A Summary of Colorado Divorce Laws
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Divorce Laws Specifically for the State of Colorado
Colorado is a Spanish adjective describing things that are made red. The state gets its name from the red marble found within its borders. Some of it was used to build the capitol building. The Centennial State, as it’s called, was named such because it joined the US 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And speaking of independence, Colorado divorce laws are by far some of the easiest to understand! Lucky Coloradans!
Grounds Under Colorado Divorce Laws
How easy is it to get divorced in Colorado? Let’s put it like this. The one possible reason for getting divorced is an irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Simply put, the reason for which you may seek a divorce in Colorado is that your marriage is broken with no chance of repair.
Either you or your spouse must legally reside in Colorado for a minimum of 90 days immediately prior to filing for a petition to break up your marriage.
Colorado divorce laws also stipulates you must file in either the county where your spouse resides (providing it’s in Colorado) or your own home county if your spouse has served in the same county or is no longer a resident of Colorado.
Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties
To begin, the two main players in any divorce (you and your spouse) are called the Petitioner (this is the one who files for divorce) and the Respondent (the other one/the person being served). An action for dissolution of marriage filed in Colorado is filed in the District Court. The action that initiates the proceeding is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The action granting the final judgment (giving you your independence) is referred to as the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Divorce is a big step, especially when there are children, money, and/or property involved. If you don’t wish to get divorced for any number of reasons but find that you cannot bear to live with your wife right now, the Colorado divorce laws offer you the choice of a legal separation over getting divorced.
The grounds for a legal separation in Colorado are the same as for a divorce (that is, your marriage is shown to be irretrievably broken).
Legal separation is very similar to divorce with one major exception being that you may not marry another woman unless/until you get divorced.
Something may seem irreparably broken until you find the right tool (or tools) to repair it. Who knows, maybe the woman you want to divorce today will one day be the woman you cannot live without. Maybe being separated from your wife will help you to rediscover whatever it is that made you want to marry her in the first place. Or maybe not. In any case, the option of legal separation is available to you in the State of Colorado.
Simplified Divorce Procedures
Back to the divorce issue again, you may feel like you have absolutely no control as you sit and wait for the court to make some very important decisions (alimony, child custody/support, division of property). Of course, it does not have to be that way.
Colorado divorce laws say you may qualify for a simplified divorce based on the following requirements:
- You have no minor children and your wife is not pregnant, or you are represented by counsel and have entered into a separation agreement with your wife, which provides for custody and child support
- Service of process has been effected upon the non-filing spouse;
- There are no contested issues
- There is no marital property to be divided by the court or you have entered into a separation agreement with your wife, which provides for the division of the marital property
In essence, a simplified divorce is for couples who either do not have anything to split between them (e.g. children, money, property) or who are able to come to an agreement on all these terms without help from the court.
If you are unable to come to any sort of agreement with your wife regarding the above mentioned issues, you are likely in the majority and are certainly in good company here. Try not to let it get to you. If the two of you could agree on everything, you probably wouldn’t be here in the first place.
So let’s just take a deep breath and march bravely forward. Like men!
If the court determines there is a chance of reconciliation or one spouse argues that the marriage is not irretrievably broken, the court may order a counseling period of thirty to sixty days prior to making a final judgment on the dissolution of the marriage.
Also the court may, at its discretion, order mediation or arbitration to settle any disputes regarding the children (e.g. custody, visitation, and support).
At the request of either spouse or on the court’s own motion, the parents of a minor child may be required to attend a program designed to provide the parties with information regarding the impact of separation and divorce upon children.
The program will inform parents about:
- The divorce process
- Its impact on adults and children
- And it will teach co-parenting skills and strategies
In many cases, a parenting course may be taken online and the certificate of completion presented to the court.
Much of what you can expect to learn as part of the program is common sense but a good refresher. You’ll also pick up some new info and maybe even a new perspective on your current situation.
One thing I took from this course is how easily adults underestimate the pain a divorce causes our children while we’re hyper-focused on our internal ache.
The divorce hurts your children just as much, if not more, than it hurts you. Your kids aren’t yet mature enough to handle this type of situation.
Also, as out of control as you feel during this divorce, your children feel even less in control. After all, you made all the decisions: you chose to get married, have children, and now get divorced. Meanwhile, the kids have just been along for the ride. They don’t really have a say in the matter, despite the impact it has on them.
If this is your first divorce or your first one with children involved, what you’ll learn as part of the course will teach you a lot about parenting through (and after) a divorce. But I don’t want to give away too much and spoil it.
Just know it’s not so bad. In fact, I think this was the easiest part of my entire divorce process. If only the rest of it could be so easy as sitting in front of a computer for two to three hours.
The longer your relationship, the more likely you are to have shared property and the more difficult it will be to split them fairly between you. We also know that value is more than just financial.
An object’s sentimental value may increase its overall value, especially when the sentiments are shared. On the bright side, Colorado is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will set aside all property that belongs to you or your spouse alone before dividing the remaining shared property fairly between you.
When deciding on how to split the shared property, the courts will consider all relevant factors, including:
- Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property
- Value of the property set aside to each spouse
- Economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the property distribution
- Increase or decrease in the value of the separate property of the spouses during the marriage or the depletion of the separate property for marital purposes
Moving from a difficult topic to one that is even worse, alimony is probably ranked high on the list of words you never want to hear. Especially if this is not your first time around. Unfortunately, when it comes to divorce, this subject is unavoidable.
In Colorado, the court may award alimony to either spouse upon a finding that the spouse seeking alimony fits one or more of the following criteria:
- Lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs
- Is unable to support him or herself through appropriate employment
- Is the custodian of a child whose condition is such that it would be inappropriate for that spouse to seek outside employment
The court will determine the amount of alimony and the length of time the alimony is to be paid after consideration of the following factors:
- The financial resources of the party seeking support
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age, physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking support
- The ability of the spouse from whom alimony is sought to meet his needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking support
As previously mentioned, you may be able to settle these matters between you and your wife outside of court in a simplified divorce.
For those of you who cannot come to an agreement, the court will make a decision on all matters of child custody – including physical custody, visitation, and other related matters – based on what the court deems to be in the best interests of the child. In determining the best interest of the child as it relates to parenting time, the court will consider all relevant factors, including:
- The wishes of the child
- The wishes of the parents
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parents, siblings, etc.
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The physical proximity of the parties to each other
- The mental and physical health of all parties
- The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party
The allocation of decision-making responsibilities will be determined after consideration of such factors as:
- The ability of the parties to cooperate and make decisions jointly
- The ability of the parties to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child
- Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child or spousal abuse
Both parents have the right to access any information regarding the child, such as medical and school records, unless the court orders differently.
Conduct of a party that does not affect that party’s relationship with the child shall not be considered by the court, and the court will not presume that one spouse is better able to serve the best interests of the child because of that person’s sex.
Don’t go running off yet, fathers. Once the matter of child custody is settled, along will come another issue that needs to be addressed. This one should come as no surprise.
The State of Colorado has enacted child support guidelines, which establish the presumptive correct amount of support. The courts may deviate from the guidelines if the judge finds they’d be unjust, inequitable, or inappropriate.
Reasons for deviating may include such things as:
- Extraordinary medical expenses
- Extraordinary costs associated with parenting time
- And an abnormally large gap between the incomes of the parents
The court shall also provide for the children’s current and future medical needs by ordering either or both parents to provide medical and dental insurance for the children, if reasonably available.
Either spouse may request to change their name by petitioning the court.
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