What We Cover In This Article
Divorce Laws | Residency Requirements | Grounds for Divorce | Divorce Attorney | Filing for Divorce | Online Divorce | How Long? | Divorce Costs | Custody | Child Support | Alimony | Division of Asset | Common-Law Marriage | Alternatives
Whether you've been married for five months or 50 years, getting a divorce isn't an easy decision to make. If you're finding yourself in a position where it's time to end your marriage, you're not alone.
We understand that getting a divorce can be complicated, from knowing what documents you need, whether you need an attorney or not, and how to divide your assets.
If you don't know where to begin, we're here to help.
We'll discuss everything there is to know about getting a divorce in Colorado, so you feel more prepared as you take those next steps into the next chapter of your life.
Types of Divorce Laws in Colorado
There are many ways to enter into a marriage, but there are several ways to end it. All forms require a decree issued by the court. However, the oldest and most common method is marriage dissolution, commonly known as divorce. Other ways you can use to end your marriage include legal separation or an annulment.
Difference Between Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment
Each of the above ways to end a marriage has its own unique rules and requirements. Understanding their differences is a good start when starting the process of ending your marriage.
Colorado is a no-fault state. In this case, you don’t need to prove the specific grounds for filing for a divorce or that your spouse was at fault. As long as all the above requirements for divorce are met, divorce is a straightforward way to end your marriage. In this case, the court helps you divide your assets, resolve child custody and support, and any other related issues.
A couple may consider themselves separated if one moves out of the house when the marriage is not working. However, this is regarded as physical separation, which is different from legal separation, and in the eyes of the law, the couple is still married.
On the other hand, legal separation means that the couple has decided to amicably divide their properties, agree on child custody, and other related issues without seeking a divorce. This kind of separation is legal and must be taken through a court process.
After a legal separation, each individual is responsible for their financial decisions.
Unlike getting a divorce where a non-US citizen risks deportation, in a legal separation, the noncitizen can live in the country even if they don’t live with their spouse.
Depending on how your relationship changes after legal separation, you can go back to living together or seek an official divorce. Other benefits of legal separation include retaining your health insurance and filing tax returns as a married couple.
You can seek an annulment if you can prove that your marriage is invalid as per Colorado marriage laws. If the court grants you an annulment, your marriage is considered null and void. In this case, you can move on with your life as if you have never been married.
A marriage annulment in Colorado is granted under the following conditions:
- One or both parties entered the marriage under duress.
- One party could not consent to the marriage due to mental infirmity, drug or alcohol influence, or other incapacitating substance.
- If one party could not consummate the marriage and the other party didn’t know of the incapacity at the time of the marriage.
- One party entered into the marriage by relying on a fraudulent act.
- If one or both the parties entered the union as a dare or a joke.
You can't choose annulment due to religious reasons. For instance, Catholics don’t believe in divorce and therefore opt for annulment.
Understanding Your Divorce Options
After having the “talk” and deciding to divorce, your next step is to choose how you want to dissolve your marriage. Below, you’ll learn about the various available options to help you choose the right one depending on your circumstances.
When a couple decides to end their marriage amicably, that’s an uncontested divorce. If you choose this type of divorce, you still have to sort issues such as child custody and support, division of property, and debt. However, unlike a contested divorce, uncontested eliminates the emotional exhaustion and the challenges that result from a divorce.
The process of filing for an uncontested divorce in Colorado is straightforward and doesn’t require an attorney if you are comfortable navigating through the process without one.
You can agree with your spouse to represent yourselves or use online resources that make the process easy. But if neither of these works, one of you can decide to hire an attorney.
These are the high-level steps to filing an uncontested divorce in Colorado.
1. File for Divorce Paperwork
Start by completing a petition and other forms and filing them with the court clerk. Ensure you check with the Colorado Judicial Branch to see which forms you need to file. You can file the documents with your spouse, in which case you will be co-petitioners. Alternatively, you can file the forms as the petitioner while your spouse becomes the respondent.
2. Serve Your Spouse
If you choose to file the petition alone, you need to serve your spouse with the documents. You can get a waiver of service form from your district court clerk’s office and ask your spouse to sign it. Alternatively, you can ask your county sheriff to serve your purpose.
3. Finalize the Divorce
Once the court receives all your paperwork, it can decide to grant you a divorce immediately or request you two to appear before the court for a hearing. Sometimes the judge may ask you to appear before the court to ask you questions to confirm that the divorce is fair to both parties.
Pros & Cons
If you qualify for an uncontested divorce, using an online divorce service is a great way to save a lot of money. Keep in mind in Colorado, divorce can cost over $11,000 in fees if you file for divorce with an attorney.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
In other cases, one of the spouses may refuse to sign the uncontested divorce papers. When this is the case, you have to file for a contested divorce. In most cases, contested divorce happens if the couple can’t agree about the division of property, children custody, or debt issues.
These types of cases:
- Take long to resolve.
- Cost a lot to both parties.
- Have contentious proceedings.
- Take the intervention of Permanent Orders Hearing, which a judge oversees to bring the contested divorce to a resolution.
- Require the divorcing partners to prepare well; their evidence and testimony will determine the case’s outcome.
Some of the possible issues that may come into play in contested divorce cases include:
- Testimonies from experts such as psychologists to testify on the mental stability of the partners.
- Testimonies from relatives and friends to prove the credibility of a particular individual.
- Scrutinization of financial records if there are allegations of undisclosed assets.
Due to the contentious nature of these divorce cases, it is recommended you hire an experienced lawyer to help you present the best possible case.
Pros & Cons
A collaborative divorce is when you and your spouse decide on a mutually beneficial solution when your marriage is no longer working. This type is a type of mediation involving both parties’ lawyers instead of a neutral third party. When you decide to go collaborative, you have to sign a contract stipulating that neither of your lawyers will file for a contested divorce if you fail to agree.
Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce
The collaborative divorce end goal is negotiation and settlement without going to trial. There are numerous reasons where you should consider this type of divorce.
- Maximum control over the case – collaborative divorce allows you to come up with your terms with the guidance of mediators. Since you decide what works best for you, you have more control over the case.
- Cost-effective – unlike contested divorce that takes place in a courtroom, collaborative divorce requires less time with the attorneys and happens outside the courtroom. It, therefore, costs less than litigation.
- Minimal emotional trauma – collaborative divorce gives you the freedom to layout terms that allow you to continue operating as a family unit. Therefore, the entire process minimizes the emotional trauma that results from divorce to both spouses and the children.
- You have more privacy – since you have control of the decisions and the outcome of your divorce, the personal information you share is kept private.
The most crucial feature of collaborative divorce is continuing to operate as a family unit even after separation. This type of divorce is suitable if you want privacy and confidentiality throughout your separation process.
Residency Requirements in Colorado
The state of Colorado has unique residency divorce requirements that you must meet before filing for a divorce with a Colorado divorce court. These residency requirements are as follows:
- Before filing a divorce petition, one of the spouses must have been domiciled in Colorado for at least 90 days. First, however, the court must prove that you relocated to Colorado to make it your permanent home but not just intending to file for divorce.
- At least 91 days must have passed since the court served the other spouse with the petition sermons.
- The state must have personal jurisdiction over the respondent spouse.
- If the divorcing couple has children, they must have been Colorado residents for at least 181 days.
The first two requirements are the most important for the court to have jurisdiction to enter a decree of dissolution or legal separation. However, if the last two requirements are missing, the court may lack the authority to divide marital assets, parenting orders, debts, and the power to order the respondent spouse to pay for child support.
What To Do If You Miss One or More of the Above Requirements
If you do not meet at least one of the above residency requirements, you have the following options:
- Establish residency in Colorado for the required period. However, you don’t have to wait that long to start processing your documents.
- If your spouse meets the residency requirements, ask them to file for a divorce petition instead.
- File for the petition in another state where you and your spouse meet the requirements. However, you need to note that all states have unique requirements, and you have to confirm if you meet them before filing for a divorce petition.
Proving Residency in Colorado
While filing for a divorce petition, the court requires a signed authentication that you have been a Colorado resident for at least 90 days. In this case, you can prove your residency in the state by providing any of the following documents:
- A Colorado’s driver’s license with an issue date of at least one year
- Colorado’s voter’s registration
- An affidavit by a corroborating witness
- Your income and property tax receipts
- An auto insurance card
Colorado’s dissolution laws regarding who is eligible for a divorce protect the state’s jurisdictions and ensure that the appropriate rules are applied to suitable cases. It’s therefore essential that you meet these requirements to prevent your case from being dismissed.
Grounds for Divorce in Colorado
Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning that the court doesn’t need to know who’s at fault for your marriage to stop working. Instead, as per the Colorado divorce laws, the court grants you a divorce based on an irreparable breakdown of your marriage. This means that the differences between you and your partner are irreconcilable.
With the no-fault divorce law, you don’t need to testify to the court why your marriage failed. Instead, you only need to prove that you are eligible for a divorce by meeting the residency requirements discussed above.
The no-fault divorce differs from fault divorce in that the spouse filing a petition needs to provide proof of the alleged faults. Fault grounds vary from one state law to another, but the most common include:
- Adultery – needs to be proven using circumstantial evidence. The judges can then decide whether or not the cheating occurred based on the totality of the circumstances.
- Cruelty and inhuman treatment – this requires more than incompatibility or simple misconduct. The court considers the evidence if the conduct is extreme to the extent that continued cohabitation threatens one spouse’s mental and physical safety.
- Incarceration – the state grants a fault divorce if one of the spouses is incarcerated for a specific period, such as one year or more.
- Substance abuse – some states grant fault divorce if one spouse has habitual drunkenness or drug abuse.
- Insanity – some states grant a divorce if one spouse is confined in a mental institution for a given period.
- Abandonment – some states have statutes that specify the time elapsed since one spouse left the other. When the time elapses, the abandoned spouse may file for a divorce on abandonment grounds.
- Impotence – if one or both partners are sexually impotent, the court may grant you a fault divorce.
Whether to file a fault or no-fault divorce depends on your state laws. Some states have only fault grounds, while others have both fault and no-fault grounds. Others like Colorado are purely no-fault states. Before filing for a divorce, it’s always good to consult with an attorney to navigate the divorce laws in your state.
Using a Colorado Divorce Attorney
Whether or not you need a divorce attorney in Colorado depends on the complexity of your case. If it’s a simple divorce, you may need the guidance of a divorce lawyer, but you don’t need to hire one. But if your case is full of complexity such as income disparities, child custody, and parenting, then you need to hire a divorce lawyer.
What Makes a Good Divorce Attorney
A divorce lawyer makes the entire process easier. However, hiring a reasonable attorney is not easy, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Below are a few tips to help you during your search.
Level of Experience
A divorce lawyer with years of experience is knowledgeable about the entire process and can navigate the system smoothly and efficiently. When searching for a divorce attorney, check their track record and choose one with favorable outcomes for their clients.
Acts with Professionalism
You can determine a lawyer’s level of professionalism by politeness, punctuality, respect, and integrity. By hiring a divorce attorney in Colorado with those characteristics, you’re sure that they will simplify the complex legal jargon to ensure you can follow your case smoothly. In addition, you can determine a lawyer’s professionalism within the first few minutes of interacting with them.
Level of Confidence
Sometimes, divorce cases can be nasty. It takes a lot of confidence to stand in a courtroom and present your arguments logically and assertively. So look for a lawyer with a high confidence level to help them take charge of the case without intimidation by the other party.
In addition to being a professional, you need a divorce attorney who can answer any questions you may have. In most cases, attorneys have several clients, but a good one is organized and has time for each client. To ensure you hire a reliable attorney, make sure you ask about their availability during the initial consultation.
You need to have an honest relationship with your client. On your side, you need to open up about your situation, and your attorney needs to be frank about your available options. Such an attorney doesn’t make claims they can’t back up. They will always tell you the truth as it is, even if it hurts.
How to Find a Good Attorney
Now that you know the qualities of a reasonable divorce attorney, it’s time to start looking for one. Here are crucial tips to guide you in your search for a reasonable attorney.
Define What You Want
When looking for a divorce attorney, first figure out the type of lawyer you want. For instance, if you are disputing about the property division, find a law firm that specializes in that. By defining what you want from the start helps you narrow down your search, minimizing the chances of getting confused along the way.
Have a Realistic Goal
When there’s no wrong answer to the kind of outcome you want after the divorce, you need to be realistic about your expectations. Talk to your attorney and share your expectations, such as shared custody or equal division of assets. A professional lawyer will analyze your case and find ways to help you realize your goals.
Consult with at Least Three Attorneys
There are many divorce lawyers, all of who promise to deliver winning results. However, they are not equal. So, instead of hiring the first lawyer you contact, pick at least three that meet the qualifications discussed above. Then, compare their services and choose the one whose services meet your expectations.
Hold an Interview with the Potential Lawyers
Once you pick the best three, hold a phone interview with each of them. During the interview, ask the attorneys about their experience, what kind of cases they handle, and their rates. After the discussions, choose the one with access to resources that may be useful to your lawsuit.
Interview Questions for a Divorce Attorney
Before settling for a divorce lawyer, you need to interview several of them to ensure you end up with the best. Here is a sample of questions that you should ask when interviewing a divorce lawyer.
What Is Your Area of Specialization?
Some lawyers specialize in more than just divorce law. Although that doesn’t mean they are incompetent, it’s hard to master all areas of law. So be sure you choose a lawyer who specializes in divorce law.
What’s Your Geographical Area of Coverage?
A lawyer who operates within your locality is familiar with the courthouse and the judges.
What’s Your Experience in Divorce Cases?
Ask the attorney how many years they have operated as divorce lawyers, the number of cases they’ve handled, and how many of these cases they’ve won.
What Accreditations Do You Have?
The number of accreditations an attorney has depends on whether they have been involved in community and family law bar. The certification means that the lawyer has access to the judges and information other lawyers may not have.
How Much Is Your Retainer?
The answer ensures that you know the lawyer's charges and how much you should expect to pay.
What Is the Estimated Cost of My Divorce?
No lawyer can give you the exact cost of your divorce. However, they can help you estimate how much it might cost based on similar cases they have handled in the past.
Is Initial Consultation Free?
The divorce attorneys in Colorado either charge you on an hourly basis or a flat fee. However, the initial consultation is usually free to potential clients.
Is the Meeting Confidential?
When seeking legal advice or representation, your meeting and communication with the lawyer will be confidential.
Pros of Using an Attorney
Divorce is one of the most challenging and stressful processes that impact the lives of both spouses and their kids. Using a reasonable divorce attorney eases the stress for both parties by understanding the law and keeping you informed at all times.
Below are some pros of using a divorce attorney:
- You don’t need to master the rules during the divorce hearings. There is a lot of law jargon and definitions. When representing yourself, these terms may be hard and confusing to you. Having a lawyer represent you ensures that you don’t have to master the law to win the case.
- They help protect your rights- your lawyer ensures that you get a fair share of marital property as well as child custody. They also ensure that both parties have equal responsibilities in child maintenance and support.
- An attorney takes care of the paperwork- the divorce process has various documents and forms that need filling and filing. The paperwork is overwhelming, and in the worst-case scenario, you might lose some documents. An attorney handles the paperwork on your behalf, hence saving you from the stress.
- They offer objective advice- depending on the nature of your divorce, an attorney provides accurate advice to ensure the process concludes in your favor.
Cons of Using an Attorney
Despite the above pros, hiring a lawyer has its share of cons, and they include:
- It costs you money- how long a divorce case takes depends on its complexity. And the longer the case takes, the more expensive it will be.
- It can alarm your spouse, leading to drama- if you hire an attorney without informing your spouse, it may alarm them, in which case you should expect drama.
When faced with a divorce, it helps to know where to turn to during stressful moments. Even if you have experience in law, it can be hard to handle your divorce case, especially if it has a lot of complications. A divorce attorney comes in handy in such scenarios.
During the hiring process, ensure you follow the steps outlined above and ask the right questions. You will have a professional representing you if you do, increasing your chances of realizing your expectations once the divorce is finalized.
Filing for Divorce in Colorado
The general steps for filing a divorce in Colorado largely depend on the circumstances of the spouses who are getting the divorce.
For instance, a couple that has been married for a long time and has minor children, property together, and debts has a more complicated divorce.
However, that’s unlike a couple that has been married for a short time, with no kids or shared property.
In addition, if you agree on most aspects of your divorce, then the process is more likely to be more straightforward.
But if you have a toxic marriage, getting a divorce in Colorado can be complicated and stressful. In this case, you’ll need a professional and zealous attorney to help protect your rights and those of your family.
Pro Tip: The information below is perfect for you to get an overview of the divorce filing process and also use as a guide if you will be filing for divorce on your own. However, if you are using an attorney, their team will typically be taking care of these steps as part of their proper representation of you as a client.
Preparing Your Divorce Forms
Filing for a divorce involves a lot of documents, and the entire process can be challenging. However, the types of divorce forms you need to file depends on the details of your case. For instance:
- Whether you are filing the divorce on your own or jointly with your spouse.
- Whether there are children involved.
- Whether it’s a contested or uncontested divorce.
The supporting documents you require to support your divorce case should pertain to the issues central to your lawsuit. Those documents may include:
- Tax returns and bank statements.
- Mortgage statements, credit card statements, and other documents that prove the marital debt.
- Insurance policy documents.
- Retirement account statements.
- Copies of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.
- Succession plants.
- Parenting plan.
- Copies of your will.
- Divorce settlement agreement.
Having all the necessary supporting documents eases the rough road ahead and helps you get started with your case. If you can find the documents, your attorney will find alternative ways to track the paperwork. If your spouse is trying to hide some assets, the attorney will also help safeguard your interests.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Filing Your Divorce Forms
Once you fill the required forms, attach the necessary supporting documents and submit them to the court clerk. First, however, you need to confirm if your records need notarizing before filing.
Again, the filing costs depend on the forms you need for your divorce case. However, these pointers will guide you to estimate how much filing the divorce forms will cost you:
- As of 2021, the court filing fees in Colorado cost a few hundred dollars per action needed.
- If your divorce has complicated custody issues, you should file for divorce and custody separately.
- Always ensure you check the divorce filing fees as they are regularly updated.
- You can get a fee waiver depending on your financial need.
After you fill and file the divorce forms, you are officially known as the petitioner and your spouse the respondent. In addition, you will get a Case Management Order (CMO), a list of upcoming case dates, and any additional forms you may need to complete.
Serving Your Spouse
Once you officially open a divorce case, the following steps largely depend on the type of divorce you’ve filed. If you filed the divorce papers independently, you have to ensure the other party is served with a copy of the petition.
You should serve your spouse the petition through a neutral third party at least 18 years and above. After your spouse receives the petition, you must file a form with the court to confirm that you have met this obligation.
After receiving the divorce petition, your spouse has up to 21 days to file a response if they reside in Colorado. If they live outside the state, they have up to 35 days to file a response. In their response, your spouse should detail their stance on your divorce. In addition, they should explain in detail if they agree or disagree with any aspect of your petition.
If your spouse disputes any issues on the petition, the next steps may involve mediation hearings and discovery. However, if the spouse agrees with all aspects of your petition, the court schedules a final hearing where the final divorce decree is made and the divorce officially wrapped up.
The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure require mandatory disclosure of finances in every case involving marriage dissolution. In cases where one spouse may be somehow in the dark about the couple’s finances, the other party is expected to give the attorneys all the necessary documentation to represent the client.
As per the civil rules of procedure, the following financial disclosures are mandatory:
- The underlying financial statements to collaborate the financial information such as tax returns, pay stubs, and credit card and bank statements.
- Sworn financial statements provide an itemization of each person’s earnings, expenses, assets, and debts.
Once you decide to file for divorce, be ready to submit these financial disclosures without waiting for a request.
Financial disclosures are mandatory even in cases where you and your spouse agree on everything. The court uses the information to ensure fairness when deciding on the settlement. It also guides the court in ensuring that the children receive adequate support as stipulated by the Colorado Child Support Guidelines.
If you fail to provide financial disclosure during your divorce petition, the court may halt the agreements you may have reached. For instance:
- The Colorado Court of Appeals might uphold the trial court’s setting aside a separation agreement if either of the parties failed to provide disclosures.
- The court can set aside a post-decree child support modification due to lack of disclosure.
When filing for a divorce, make sure you are ready to handle the exhausting paperwork that comes with it. Work closely with your attorney to ensure that you fill all the required forms and serve them to your spouse.
The benefit of working with an attorney at this stage is that they know the best course of action if your spouse opposes your litigation. In addition, make sure that both you and your spouse disclose your finances to avoid delays in your divorce case.
Online Divorce in Colorado
When faced with the possibility of divorce in Colorado, you have a lot to worry about. These range from the cost of the divorce, child custody, and the impact the entire process will have on your mental health.
Luckily, you can file for an online divorce in Colorado. However, not all Colorado counties accept online divorce, and you should confirm which ones accept online divorce. In addition, state law doesn’t allow you to go through the entire divorce process online. Instead, these online divorce processes only allow you to handle certain aspects of your divorce online, including:
- Legal consultation with divorce attorneys
- Form filling and document preparation
- Divorce filing but with limitations
How to Qualify for an Online Divorce in Colorado
In the recent beta e-filing pilot for online services, the Colorado court made it possible to submit your divorce forms and support documents through their website. First, however, you must have met the following criteria:
- Be a legal resident of the following counties; El Paso, Teller, Moffat, Arapahoe, Larimer, Grand, or Routt.
- You are filling your forms and not using your attorney to do it for you.
- You have filed for an uncontested divorce. In this case, you and your spouse have agreed on all terms and are filing the papers jointly.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on certain aspects of your divorce, you will have to file your divorce using the traditional means. In addition, if you miss some of the above criteria, you cannot file for a divorce online. However, you can still seek legal support online such as:
- Assistance from a family attorney to file and verify your divorce documents.
- Receive online consultation via video calls
- Expedite your divorce process by filing many of your supporting documents via mail or fax. The records you can share include proof of income, budget worksheets, a list of your post and pre-marital assets, account and mortgage documentation, and parenting plan.
Do You Still Need to Go to Court
However, there are parts of the divorce that you cannot file online in Colorado. For instance, you need to complete the following steps in person:
- Serving your spouse with the divorce papers
- Hearings of temporary orders
- Mediation sessions
- Court appearances
It’s, therefore, not possible to handle the entire divorce process online.
If you consider the regular chores that need your attention, you’ll agree that online divorce is a lifesaver. But before you think of filing this type of divorce in Colorado, make sure you meet all the requirements. In addition, set aside some time for the steps that require an in-person presentation.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in Colorado
The divorce process takes a mental and emotional toll on everyone involved. So it’s no wonder that many people want the process to be completed quickly. You can do several things to expedite the process, such as agree on child support and property division without litigation.
However, the Colorado law sets a limit on how fast you can get a divorce. For instance, the initial phases of all divorces in Colorado must take 90 days. You start the process when you file a petition. After the court receives your petition, it serves your spouse, after which you have to wait for ninety days. In other cases, the divorce can be finalized in 91 days or more.
During the 90 days, other deadlines apply. For instance, you both have a 20-days deadline to make financial disclosure after submitting the petition to the court. However, if your spouse is adamant about disclosing, the court extends the disclosure days to 40 days. The court might also give other temporary orders. In addition, the Colorado divorce laws require you to take parenting after divorce courses.
If all things run smoothly, the entire process will be complete within three months. However, if many components surround the divorce, the case can take longer. Another major factor that affects how long your divorce case takes is the type of divorce. If your divorce is contested, it can take anything from 6 to 12 months.
Factors that Affect the Length of Your Divorce
Several factors influence how long your divorce takes. These include:
- The length of your marriage – If you have been married for a long time, you will have more shared assets, which could take a lot of time to divide.
- Either party’s stance – If you and your spouse have an amicable and cooperative relationship, the divorce process is likely to take a short time. In this case, the court is expected to expedite the process by asking for an affidavit instead of a hearing. You may also divorce through mediation, in which case the process will take a shorter time. However, if either of you is unwilling to cooperate, the process can take longer. The process can also be nasty and full of emotions.
- Contentious issues – If you have highly disputed family matters such as parenting, shared assets, division of property, and alimony, the process can take longer. The only way to avoid delays from these issues is by having prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. The agreement should outline how you wish to handle these issues.
- Your net worth – generally, the higher your marriage net worth, the more likely your divorce will take longer. This is because such a marriage requires your divorce attorney to carry out property division negotiations with your spouse’s lawyer. As a result, the entire process may take a long time to conclude and for both parties to reach an agreement.
- Converting a legal separation into a divorce – if you were legally separated but want to convert the relationship into a divorce, the process will likely take longer. If you are legally separated and wish to get divorced, you have to wait for six months from the date of your legal separation for the court to grant you a divorce.
Despite the various ways to delay your divorce process, you can still expedite and ensure that the process runs smoothly. You can achieve this by:
- Keeping emotions out of it – it’s normal for emotions to run high during a divorce process. However, they have no place in the negotiations. Involving your feelings in the process can lead to withholding information, which will only prolong the process.
- Avoid litigation – if the divorce is contentious, it’s more likely to end up in court. If you want a speedy divorce, then consider an Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as mediation. Such a resolution will help you reach compromises in child custody and property division.
As you can see, how long your divorce process takes depends on your relationship with your agreement. You should, therefore, expect the process to take anything from three to 12 months to wrap up. But if you want it hastened, you can apply the above tips to expedite the process.
Divorce Costs in Colorado
In addition to being emotionally draining, getting a divorce in Colorado is also expensive. However, how much the divorce costs depends on the type of divorce, you will have. For instance, the level of cooperation between you and your spouse predominantly affects the final costs of your divorce.
If you file for an uncontested divorce, the process is more straightforward, and everyone will benefit financially since you can manage cooperation. However, a contested divorce is more expensive. Most of the cost will go to hiring an attorney when they make court appearances and prepare and file the required documents.
Understanding the various factors that affect the cost of divorce will help you plan for the expenses beforehand.
Some court fees, such as initial filing fees, serving your spouse and filing a response, take a good portion of the total cost of your divorce. For example, in Colorado, the initial cost of filing a petition is around $230. In addition, where necessary, you need to consider extra costs such as hiring a mediator, child custody evaluators, and financial analysts.
These non-lawyer costs can cost you an average of $1600. However, the nature of your divorce determines these extra costs. If the disputes are minimal, you should expect these costs to be lower than that.
Hiring an attorney to help you with your divorce case is the most significant expense. Two factors influence the attorney fees:
- The hourly rates of the lawyer, and
- The total number of hours needed to work on your case
The minimum average hourly rate for divorce attorneys in Colorado is $230 per hour, while the maximum average hourly rate is $280 per hour. How much average hourly rate you pay essentially depends on factors such as:
- Your location- if you are filing for a divorce in the larger metropolitan areas such as Denver and Colorado Springs, then you’re likely to pay higher hourly rates than someone living in smaller towns with lower costs of living.
- Experience in family law- you will pay higher attorney fees if you hire a more experienced attorney than an attorney with less experience. However, a more experienced lawyer has more knowledge of family law. Therefore, such a lawyer is likely to take less time in wrapping up your case than a less experienced one.
In addition, how much you pay your lawyer depends on whether you want full-scope representation. In this case, the attorney will handle everything from start to finish, whereby you should expect to pay more.
If you have a contested divorce, then you will be forced to go the litigation way. Some of the most common things that you are likely to dispute during your divorce include:
- Child custody.
- Division of property and debts.
How you resolve these disputes determines the total cost of your dissolution. If you and your spouse cannot resolve the issues in harmony, your attorneys will need more time to resolve your case. Your lawyer will require to go through the following stages to prepare for your divorce:
- Discovery – this is when the attorney collects all the necessary documentation and hires external experts where needed. If either of you is unwilling to cooperate, the lawyer will have to prepare motions and attend court hearings to hand in the documentations.
- Settlement agreement – after discovery, your lawyer starts negotiating a settlement agreement. This stage can take more or less time, depending on the complexity of your issues and the differences you have with your partner.
- Divorce trial – if you cannot reach an agreement, the lawyer needs to prepare and represent you in a trial.
The complexity of the contested issues affects the overall cost of your divorce.
If your divorce has no disagreements, some courts in Colorado will require you to try mediation before going to the court. If you want a less expensive divorce, it’s better to consider a mediator before the issues between the two of you get worse.
A mediator in Colorado usually charges $150 per hour per couple. So the entire process may cost you around $750. But again, how long the mediation sessions take depends on the complexity of your issues.
Online Divorce Service
Online divorce services are another helpful way to cut down the total cost of your divorce. Many online divorce services only charge a few hundred dollars.
These services will help guide you as you gather all the necessary documents for your divorce, but you'll still need to see someone in person to officially file.
That being said, in Colorado, even if you pay for an online divorce service, you'll still be incurring other costs because online divorces only help you with the initial paperwork. Some online divorce services include those fees in their total costs, while others don't.
There are several online divorce options available. Almost all of them offer you the guidance to fill out the initial divorce paperwork without needing an attorney.
Some services will cover different things in addition to the initial filing guidance. As an added plus, some services will even offer users a money-back guarantee if the courts don't accept your paperwork. You'll want to look into the options to find the best one for you.
While online divorce services are fantastic tools, they aren't going to finalize your divorce. You'll still need to pay court fees, potentially attorney fees, and other costs associated with a divorce.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Custody Consideration in Colorado
During the divorce process in Colorado, there are no set rules that determine who will get child custody. However, before awarding custody of minors, there are some statutory factors that the court must consider.
Unlike many other states, Colorado doesn't have joint or sole custody. Instead, it has parental responsibility whereby the parents can have primary or joint responsibilities. As a result, one parent has less than 90 overnight visitations in primary responsibilities, while the other has primary parental responsibilities.
In addition, residential responsibility is different from decision-making responsibility in Colorado. The parents can have joint decision-making to discuss important issues such as education, religion, and co-curricular activities. However, in sole decision-making, one parent makes all the significant decisions without consulting the other parent.
Factors that Influence Child Custody
There are many factors that the court can consider when deciding on child custody. However, many courts base their decision on what they consider the best interest of the child. Although the term ‘best interest of the child’ may sound subjective, various factors influence the court’s decision regarding child custody.
- The parent’s wishes – before making a decision, the court will determine what the parents want for their kids.
- The child’s wishes – if the child is old enough, usually 12years and above, the court will listen and consider their wishes.
- The relationship between the child and other family members – the court considers the child’s relationship with your ex-spouse's significant other, half and step-siblings.
- The child’s ability to adapt to their new school or home – Colorado laws put a lot of emphasis on their education. When deciding on child custody, the court provides the child with the best schooling option.
- Physical and mental health for both parents and the child – in this case, the court considers psychological and physical health in the ordinary sense and exceptional circumstances such as mental health and physical abuse. However, disability is not a reason for the court to deny parenting rights.
- The relationship between the parents – the court considers the parent’s behavior towards each other. For instance, do they cooperate and encourage positive relationships between the child and the other parent.
- The distance between the parent’s homes – when this factor is relatively straightforward, it can be very complicated if one parent decides to relocate. In addition, the type of parenting order is affected by the child’s age and the financial resources of both parties.
- The parent’s ability to place the child’s needs above their own – the court is more likely to offer more custody rights to the parent who acts selflessly instead of selfishly.
- The past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child – the court considers if the past relationship of either party with the child reflects time and commitments, a system of values, and mutual support. This applies to broader factors such as the parents’ general interaction with the child, relationship with the teachers, and time the parent spends with the child.
When it comes to decision making, the court considers all relevant factors such as:
- Evidence that the parents can cooperate in decision-making. If the parents are cooperative, the court is more likely to offer them joint responsibility.
- Evidence that a particular decision will promote frequent contact between the child and the other parent.
The child custody decision depends on whether the parents are separating on amicable terms or they have disagreements. Where the parents are on agreeable terms, they can decide on parenting agreements independently or in the presence of a mediator. However, if they have a contested divorce, the Colorado court comes in to help with the child custody. In this case, the decision is influenced by the factors discussed above.
Child Support Consideration in Colorado
Colorado, child support statutes ensure that every child receives adequate financial and emotional support from both parents. The guidelines further dictate that the children should receive the same support if the parents are not divorced. The support comes in the form of money paid to the parent with primary responsibilities by the other parent.
According to Colorado child support laws, child support is roughly 20% of the parent’s gross income for one child and an additional 10% for a second child. Gross income includes any source of income the parent has other than the child support payments, retirement plan, second job, and public assistance.
Factors that Influence Child Support in Colorado
Child support in Colorado is calculated regarding the following factors:
- The gross income of each parent- gross income, in this case, refers to most earned and unearned revenues. These may include; salaries, wages, tips, overtime payment, bonus, pension, unemployment benefits, social security, and workers’ compensation benefits.
- Adjustments to gross income- if you receive alimony after the case’s conclusion, the law requires you to add the amount received to your gross income. On the other hand, your spouse deducts this from their gross income.
- Additional expenses- after the essential support obligations have been set, the court gives both parents an opportunity to extra predictable child expenses. These may include work-related care, adding the child to a health insurance policy, and other additional costs the court may order.
- Imputed income- where one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the judge estimates their potential earning capacity considering their working history, job availability in the area, education, and training.
- Support adjustments- the court considers the child’s education, health, and well-being when determining child support.
- Extraordinary expenses- unlike everyday expenses, extraordinary expenses include special education, therapy, and or medical treatment.
Determining child support is an essential aspect of your divorce case in Colorado. If you are the paying parent, you should be on the lookout for how long you pay the support, depending on the child’s age.
If you’re the recipient parent, remember that raising a child can be expensive. Either way, you need to consult with a professional to help you reach an appropriate child support amount.
Alimony Consideration in Colorado
The Colorado alimony guidelines ensure that the disadvantaged spouse gets basic financial needs after the divorce. Alimony is imposed where there is no other feasible way in which the spouse can meet the support needs.
There's no absolute entitlement to maintenance, and instead, the court can award alimony to either party, where necessary.
Types of Alimony in Colorado
There are different types of spousal maintenance in Colorado given during and after divorce. These include:
- Temporary – this type of maintenance is given to one spouse by the other during the divorce process. If one spouse was the primary earner for the family, the other spouse could request the judge to order their spouse to offer support as the divorce process proceeds.
- Rehabilitative is the most common type of alimony. The higher-earning spouse offers financial support to their spouse until they acquire the necessary skills to join the workforce and become self-reliant. This type of alimony is most common where one spouse leaves their career to take care of the family. In this case, the court orders support for a period long enough for the spouse to gain enough skills and secure a job.
- Reimbursement support applies to cases where one spouse paid education fees or job training fees for the other spouse during their marriage. When the couple is married, the acquired skills are beneficial to both parties. But after separation, the skills are valuable to the party who received the training. In this case, the court may order reimbursement through spousal maintenance payments.
- Permanent spousal maintenance is usually reserved for most extreme divorce cases. Such cases include where one spouse cannot become financially stable due to disability, advanced age, or terminal illness.
Alimony Eligibility and Amount of Support in Colorado
Many people tend to think that only women are eligible for alimony. However, the court orders spousal maintenance fairly and equitably to both parties. The requesting spouse needs to demonstrate the need for care and that the other party can afford it.
For the court to consider alimony, you must have been married for at least three years before getting a divorce in Colorado. Other factors that the court considers include:
- Financial resources of each spouse which includes the actual or potential income aside from the marital property.
- The ability of the paying spouse to meet the needs of the receiving spouse.
- The spouse's lifestyle during their marriage.
- The court considers the income of both parties from employment and eligibility. The latter can be obtained through diligent and additional education or training.
- Property distribution during divorce.
- How long the couple has been married.
- The age of each party and their health status.
Once the court makes its finding, it can determine how much you should pay or receive as spousal maintenance. If you are in an amicable divorce, you can agree on the amount and the terms of spousal maintenance. However, if you can’t agree, the court steps in and pits the above factors into consideration before determining the alimony amount.
Division of Assets
Division of assets and debts is an essential aspect of any divorce process. Colorado is an equitable distribution state, and hence the division of assets is done equitably or fairly instead of equally.
Property division is done at the final stage of the divorce, whereby the judge looks at various factors before deciding on an equitable division.
The court only intervenes in property division where the couple cannot agree on their own. In addition, Colorado is a dual-property state, meaning that property can be marital or non-marital.
The court considers the two types of properties during marriage dissolution and decides how to divide the marital property.
Factors that Influence Division of Assets in Colorado
During marital property division, the court divides the assets without regard to marital misconduct. However, the court considers marital debt, which is the amount of debt accrued by the couple during their marriage duration. The court also considers specific arrangements such as prenuptial agreements.
Other factors that the court consider when determining the division of assets include:
- The contribution of each asset to the acquisition of the marital assets- this includes the spouse's contribution as a homemaker.
- The value of the property set aside for each spouse.
- During asset division, the spouse’s prevailing economic status and the desire to award the family home to the spouse with the higher child responsibility.
- Value increase or decrease of separate properties during marriage or depletion of separate assets for marital purposes.
Type of Marital Property
According to Colorado divorce laws, marital property refers to assets acquired by the couple during their marriage duration. These include anything of value such as:
Real estate assets include your primary home, business property, land, or any vacation or rental properties you may have. The court determines the estimated total value of the property, spells out your contribution, and decides the most equitable division.
401k, IRA Investments
You and your spouse's 401k, IRAs, and investments are up for division as your divorce looms. Generally, a judge will grant you what was yours prior to your marriage and whatever you've earned once you were married.
The judge will take into consideration what is fair in the divorce. If one spouse has several assets under these categories while the other doesn't, they may give the spouse without any 401k, IRAs, and investments some of the other spouses to keep it fair.
Small businesses and solo practices are considered as property in the divorce process in Colorado. During a marriage dissolution, the court evaluates the value of the business at the time of the divorce and future value for spousal maintenance.
Since Colorado doesn’t have a standard way of evaluating businesses during divorce, the process can be highly complicated. The value can also vary depending on who is doing the valuation. To ensure that your interests are protected during asset division, make sure you hire an attorney who has dealt with property division in the past.
Since Colorado is an equitable property distribution state, the court first separates marital properties from non-marital properties. It then determines the value of the asset and the contribution each party had in its acquisition.
Finally, like with the assets, the couples need to divide marital debt, including car loans, mortgages, and credit card debts, among others.
Division of assets is one of the most complicated stages in any divorce. Unless the couple is on agreeable terms, they need the help of a mediator or go through litigation. Using mediation is the most suitable as it doesn’t cost as much.
On the other hand, litigation is more expensive in terms of court fees and the cost of hiring an attorney.
Common-Law Marriage Consideration in Colorado
Colorado law recognizes common law marriage. This type of marriage is established when two people agree to be husband and wife. However, there are no documents, ceremony, or license for the marriage to be legal.
However, the couple in a common-law marriage is entitled to all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of a legal and binding marriage.
If a time comes and the couple needs to document their marriage, they should visit the Court Clerk in their area. Here, they should sign a notarized affidavit that attests to their marriage.
However, a common-law marriage only takes place in any of the following conditions:
- Neither of the party is married to another person.
- Both parties are of legal age of 18 years. If either of the parties is between 16 and 18 years, they should seek guidance and consent from their parents or guardians.
- Both parties must have the legal capacity to get married.
If the couple meets the above conditions, they can get into a common-law marriage in colorado. If need be, the couple can prove their marriage by:
- Holding themselves as a married couple to the public.
- Have joint ownership of property.
- Have mutual financial support.
- The woman uses the man's last name.
- Maintenance of a joint savings or checking account.
- Filing joint income tax returns.
Once you meet all the considerations, you are legally married in the eyes of the law, unless you want to dissolve your union. If you file for a divorce, the court will determine whether it agrees with your common-law marriage.
If the court agrees with your common law marriage, the dissolution will follow all the divorce steps discussed above, depending on your situation.
Alternatives to Divorce in Colorado
You can use several ways to terminate or save your marriage if you want to avoid the emotional and mental anguish that comes with a divorce. Other reasons that may prompt you to choose different alternatives to getting a divorce in Colorado include religious reasons, qualification for social security benefits, and pension, among others.
When this is the case, you have a few alternatives, such as:
Legal separation is the best alternative for both an unhappy couple who wish to mend their relationship. It also works if the couples want to prepare for a permanent divorce.
In this case, one spouse moves out of the house. The move doesn’t affect the couple’s property and financial accounts.
If you wish for a legal separation, you must obtain a court order that spells out the agreement terms, including child support, alimony, property, and marital debt. The option is suitable if you can support two homes.
Even after legal separation, you are legally married in the eyes of the law and hence can’t remarry. In addition, the wife cannot reclaim her maiden name.
Despite these conditions, many benefits come with legal separation. For instance:
- You can avoid the stigma that comes with divorce.
- It eases the idea of a divorce.
- You can take advantage of the federal tax benefits of married couples.
- Helps you maintain a married couple’s medical insurance.
- Helps you preserve specific employment-related benefits.
Working it out together is the best divorce alternative if you want to dissolve your marriage but keep the peace even after the dissolution. In this case, you work out your separation in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
The alternative is beneficial in that it minimizes emotional fallout between you and your spouse. In addition, the kids are less impacted by the separation.
You can use this method as a framework to support each other during your physical break. It’s also a reasonable basis if you plan for a legal separation or mediation divorce.
Annulment is where the court invalidates your marriage or legal union from the day it occurred. The court handles property division, spousal maintenance, and child support in the same manner as a divorce. However, after your annulment, it’s like your marriage or civil union never occurred.
However, Colorado courts can only annul your marriage in any of the following circumstances:
- One party could not consent to the marriage due to mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and physical inability.
- One of the parties could not solemnize the marriage, and the other party could not identify the incapacity.
- One party entered the marriage in a fraudulent manner.
- One party was underage and didn’t have their parents’ or guardians’ consent.
- You entered the union as a joke or a bet.
- One party entered the marriage under duress.
Either you or your spouse can file for an annulment. In other situations, an appropriate state official can file for annulment.
Marriage counseling is the best divorce alternative if you wish to save your marriage through the hard and dedicated work of your relationship. In case things don’t work out, at least you will know that you tried.
Marriage counseling also acts as a predecessor to all other directions your marriage may take. It creates a collaborative field between you and your partner. In case you decide to go for divorce, counseling will minimize the chances of a contested divorce.
Considering a divorce can really take an emotional toll on even the strongest people.
If you are in need of therapy with both privacy and convenience, we recommend Online-Therapy.com. Their incredible service gives you access to instant professional help, on any device, wherever you are in the world.
This is one of the most popular types of divorce alternatives. In this type of marriage, you throw monogamy out of the door and open your relationship to other people. The option is best if you married at a young age and with no sexual experience. You can take advantage of open marriage to get the sexual satisfaction you crave.
Before you suggest open marriage to your partner, be sure that both of you are okay with the alternative. In addition, make sure you set clear rules on how the relationship should operate, such as the activities you are not supposed to engage with other people.
If you have kids and want to stay together for their sake, then parenting marriage is the best divorce alternative. This type of marriage focuses on bringing up the kids without any romantic relationship with your partner. The option can be tricky, but you don’t have the responsibility of keeping the marriage intact.
These alternatives to divorce are not for every couple. In addition, the type of alternative you choose depends on your relationship and what you wish for your marriage. Therefore, before you decide on selecting any of the other options, be sure to talk with your spouse and come to an agreement.
Whether you want a divorce or an alternative to divorce, make sure you seek professional legal help. An experienced lawyer will guide you to choose the best option when your marriage hits the rocks.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.