting plan that outlines custody, visitation, and child support
Once these criteria have been met, the court may finalize the divorce. If both parties agree on the distribution of assets, debts, and child custody arrangements, they would proceed with an uncontested divorce. If they do not agree on these matters, they would proceed with a contested divorce.
An uncontested divorce generally is quicker and less expensive, but still follows a specific legal process. For a contested divorce, the couple would have to secure legal representation from our Colorado Springs divorce lawyers to help mitigate an agreement.
Filing Your Divorce Papers
In the uncontested divorce process, the first step is to submit a Petition for Dissolution of marriage. Both spouses may file together as "co-petitioners" or one spouse may file as the "petitioner" and the other will be the "respondent."
In the case where one party files as the petitioner, they must deliver a copy of the petition to their spouse. This is referred to as serving papers. A person may choose to personally serve the respondent or to hire a court-authorized delivery personnel.
The next step is to file a separation agreement. The separation agreement outlines the following plans:
- Marital asset division
- Debt allocation
- Spousal maintenance obligations and alimony payments
- Parenting plan - which addresses child support payments and custody proceedings
After both parties have signed a separation agreement, the family court will review the document and determine that it is fair and equitable. If the court finds the agreement meets these standards, they will approve the document and the outlined provisions will become legally binding. If the court determines that the agreement is unreasonable, they may ask for a revised version.
Court appearances are not required for cases of uncontested separation unless children are involved and one party does not have legal representation. If both spouses have representation, they may move forward and file a "decree by affidavit" in order to finalize the process.
In cases of contested legal dissolution, both parties must secure legal representation to help them come to a separation agreement. This is the part that can make the divorce process expensive, lengthy, and emotionally exhausting. The family law attorneys will work together to negotiate a plan for property division, debt division, and parenting time that satisfies both parties and the court.
Colorado's Requirements For Serving and Responding to Divorce Papers
An experienced attorney can handle the paperwork and filings for you. If you are filing independently these are the requirements you should be aware of when serving papers.
The petitioning spouse must have the papers delivered to the respondent in a manner that can be verified. Upon receipt, the respondent must sign that they have received the information. There are a few ways to accomplish this:
- Acceptance of service - this is a form that the delivery person presents at the time of service. The respondent signs this document
- First class mail - through this method, the proof of service would be mailed with the petition and would outline instructions on how to sign and return
- Certified mail - the respondent would sign for the documents and mail back a return receipt
- Service by the county sheriff or private process server - this is a state-authorized individual to deliver the papers. They will complete the proof of service form
- Service by publication - if the spouse cannot be contacted or does not file their proof of receipt, the petitioner may post a public declaration of the petition in the newspaper. A copy of this publication will suffice as proof of service.
What if My Spouse Cannot Be Found or Isn't Responding?
In this scenario, multiple attempts to contact the spouse via multiple channels must be made. If a sufficient period of time has passed, the court may offer alternative methods such as electronic delivery. If it is clear that the spouse cannot be found or is refusing to respond with proof of service, the judge may move forward with approving the decree. This can take a long period of time. An experienced family law attorney can help support you through this process.
Attending the Initial Status Conference
The initial status conference is the first hearing where both parties disclose their issues in the marriage and the reason for divorce. This hearing is scheduled 42 days after the petition for dissolution of marriage is filed. Parties are generally required to disclose financial documents and take a mandatory parenting class if children are involved. In this hearing, the couple can make arrangements for emergency spousal support or visitation rights during the divorce proceedings. The court may also schedule further hearings or other court orders.
The Initial Status Conference is not required in instances of uncontested divorce where both parties have filed an Affidavit for Decree without Appearance or in cases where both parties have legal representation and have filed a Stipulated Case Management Plan.
Divorce mediation is the process by which two spouses in disagreement about the arrangement of their separation enlist the services of a neutral third party to help them resolve their differences. The mediator does not offer legal advice or make any decisions, they simply help the spouses find solutions that solve their issues.
How an Attorney Can Help You File For Divorce
Even in collaborative divorce, the legal matters of the process can become quite complicated and overwhelming. An experienced divorce lawyer is your best option to ensure that you file legally, avoid mistakes and delays, and obtain a fair outcome.
At The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson, we are dedicated to our clients. Our family law attorney in Colorado Springs offers sound legal support while staying sensitive to the personal difficulties of the divorce process. Contact our team today, to begin your journey to a healthier happier life.