Divorces are rarely simple, and you need to follow specific steps to finalize a dissolution of marriage in Colorado. Below we’ll go over the general requirements to process a divorce in Denver.
Colorado Divorce Requirements
In order to file for divorce in Colorado, at least one spouse must have been a state resident for 91 or more days prior to filing. This establishes that the courts has jurisdiction over your case. It is not necessary for both spouses to meet the residence requirement.
Types of Divorce and Separation in Colorado
Relationships can be unique, and Colorado offers a variety of legal divorce and separation paths depending on your situation. These include:
- No-fault divorce. Under Colorado law, all divorces are no-fault. This means that there is no requirement for a spouse to prove wrongdoing by the other spouse in order for a divorce to proceed. The only requirement is a finding that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.
- Uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce occurs when you and your spouse agree on all of the terms and conditions for your divorce, including division of property and child responsibilities.
- Contested divorce. A contested divorce occurs when you and your spouse are unable to agree on some of the issues involved in the dissolution of your marriage. For example, you would need to go through a contested divorce process if you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your assets.
- Annulment. An annulment declares that a valid marriage never existed. In Colorado, annulment is called a Declaration of Invalidity. An annulment can be granted for reasons including lack of proper consent to the marriage, fraud and duress.
- Legal separation. If you are seeking to separate from your partner, but wish to remain married for personal or financial reasons then you may want to look into legal separation. A legal separation commits the parties to separating assets, dividing debts and establishing child custody rules. It does not end the marriage, but it can help formalize things when a couple wants to try living apart before divorcing or is opposed to divorce.
Child Custody, Support and Visitation in Colorado
Colorado divorce law does not automatically favor one parent over the other when determining child custody, support or visitation rights. Courts processing your divorce with kids will take into consideration the best interests of the child in each of these areas:
- Child custody. Custody, called parental responsibility in Colorado, is divided into two categories: physical and legal. Physical custody defines when a parent will spend time with a child. Legal custody refers to the right to make significant decisions for the child, such as where they attend school or receive healthcare.
- Child support. Both parents are expected to provide financial support for their child’s upbringing. When calculating child support, the court considers each parent’s income and may adjust to account for child care costs, medical expenses or physical care arrangements.
- Visitation. Colorado courts will encourage parents to work out a parenting plan that meets the family’s needs and schedules. The court will only establish a plan for visitation rights if the parents cannot agree.
Property Division in Colorado
Marital property is divided in Colorado using the principle of equitable distribution. Colorado is not a community property state. The equitable distribution system instead seeks to divide property fairly, rather than equally. This takes into account factors such as the length of the marriage and how each spouse contributed. For example, a lower-earning spouse might be granted a greater percentage of marital property to help them maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce.
Colorado law only divides property that was obtained during the marriage. Any assets owned prior to marriage, or gifts received by only one spouse, are considered as separate property that is not subject to division.
Alimony, called spousal maintenance in Colorado, is also allowed in some divorce cases. These payments can be temporary or permanent and are meant to avoid unfair economic impacts for lower-earning or non-earning spouses. Spousal maintenance can be changed over time if either of your circumstances change.
Filing and Serving Your Divorce Papers
Filing for divorce in Colorado requires that you complete specific court documents, deliver those documents to your spouse, and then file the documents with the court. Start by completing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation and a Summons for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation.
Once these documents are completed, you must serve them on your spouse. The documents can be served by any person over age 18 who is not a party to the action. Many people choose to hire a private process server who can ensure the documents are served properly and provide you with written proof of service. A divorce lawyer will assist you with completing and serving your divorce documents.
Finalizing Your Divorce
After you complete and file your divorce forms with the court and serve your spouse, the case will move forward to a trial or end with an agreement. From there, the divorce can only be finalized after a 91-day waiting period has expired. The waiting period applies even if you and your spouse agree on all terms for the divorce.