In the State of Colorado, the time that it takes to obtain a divorce will vary depending on the issues involved in your specific case. For example, one spouse might contest the divorce, which can extend the marriage dissolution for many months. In addition, the facts and circumstances are unique in every divorce case, and therefore there is no single set of steps that apply in all divorce cases.
The following is a general overview of the divorce process in the State of Colorado. Only a qualified and experienced Colorado divorce attorney can understand your specific legal situation, understand the Court’s requirements that affect your case, and explain everything you must do. This divorce guide should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice, and it is not intended to be a “Do it Yourself” divorce manual.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in the State of Colorado?
Colorado is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that (1) you do not need to explain to the State why you are seeking a divorce and (2) the Court will not consider either Party’s behavior during the marriage. Instead, the Party wishing to receive a divorce can now tell the State that their “marriage is irretrievably broken”.
What is the Residency Requirement for Filing for Divorce in Colorado?
To file for a “Dissolution of Marriage” in the State of Colorado, one spouse must have “established domicile” in Colorado for at least 90 days. The following may be considered as evidence of Colorado domicile:
- Payment of Colorado state income tax
- Colorado Driver’s license
- Colorado Vehicle Registration;
- Voter Registration in Colorado
- Permanent Employment in Colorado
Colorado courts have ruled that deployed employees who work overseas and military members have established sufficient intent to create domicile within the state.
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
After you have determined that Colorado has jurisdiction over your case, the next step is to prepare the initial paperwork for filing with the Court. The initial paperwork consists of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Case Information Sheet and Summons for Dissolution of Marriage.
This petition puts the other spouse “on notice” of your desire to divorce. There is no disadvantage or advantage to being the Petitioner (the spouse who filed for divorce) or the Respondent. If you and your spouse have struck an agreement on the issues in your divorce case, you are permitted to file a joint petition. In most divorce cases, the parties do not agree on issues such as spousal maintenance, child custody, or asset division. In situations such as these, you need to file the petition and then “serve” the “Dissolution of Marriage” petition on your spouse. Under Colorado law, the spouse who has been served has 21 days to file his/her response if they are residents of the State of Colorado. If they are not residents of Colorado, they have 35 days to respond.
After you have filed your initial documents with the Court, the Court will issue a Case Management Order. Be sure to read this carefully as this Order as this is the Order that outlines your deadlines for your case and tells you how the Court will manage it. If you have any questions regarding this document, make sure to speak with your attorney about it.
Acceptance of Service Method
Should you spouse agree to the divorce but chooses not to become a Co-Petitioner by signing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage your spouse may accept the initial documents and sign a Waiver of Service. Once you receive the signed Waiver of Service from you spouse it is the Petitioner’s job to ensure it is filed with the Court.
If you spouse refused to sign the Petition and refuses to accept the initial paperwork, your other option to have your spouse served. Technically, anyone over the age of 18 who is not directly involved in your divorce can deliver the paperwork to your spouse. However, they must sign a sworn affidavit stating they served your spouse.
Should you choose not to involve family or friends in serving your spouse, you can hire a Process Server or the Sheriff’s Department to serve them on your behalf. Again, it is your responsibility as the Petitioner to ensure the Affidavit of Service is filed with the Court.
The Initial Status Conference
Within forty-two days after the filing of the initial paperwork an Initial Status Conference is required to be held. An initial Status Conference it a meet and greet with the Court. It allows both spouses to identify the significant issues in their divorce case. The Court then schedules all the important dates and hears requests from both parties for temporary orders for child support and/or spousal support while the case is ongoing and remains in effect until a final ruling is made in the case.
If you are pro se you will need to know what issues you will want the Court to address and you will let the Court know those issues at the Initial Status Conference. However, if you have hired an attorney, your attorney will discuss those issues on your behalf with the Court.
Rule 16.2 – Financial Disclosure
Both you and your spouse are required to produce your 16.2 Financial Disclosures within forty-two days after you have served your spouse with the initial documents. However, there are times the Case Management Order overrides this and requires you to submit your 16.2 disclosures before the Initial Status Conference takes place. Be sure to read your Case Management Order carefully and if you have any questions make sure to consult with your attorney.
If maintenance and child support are at issued your 16.2 financial disclosures may need to be updated periodically as you case continues.
When you produce your 16.2 financial disclosures you will need to ensure that all the correct documents are produced and that nothing is hidden. After you divorce is finalized and the Court has issued your Decree; if your (ex) spouse later finds out you have hidden or forgotten to disclose an asset and chooses to bring it before the Court, the Court may use its discretion to award that asset to your ex-spouse. You will want to speak with your attorney to ensure that you are disclosing all the required documents.
Mediation is an intervention in your case by a neutral, third party who is there to help you try to find a diplomatic resolution to your divorce. Mediation is mandatory prior to your Permanent Orders. (Please review your Case Management Order to see how long you have to set and meet for your mediation)
Keep in mind that any agreements you sign in Mediation will be made an Order of the Court and become binding upon you. Think carefully beforehand about what you want to mediate about and where you want to draw the proverbial “line in the sand”. This would be a good time to spend some time with your attorney so that you (and he/she) are prepared for what will take place in mediation.
- If you are able to settle partial and/or all the issues in your case, you Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be signed by both Parties and their attorneys and filed with the Court.
If all issues have been settled your attorney will turn the MOU into a Separation Agreement and/or Parenting Plan, they will also draft a proposed Decree and file it with the Court. If both you and your spouse are represented by attorneys, the attorney’s may choose to file a document called a Non-Appearance Affidavit. This affidavit asks the Court to enter your decree without the appearance of the Parties or the Attorneys.
However, if you have not settled any issues or only settled part of the issues, your attorney will call the Court to set a hearing on any matters that have not been settled.
At the end of your mediation, you will receive a Certificate of Compliance with Mediation from the Mediator. This certificate needs to be filed with the Court to ensure the Court knows you have complied with its Order and that you are ready for the next step.
Temporary Orders are one of the orders that the Court can issue in your divorce case. Temporary Orders permits the Court to put temporary orders in place until a more permanent solution can be found regarding child support, maintenance and parenting time. The Court can hear issues regarding attorney’s fees and assets at this time, however, the Court usually reserves these issues for Permanent Orders.
Not every case requires a Temporary Orders Hearing due to the particular facts of that case. If no Temporary orders are needed, then the parties mediate and set Permanent Orders. It is important to understand that any agreements between the spouses are not legally binding unless the agreements are “court-ordered.” The parties are always free to agree to Temporary Orders and file their written agreement with the Court, so it become a binding Court Order.
The Discovery Process in a Colorado Divorce Case
In some divorces in Colorado, a spouse may demand further disclosure or additional financial information. For example, a family asset may have suddenly disappeared. Always consult your divorce lawyer. If you believe that you need additional disclosures, your attorney can petition the Court for the following:
- Inspection. An “Inspection” is customarily used to inventory any marital assets or to use to access a residential property to conduct an appraisal.
- Interrogatories. Interrogatories are questions that the other spouse would be required to answer. According to C.R.C.P. 33 and 16.2(f)(3), a spouse can serve their spouse with Pattern Interrogatories with up to 10 more interrogatories.
- Physical and Mental Examination of Person. A “Physical and Mental Examination of Person” is useful to get a second opinion. For example, a spouse wanting spousal maintenance might state that they are incapable of work. The other spouse’s attorney might petition the Court to grant a second opinion.
- Requests for Production of Documents. A Request for Production of Documents is usually served with any Interrogatories, and this additional documentation might include credit card statements or pay stubs, medical records, etc. According to C.R.C.P. 34 and 16.2(f)(3), each party is permitted to serve Pattern Requests along with ten additional requests.
- Request for Admissions. “Request for Admissions” permits one party to ask the other party to deny or admit that specific facts are true.
Discovery requests are not usually sent out until after your 16.2 financial disclosures have been completed. This way, your attorney can review your spouse’s financial disclosures with you to determine what other additional information is needed.
The Permanent Orders Hearing (Final Orders Hearing)
The Permanent Orders Hearing is the final step in a divorce case and any issue not permanently resolved prior to this hearing will be resolved at this hearing on a permanent basis. Prior to this hearing, all expert reports must be done, all subpoenas issued, all evidence disclosed, positions statements completed, witnesses interviewed, and trial notebooks completed. It is the responsibility of the attorneys to prepare and present their cases within the time allotted by the Court to each party. Prior to this hearing you will want to spend time preparing with your testimony and reviewing your exhibits with your attorney.
Following the trial or “Contested Permanent Orders” hearing, the judge will issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, which finalizes the divorce.
Contact Us for Your Free Consultation/Free Case Review
If you have questions concerning divorce, child visitation, asset division, child support, or spousal maintenance (alimony), call (303) 771-9465 to set a time for your free consultation.
We are a Veteran owned and operated family law firm with more than 25 years of experience.
LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL A. HUG, Esq., 7700 E Arapahoe Road, Suite #140, Centennial, Colorado 80112
Telephone Number: (303) 771-9465