One of the most common questions I receive as an experienced divorce attorney relates to the process of divorce, or “dissolution of marriage,” in the state of Colorado. Below is a list of, and brief summary of, several of the most common steps in a Colorado divorce:
- Filing the Petition: The process begins when one spouse (the “Petitioner”) files a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” (and several other forms) with the appropriate Colorado court. Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning, there is no need to allege wrong-doing by the other party to request a divorce. If there are children involved, additional paperwork is required. The other spouse (the respondent) is then served with these papers.
- Service: The Petitioner must serve the other spouse (the “Respondent”) with copies of the paperwork following to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.
- Response: The Respondent has a specified time (usually 21 days if in Colorado, or 35 days if outside the state) to file a Response.
- Initial Disclosures: In a Colorado divorce, initial disclosures are a mandatory part of the process, allowing both parties and the court to have a clear understanding of the financial aspects of the marriage. These disclosures help ensure that the division of property, child support, alimony, and other financial matters are handled fairly, and they include paperwork that shows the income, expenses, and assets of each party.
- Temporary Orders: If necessary, either party can request that the court enter temporary orders. These are orders that are meant to be in place during the duration of the divorce process. These can include child support, maintenance, or orders related to property.
- Discovery: This is the information-gathering stage, where both parties can request additional information from each other. This can include depositions, interrogatories, or subpoenas. The rules and deadlines regarding discovery are often specific to the court where the divorce is filed, and judges sometimes issue those in the form of a “Case Management Order.”
- Parenting Classes: If there are minor children, both parents are required to attend parenting classes and to file proof of completion of that class with the court.
- Settlement and Mediation: Once the parties have exchanged financial documents, the parties typically attempt to settle the matter. If the parties can agree on the major issues of the case, they submit the proper paperwork to the court and the matter is closed. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, then the issues are resolved at trial, however, prior to setting a divorce for trial, most Colorado courts require that the parties attempt to resolve their disagreements in mediation. Mediation is a non-binding process where each side presents their proposals, and the mediator works to help the parties come to a mutual agreement.
- Trial: If the parties cannot reach an agreement on all major issues of the case, the matter is set for a trial. At trial, a judge (not a jury) will make the decisions regarding any unresolved issues including, but not limited to division of property, child custody, and maintenance.
- Final Orders: Once all issues are resolved (either by the parties or in a trial), the court will issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, which finalizes the divorce. In Colorado, the parties must wait at least 91 days after filing the initial petition before the divorce can be finalized.
Please understand that the above is meant only as a simple summary. The actual process may vary greatly depending on specific facts of each case. An experienced family law attorney can walk you through the process and answer any questions you may.