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Durango Family Law May 27, 2024

How to File for Divorce in Colorado

At Durango Family Law, we understand the emotional and legal nuances involved in the decision to end a marriage. It's a path fraught with decisions, emotions, and above all, the need for clear, compassionate guidance.  

We're here to provide that support to residents throughout Southwest Colorado, including Pagosa Springs, Cortez, Dolores, Silverton, Hermosa, Hesperus, La Plata County, Montezuma County, and San Juan County, as you consider or proceed with a divorce in the state of Colorado.  

What Do I Need to Know Before Filing for a Colorado Divorce?

Residency requirements: Before initiating the divorce process, you must meet Colorado's residency requirements.

To file for divorce in Colorado, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of 91 days before the filing. Also, if you have children, they must have resided in Colorado for at least 182 days before the court can exercise jurisdiction over child custody matters.  

Grounds for divorce: Colorado is a "no-fault" divorce state. This means that you do not need to prove wrongdoing by your spouse to get a divorce. The only ground for divorce in Colorado is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, where there is no chance for reconciliation. 

Uncontested vs. contested: Divorces can be uncontested, where both parties agree on all terms, or contested, where disagreements on certain issues necessitate court intervention. 

Understanding the nature of your divorce will significantly impact your approach to filing and processing your divorce papers. Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney can make all the difference in mitigating the stress and conflict of this emotional process.

The Filing Process in Colorado

The divorce process starts when one spouse (the petitioner) files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation in the district court. The other spouse (the respondent) then has to be served with the documents and given an opportunity to respond.  

The receiving spouse then has the opportunity to respond, agreeing with or contesting the terms laid out in the filing. If both parties agree on all terms of the divorce, they can file a joint petition. As you prepare to begin the filing process, our attorneys Rachel Brock and Hugh Boles stand ready to assist you, offering support and legal guidance every step of the way. 

Some of the standard procedures when filing for divorce in the state of Colorado include:   

  • Mandatory disclosure: Both parties are required to disclose financial information, including income, assets, debts, and expenses.  

  • Parenting classes: In cases involving children, parents might be required to attend parenting classes.  

  • Waiting period: There is a mandatory 91-day waiting period from the time the petition is filed and served before a divorce can be finalized. 

Next Steps in Your Colorado Divorce

After serving and responding to divorce papers, both parties may engage in discovery, negotiate settlements, and attend mediation if necessary.  

If agreements cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial, where a judge will make final decisions. The significance of the discovery and negotiation process and its long-lasting implications for the futures of both parties underscores the importance of engaging a skilled family law attorney at this point.  

Financial Disclosures and Other Forms: Colorado law requires both parties to disclose financial information fully and truthfully. This includes income, assets, debts, and expenses. Accurate financial disclosures promote a fair division of property and the appropriate determination of alimony and child support.  

Division of Property and Assets: Colorado follows the principle of equitable distribution. This does not necessarily mean equal but what the court deems fair, considering various elements, including each spouse's contribution to the marital property, economic circumstances, value of the property set aside for each spouse, and any increases or decreases in the value of separate property during the marriage.  

Spousal Maintenance: Alimony, known as spousal maintenance in Colorado, is not automatic. It is awarded based on a spouse's need and the other spouse's ability to pay. It's determined based on various factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse's financial resources, the standard of living during the marriage, and the age and health of each spouse. Colorado utilizes guidelines for marriages lasting 3-20 years, which suggest the amount and term of maintenance. However, the court has the final discretion to order maintenance based on the circumstances. 

Parental Responsibilities and Child Support

Child custody in Colorado is referred to as parental responsibilities, which includes decision-making and parenting time. The courts focus on the best interests of the child, taking into account factors like the wishes of the parents, the child's adjustment to home, school, community, and the mental and physical health of all individuals involved.  

Child support is calculated based on the parents' incomes, the number of children, and the time each parent spends with the children. Colorado has established guidelines for determining the amount of child support.  

When it comes to parental responsibilities and child support, the importance of engaging a seasoned attorney to advocate for your parental rights and, most importantly, the child’s best interests, cannot be overstated. At Durango Family Law, we bring decades of experience with diverse cases throughout Southwest Colorado, including adoption and foster care, and offer personalized legal advice tailored to your unique circumstances.  

Finalizing Your Divorce

Finalizing your divorce involves submitting a decree of dissolution of marriage to the court. Once reviewed and approved by a judge, the decree legally ends the marriage, outlining the terms of the divorce, including asset division, custody arrangements, and support obligations.  

Colorado Divorce FAQ

Here, we aim to provide clear and concise answers to the questions we encounter most often from our clients. Our goal is to help you navigate this challenging process with the information you need. 

How long does the typical divorce process take from start to finish?

The duration of a divorce process in Colorado can vary significantly, depending on whether it is contested or uncontested. After filing, there’s a mandatory 91-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized.  

An uncontested divorce might conclude shortly after this period. A contested divorce, however, can take several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. 

Can I represent myself or do I need to hire a lawyer to file for divorce?

You can represent yourself in a divorce proceeding in Colorado; this is known as filing "pro se." However, if your case involves complex issues like child custody, high assets, or spousal support, it may be beneficial to seek legal representation.  

Filing for divorce without legal representation can lead to overlooked rights and entitlements, imbalanced agreements, or prolonged legal battles. An attorney can provide invaluable guidance, protecting your rights and interests throughout the process. 

Can we modify the terms of our divorce after it’s finalized?

Yes, post-decree modifications can be made to certain aspects of a divorce decree, such as child support, child custody, and spousal maintenance if significant circumstances change. However, property divisions are typically considered final and cannot be modified. 

While going through a divorce can be emotionally challenging, understanding the process and knowing what to expect can offer some peace of mind. Always consider consulting with a qualified attorney who can provide you with personalized advice tailored to your specific situation. 

Reach Out to Durango Family Law for your Divorce Case

The path to divorce is unique for everyone, filled with its own challenges and decisions. At Durango Family Law, we're committed to providing our clients with the thoughtful and personalized legal support they deserve during this difficult time.

Our approach is centered on understanding your specific needs and objectives to guide you toward the best possible outcome for you and your family.  

If you're considering or proceeding with a divorce in Colorado, we invite you to reach out to us. Our attorneys, Rachel Brock and Hugh Boles, are dedicated to offering the compassionate support and professional representation you need to navigate your divorce with confidence.


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