Introduction In Colorado, it’s possible to go through a divorce without an attorney, known as a “pro se” divorce. While this can save on legal fees, it requires a thorough understanding of the divorce process and Colorado’s family law. This article outlines the steps involved in a pro se divorce in Colorado.
Part 1: Understanding the Basics of Pro Se Divorce
A. Eligibility for a Pro Se Divorce
- Pro se divorces are possible for anyone going through a divorce. However, they are usually more suitable for uncontested cases where both parties agree on major issues like property division, child custody, and support.
- Complex cases involving significant assets or disputes may require legal assistance.
B. Colorado Divorce Laws
- Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that you can file for divorce without proving wrongdoing by your spouse.
- Under Colorado Revised Statutes § 14-10-106, at least one spouse must have lived in Colorado for 90 days before filing for divorce.
Part 2: Preparing for Divorce
A. Gathering Necessary Documents
- Financial records, property deeds, tax returns, and other relevant documents are necessary for asset division and child support calculations.
B. Understanding Forms and Paperwork
- Colorado Judicial Branch provides various forms required for a divorce, available online or at court clerks’ offices.
Part 3: Filing for Divorce
A. Initiating the Divorce
- The process begins by filing a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the district court in the county where either spouse resides.
- The petition must be served to the other spouse, following Colorado’s legal procedures for service. Alternatively, the spouses can file a joint Petition or the party being served can sign a waiver of service.
B. Financial Disclosures
- Both parties are required to complete and exchange financial disclosures, detailing assets, debts, income, and expenses. Colorado requires that this disclosure be a complete, honest, and open disclosure of the financial affairs of the parties and the marriage.
Part 4: Navigating the Divorce Process
A. Temporary Orders
- If necessary, you can request temporary orders for child support, spousal support, possession of the marital home, or child custody during the divorce process.
- Colorado courts usually require mediation for unresolved issues, especially those related to children. A party can request a waiver of mediation in the event of domestic violence or similar circumstances.
C. Finalizing the Divorce
- Once all issues are resolved, the parties submit a “Separation Agreement” and “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage” for the court’s approval.
- A final hearing may be required if the parties are unable to reach a full agreement on all aspects of the divorce.
Part 5: Special Considerations
A. Child Custody and Support
- Decisions regarding children must be made in their best interests, adhering to Colorado’s child support guidelines. Waivers of child support may be rejected by the Court absent good reasons in the child’s best interests.
B. Division of Property and Debts
- Colorado follows the rule of equitable distribution, meaning property and debts are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally.
C. Post-Divorce Modifications
- Circumstances may change post-divorce, necessitating modifications to support or custody orders, which can be requested through the court. There are particular triggers under the law that may be required to re-open a divorce while modifications to child support and parenting time are anticipated under the law.
Part 6: Tips for Success
A. Stay Organized
- Keep meticulous records and stay organized throughout the process.
B. Educate Yourself
- Utilize resources like Colorado’s judicial website, self-help centers, and legal aid services for guidance.
C. Consider Consultation
- Even in a pro se divorce, consulting with an attorney for specific questions can be beneficial. Consider retaining an attorney on a limited representation basis to have a resource to review documents and answer questions as they arise. It is much more difficult to undo a poorly done divorce than it is to do it right the first time.
While navigating a divorce without an attorney in Colorado is feasible, it demands diligence, organization, and a comprehensive understanding of legal processes. For many, it represents a viable option, particularly in simpler, uncontested divorces.