How Long Does It Take to File a Divorce?
While getting married in Colorado may be an easy task, getting a divorce is not. The process will take months to complete and will require a full disclosure of all property owned by either spouse.
Most spouses want the process to be over as quickly as possible so that they can move on to this new chapter in their lives, but divorces are not finalized until a judge signs the final decree. In Colorado, a divorce is not legal until it is granted by the court.
Before you get to that point, there are mandatory legal processes and statutory requirements each spouse must complete. The duration of a divorce depends on several factors – some of which are in your control, and some are not.
A statutory 91-day waiting period
The minimum time that a divorce will take from the filing of the initial petition in Colorado is 91 days.
After you file for divorce and serve papers on the other party, the court must wait 91 days before granting the divorce. This law applies whether the parties agree that the marriage is over or not, and even if there are no unresolved issues.
This 91-day waiting period after the court “acquires jurisdiction” of the case must pass before any court in Colorado can enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation. This is also known as a “cooling-off period.”
The idea of this requirement is to prevent quick “knee-jerk” divorces. It is designed to provide time for a couple to reconcile, even after they have applied for a divorce.
If the 91 day period has passed and both parties agree on all the major aspects of the divorce and have completed and submitted all of the necessary paperwork correctly, then the divorce can be completed relatively quickly and easily from that point providing the local court is not too busy.
Most divorces in Colorado take twice as long as this and if there are many disagreements to be settled, they can take up to nine months, sometimes even a year or longer.
The good news is that, in general, divorces are processed quicker in Colorado now than in years gone by. If your divorce is uncontested, you may only need to wait for the statutory 91-day period.
Disputes and delays in Colorado divorces
Generally, delays arise due to disputes and disagreements about key issues such as:
- Division of marital property
- Division of debt
- Child custody, visitation rights or parenting time
- Support issues (child support and spousal support)
As a good rule of thumb, the more issues that need to be resolved, the longer the divorce will take to complete.
There may also be delays caused by busy county courts, the unavailability of judges, and the court’s internal procedures for setting and conducting a final hearing, where permanent orders will be issued. The time this takes varies from one court to the next and will depend on the court that processes your petition.
The requirement to attend mediation sessions, which is another common request in contested divorces in Colorado, may also create delays for the final hearing date.
If many issues are outstanding and child custody experts or business valuators need to be brought in, this will cause further delays to the hearing and the finalization of the divorce will be pushed back.
In many uncontested divorces, where all matters are agreed upon, no uncontested permanent orders hearing is necessary. This means you may submit your agreements to the court and the judge will sign off on them remotely without either spouse having to appear in court.
However, if there are children from the marriage and at least one party has no divorce lawyer or issues remain unresolved, a hearing will likely be necessary and is usually arranged soon after the 91 days have elapsed. The hearing may take a full day, but is usually shorter than that.
Initial filing and service
The mandatory 91-day waiting period starts from the day that:
- The two parties file for divorce together; or
- One of the spouses serves papers to the other; or
- One of the spouses files a waiver of service
The initial filing of the petition for divorce starts the process, but you may need to submit some or all of the following at the same time or a later date:
- Affidavit of personal service
- Sworn financial statements
- Separation agreement
- Proposed decree of dissolution of marriage
- Proposed support order (if child support or alimony are applicable)
- Affidavit of non-appearance (if the parties are represented by attorneys or have no children), and
- Parenting class certificates (if there are children from the marriage)
Once you either file papers together, your spouse is personally served or waives service, the 91-day waiting period begins and the court will then decide on your divorce request.
Financial disclosure and other requirements that affect the duration of a divorce
After you file for divorce in your county court and one spouse is served, you and your spouse have 42 days to submit your financial information to the court.
Depending on your local court, the precise financial disclosure information required may vary. If you need longer than 42 days, it is usually possible to get an extension from the court.
The court may, at any time within the 91-day waiting period, issue temporary orders to resolve support issues (child or spousal support) or other financial matters that arise during the divorce process.
Within 42 days, you and your spouse must attend an initial status conference. This is a quick conference in which the court sets deadlines for your case.
The court will likely require you to attempt to resolve any outstanding issues through mediation, which is usually a preferable alternative to a trial in contested divorces. In the event you and your spouse have a full agreement, you may be able to waive the mediation requirement.
Ideally, you will end up with a separation agreement that both of you can sign and submit to the court for approval. You can draft the agreement yourself, or have one prepared by an experienced divorce attorney.
If there is no alternative to a trial, you can expect that the trial will extend the duration of the divorce process significantly.
How can you expedite the divorce process?
To ensure that your divorce doesn’t end up taking longer than average in Colorado, consider the following:
- Try alternative resolution methods – such as mediation, collaboration or arbitration. These are generally preferable and less time-consuming than litigation.
- Look to find agreement rather than create conflict – disputes slow the divorce process down and it’s easy to be driven by emotion.
- Seek the advice and guidance of experienced divorce attorneys.
Do you need help filing for divorce in Colorado?
Although divorces are possible without attorneys in Colorado, complexities often arise even in divorces that start out as uncontested. Every case is unique. An experienced divorce attorney can help you avoid major delays.
Speak with a divorce attorney at Colorado Legal Group for advice about filing for divorce. Start with a free case evaluation by calling 720.594.7360.