Having a divorce can be a very messy and emotional experience because not only are you trying to untangle your life with your former partner, but also navigating the legal process. Understandably, the process can feel overwhelming and daunting. That’s why we have put together this step-by-step guide to help you navigate the divorce process in Colorado.
This guide will walk you through the entire process of getting a divorce in Colorado, from filing for the paperwork to finalizing everything with the court. For more information, contact our skilled divorce lawyers in Colorado Springs today!
Different Types of Divorce
The first thing that must be understood is that there are different types of divorce in Colorado. This is important because the type of divorce you pursue will determine how long it takes for the divorce to be finalized, as well as what steps are necessary for the process.
The first type is a dissolution of marriage, also known as a “no-fault” divorce. This means that neither party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage and both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, such as child custody and division of assets. This type of divorce can be completed in as little as 91 days.
The second type is a non-contested divorce, where one party may be at fault for the marriage breakdown, but the parties still agree on the terms of the divorce. Essentially, this means that the divorce will not go to trial and can be completed in 91 days as well.
The third type is a contested divorce, where one party does not agree with the terms of the divorce or believes that the other party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. In other words, it is when the parties cannot come to a mutual agreement and have to go to trial for the court to make decisions on major issues. This type of divorce can take longer to finalize and may require mediation or a full-blown trial to come to a resolution.
The fourth type is a legal separation, where the parties do not want to dissolve the marriage but instead decide to live separately and determine matters such as child custody and finances. This type of divorce does not have a set time frame and can take longer than 91 days to finalize.
Above all, it is worthy of note that Colorado is a “no-fault” state, meaning that the reason for the divorce or fault for the breakdown of the marriage does not play any role in decisions regarding major divorce issues like child custody, alimony payments, or division of assets.
Necessary Paperwork in Divorce
Before you can file for divorce, there are certain documents that must be filled out and filed with the court.
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: This document officially starts the process and states your intention to get a divorce, as well as some basic information about the marriage such as the date of marriage and names of minor children.
- Financial Statement: This document includes information about both parties’ incomes, assets, and debts.
- Parenting Plan: This document details the plan for child custody, decision-making, and parenting time.
- Marriage Certificate: The original or certified copy of the marriage certificate must also be submitted to the court.
- Temporary Orders: This document sets temporary terms for major issues until a permanent resolution is reached during the divorce process, such as child custody and spousal support.
Submit a Petition For Dissolution of Marriage
Once all the necessary paperwork is gathered, the next step would be to submit a petition for dissolution of marriage with the district court in the county where either spouse resides. This is also known as initiating the case because it officially starts the divorce process.
In Colorado, the petitioner (the person filing for divorce) must have lived in the county where they are filing for 91 days and have been a resident of the state for at least 91 days prior to filing. The divorce petition will include information about the marriage, children, marital assets, and any requests for relief (such as child support or alimony in Colorado Springs).
Serving Divorce Petition Papers on Your Spouse
Once the petition has been filed, it must then be served to your spouse, also known as the respondent. This can be done by a process server, sheriff, or any person over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case. The respondent will have 20 days to respond once they have been served.
The respondent must be formally served the petition and given the chance to respond in writing. If the respondent does not respond within 20 days, the petitioner can ask for a default judgment from the court meaning that the petitioner’s requests will likely be granted without input from the respondent.
However, it is important to note that even with a default judgment, the divorce will still need to go through the basic steps before it can be finalized.
Both parties are required to disclose their assets (including personal property), debts, and income to each other through a process known as mandatory disclosures. This is done through the completion of a Financial Affidavit and can also include the exchange of documents such as bank statements or tax returns. This allows both parties to have an understanding of the financial situation and assists in making decisions about property division and alimony.
Initial Status Conference (ISC)
Once the respondent has been served and financial disclosures have been exchanged, the next step in the divorce process is to attend an initial status conference. This meeting is typically brief and held with a judge or court facilitator in order to discuss any temporary orders that may need to be set, such as child custody or spousal support, as well as setting a schedule for the rest of the divorce process.
Temporary Orders Hearing
If temporary orders are needed, there will be a separate hearing to determine the terms. This is usually only necessary if there are issues such as domestic violence or if one party is not financially supporting the other. The judge will consider both parties’ requests and any evidence presented in order to make a decision about temporary orders. These orders will remain in place until a permanent resolution is reached during the divorce process.
During the discovery phase, both parties have the opportunity to gather information and evidence related to the divorce. This can include requesting documents, taking depositions of witnesses, and even obtaining expert reports for the valuation of assets. This is also a time for each party to gather evidence and interview witnesses who may have information relevant to the divorce.
Permanent Orders Hearing
Once discovery is complete, the parties will attend permanent orders hearing where they will present their evidence and arguments to the judge to reach a final resolution on any unresolved issues such as marital property and child custody. This hearing may also include mediation or settlement discussions in order to reach an agreement outside of court.
Before the permanent orders hearing, the parties may attend settlement meetings in order to try and come to an agreement on unresolved issues without going to trial. These meetings can be voluntary or court-ordered and are typically attended by both parties.
In Colorado, both parties are required to attend at least one mediation session in order to attempt to come to a resolution without going to trial. During mediation, an impartial third party, known as a mediator, will assist both parties in coming to a mutual agreement about important aspects of the divorce such as property division and child custody.
So, if both parties are able to come to an agreement on major issues, they can settle the divorce through a written agreement. This avoids the need for a trial and can often be a quicker process.
If the parties are unable to reach a settlement agreement during settlement meetings or the permanent orders hearing, the divorce will go to trial where a judge will make final decisions on any unresolved issues.
This can be a lengthy and expensive process, so it is often beneficial for the parties to try and come to an agreement outside of court. Ultimately, the judge will consider any evidence and arguments presented in order to make a final decision on the unresolved issues in the process.
Final Decree of Dissolution
Once all issues have been resolved and any necessary waiting periods have passed, the judge, at the divorce hearing, will issue a final divorce decree of dissolution which officially ends the marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce such as marital property division and custody arrangements. The decisions made by the judge will be included in the Final Decree of Divorce which officially terminates the marriage.
It’s important to note that even after the divorce is finalized, some agreements may be able to be modified in the future. For example, if one party experiences a significant change in financial circumstances, the court may modify a child support agreement.
It's important to keep in mind that every divorce is unique and the process may look slightly different for each couple. As we understand that getting a divorce can be an emotionally and legally complicated process. It is then important to have skilled divorce lawyers by your side throughout the entire process to ensure your rights and best interests are represented.
If you have any questions about the divorce process in Colorado or need assistance with your case, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified family law attorney. At our Colorado Springs family law firm, we represent our clients with passion, dedication, and professionalism.