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Colorado Divorce Laws and Timelines

7 min read
Rachael Goldstein, Attorney

by Rachael Goldstein, Attorney

Colorado’s courts don’t let the reasons for ending a marriage affect the final outcome when granting a divorce, or when splitting a couple’s property. This makes the state’s divorce process simpler than other states in some ways. Mandatory waiting periods and different rules for marriages with children can still cause rocky legal situations for those seeking a divorce in Colorado.

How Long Do Divorces in Colorado Take?

In Colorado, the time it takes to finalize a divorce varies. There is a mandatory 91-day statutory waiting period that must occur, from the day your spouse has been served with the Petition For Divorce, meaning that’s the absolute minimum length of time a divorce could take. 

However, in practice, most divorces will take six to nine months, in large part because time must be dedicated for negotiations or mediation regarding things like property division and alimony. If a couple doesn’t have any property or children together, it’s possible that a divorce could be finalized sooner than that. 

Divorce Process in Colorado

Colorado divorces involve understanding the state-specific legal requirements and procedures. The process encompasses a series of steps that generally includes the following: 

Step 1 – File for Divorce

You or your attorney must file the Petition for Divorce or Legal Separation accompanied by the Case Information Sheet. If your spouse is in agreement with the divorce, you can file for divorce together, which makes the process easier and quicker. If they aren’t in agreement, you must still file these two forms and also the summons.

Step 2 – Serve Your Spouse

If filing for divorce without your spouse, you must notify them of the initiation of the divorce by serving them with the Petition, Case Information Sheet, and the Summons. If your spouse waives service, then you will file the form stating this. If they don’t, you will need to file paperwork showing proof of service

Step 3 – Response

If you filed separately, you will need to wait for your spouse to respond to the petition. They generally have 21 days to file their response. If you and your spouse filed jointly, you can skip this step. 

Step 4 – Initial Status Conference

This is a preliminary hearing where both parties meet with the court. During this conference, required documents like your Financial Declarations are submitted to ensure compliance with mandatory disclosure rules.

Step 5 – Divorce Mediation

Should there be contested issues within your case (like disagreements over child custody or asset division), mediation is usually required by the courts as a means of resolution prior to proceeding further.

The goal for mediation is to identify the issues and ultimately come up with agreements that both parties can accept in hopes of avoiding adversarial litigation. 

Step 6 – Final Divorce Hearing 

If any disputes remain unresolved after mediation, the case will proceed to a final hearing. All issues will be addressed as each side presents their case. The judge listens to testimony, examines the presented evidence, and then makes decisions on every contested matter.

Once the judge finalizes your divorce, you receive a document called a divorce decree. This document includes information about agreed upon obligations, such as, alimony responsibilities and child custody decisions. The divorce decree also confirms that your marriage is officially over.

Residency Requirements for Colorado Divorce

Either you or your spouse must have lived in Colorado for at least 91 days before you’re allowed to file for divorce in Colorado.. If children under the age of 18 are involved, they must have lived in Colorado for at least 182 days, or since birth. 

Approximate Cost to File For Divorce in Colorado 

In Colorado, the starting point for filing a divorce is usually paying a court filing fee around $230. After this initial expense, divorce attorney fees can add up significantly depending on your situation and how you choose to handle representation.

To potentially mitigate these costs, consider unbundled legal services. Limited “unbundled” representation applies when you hire an attorney for specific parts of your divorce rather than the entire process. This selective approach allows more flexibility and control over total expenses while ensuring professional counsel when and where it’s most important.

Reasons for Divorce in Colorado

In Colorado, there is only one recognized cause for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This positions the state as a no-fault divorce jurisdiction, which means that neither spouse has to prove fault or wrongdoing by the other party.

If at least one partner considers their marriage broken beyond repair, that’s sufficient grounds for filing for divorce in Colorado.

Division of Property in Colorado Divorces

Colorado operates under an equitable distribution framework in divorce proceedings, meaning the division of marital property must be fair though not necessarily equal. Marital fault isn’t a factor that courts consider in this allocation.

A judge will take into account several key considerations when splitting marital assets, including:

  • Each spouse’s contribution to acquiring marital assets
  • The value of assets each spouse receives
  • Each party’s individual economic situation at the time of property division 
  • Any increase or decrease in the value of each spouse’s separate property during the marriage
  • The depletion of separate property for marital purposes during the marriage 

Ultimately, this equitable approach aims to reach a division that places spouses on even financial footing considering their entire circumstances. 

Alimony Considerations in Colorado

Alimony isn’t guaranteed in every divorce case in Colorado. Instead, the determination of whether to award support and the amount depends on various factors, including:

  • Financial needs and ability to pay
  • Length of marriage, with longer marriages being more likely to have alimony awarded 
  • Contributions throughout the marriage, including non monetary contributions such as homemaking or child-rearing 
  • Each spouse’s ability to be financially independent following the divorce
  • Ages and health of both spouses, factoring how it may affect their earning capacities and financial needs moving forward

The parties can agree on an amount for alimony if they don’t want the court to make the decision. Additionally, marital misconduct does not typically play a role in alimony decisions.

Child Custody in Colorado Divorces

In Colorado divorces that involve children, the primary focus in determining custody arrangements is what’s best for them. Courts take into account multiple factors under the best interest of the child standard, including:

  • The child’s preferences regarding custody, with the weight of this factor depending on their age and maturity 
  • The opinions and wishes of each parent concerning the child
  • The child’s relationship with their parents and siblings 
  • Each parent’s overall ability to give their child a loving and stable home
  • The ability for each parent to consider a child’s needs over their own 

Parenting time and decision making authority are considered separately. While parents may share equally in making major decisions, it does not mean that physical custody will be split 50/50

The ultimate goal in Colorado child custody decisions is to ensure that a child’s safety, well-being, and the likelihood of a stable future are protected. 

The divorce process in Colorado can be emotionally and financially taxing, and legal assistance can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of your case. However, we understand that the cost concerns are real.

By choosing unbundled services, you have the option to leverage lawyer support only on specific aspects like paperwork or representation at a particular hearing, rather than retaining them for every aspect of the case. This allows you to save money while not forgoing necessary legal representation for the more complicated parts of the divorce process. Lawyers in Unbundled Legal Help’s network also offer affordable full representation.

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