What is the divorce process in Colorado?
Getting a divorce in Colorado requires forethought and planning. It is designed that way, partly to ensure that couples do not make rash decisions that they later regret.
Understanding the divorce process is the best starting point. The following steps may not all apply to your divorce – that will depend on the nature of your separation from your spouse.
Before beginning the divorce process, the Colorado courts will need to be assured that the marriage is irretrievably broken. You need to state this when filing for divorce.
Regardless of who is at fault for the marriage breakdown, either spouse can file for divorce in Colorado as long as either you or your partner have lived in the state for at least 91 days.
- Negotiating a divorce agreement
Financial and custody matters usually take “center stage” when a divorce process gets underway. You and your partner must come to an agreement on issues such as child custody, child support, property division, alimony, and so on.
Your lawyer will guide you through this process depending on the circumstances of your marriage breakdown and the type of dispute resolution required. Several options besides litigation can help you reach an agreement.
- Drafting a settlement agreement
If you and your spouse agree on all the issues, you can draft a settlement agreement detailing all of the various terms of your agreement.
This can then be filed jointly with the Colorado courts.
- Waiting for the mandatory 91-day period
The divorce can be finalized in as little as 91 days from this point. In reality, most divorces take longer than this statutory waiting period because there are contested issues.
- Serving a divorce petition
In many cases, couples do not file the divorce petition jointly. One of the spouses serves divorce papers on their partner. The partner then has 21 days in which to file a written response.
- Sharing of information (“discovery”)
The relevant financial information from each spouse needs to be exchanged within 42 days of filing for divorce. This includes information about income, investments, real estate, debts, monthly expenses, and so on.
Spouses may sometimes request documents and other information provided in writing during this “discovery” process.
- Attending a “status conference” with the court
Once a divorce petition is filed by one spouse, both spouses must attend a court status conference (“ISC”) within 42 days.
A judge or family court facilitator will be present to understand the main issues and to set the key dates.
At this court appearance, requests for emergency relief or temporary orders (such as temporary child support or alimony) can generally be made too.
- Attending a “temporary orders” hearing
This step may be necessary if your original ISC hearing was not in front of a judge or magistrate.
- Attending a trial in court
If no divorce settlement agreement is possible, even after mediation, permanent orders will need to be made in court after the judge has heard and considered evidence from both sides.
Most couples want to avoid this step as it is time-consuming, expensive, and the information is made public.
- Issuing the divorce decree
After the judge’s decisions have been made, a decree of dissolution of marriage and substantive orders will be issued.