Divorce is the legal end to a marriage. Depending on your circumstances, the process may involve division of debt and property, as well as arrangements for spousal or child support. Here are some things to be aware of when divorcing in Colorado.
Can I Get a Divorce Without an Attorney?
No Colorado law says that you must use an attorney for your divorce. It is an emotional process, however, so you might want to speak with a professional to help you focus on and protect your best interests.
What is The Divorce Process?
No two divorces are exactly alike, but most follow a similar legal process. You must file certain documents with the Colorado court clerk in the county where you live or where most of your marital property is located:
A Petition for Dissolution includes information about your marriage and your children, as well as any other legal proceedings that might affect the outcome of your case. The petition must be signed and notarized.
A Case Information Sheet lists basic information about yourself, your spouse and your children. It tells the court whether you will be using an attorney.
Colorado's waiting period for divorce means your case cannot be finalized until at least 90 days have passed from the date when you filed your petition. This is the case even if your divorce is uncontested. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days before you can file.
Parents must create a parenting plan. If you cannot do so on your own, the court may order parenting classes, mediation or some other means of settling your custody or parenting time dispute.
The courts also require a sworn financial statement that details all your marriage's assets, expenses and debts.
Depending on your circumstances, you may need to file other forms as well.
Do I Need Grounds For Divorce?
Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning that you do not have to provide a reason for your divorce. You are only required to show that your marriage is irretrievably broken. Courts can consider fault when deciding issues such as alimony or property division, however.
Can I Avoid Going to Court?
If your divorce is uncontested—both you and your spouse agree on all the details and you have filed your paperwork as co-petitioners—you may be able to avoid many court appearances. You can file an Affidavit of Non-Appearance that allows you to finalize your divorce without appearing before a judge. There may be interim court appearances that you cannot avoid, however.
In a contested divorce, one where you and your spouse agree on few, if any, details, you most likely cannot avoid appearing in court. Unless you eventually come to an agreement, the court will determine issues such as property distribution and child support at a trial.
How Is Property Distributed?
Colorado is an equitable distribution state. The court divides both marital assets and debts according to what a judge considers fair. Fair does not necessarily mean each spouse gets an equal share. If you and your spouse are able to come to a satisfactory agreement outside court, a judge is likely to approve it.
Can Spouses Change Their Last Names?
A spouse can choose to keep her married name or she may ask the court to allow her to change it. Unless the court believes she is trying to defraud someone, it will likely approve the change.
When Is My Divorce Final?
In general, a court will enter a final decree dissolving your marriage after the details have been worked out and the waiting period has passed. Your final divorce agreement will contain all the provisions you have agreed to or that the court has ordered.
Who Can Help Me?
Divorce can be a complicated process and a variety of laws may apply. A Colorado divorce lawyer can help make sure you follow the appropriate procedures.