If your marriage is ending, or you are ready to take the steps necessary to end it yourself, you are more than likely looking at options for how to divorce.
In Colorado, the dissolution of marriage is a relatively straightforward process. You can obtain a lawyer, seek mediation, or you can file to end your marriage on your own.
Whatever your choice is, we are here to help. This article will break down the process of divorce in Colorado so you can determine if pro se representation is the way to go.
Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, and, as a result, you are able to petition for divorce whenever you want to, and you are not required to provide a reason for doing so.
You may prefer to complete the divorce proceedings without the help of a divorce attorney. If you choose to petition the court for a divorce without an attorney, you must determine if you and your spouse are petitioning the court for a divorce together, or alone.
There are two determining factors for the forms you will need to complete to end your marriage. Whether you are the petitioning spouse or if you have children will determine which forms you will need to complete. For example, filing for a legal separation when you have children together will also require a separation agreement that differs from a legal separation without children.
There has been a change to the terminology when it comes to minor children involved in the dissolution of marriage and subsequent divorce decree.
What used to be termed ‘custody’ in reference to the parent that cared for the child(ren) for the greatest amount of time is now called ‘parental responsibilities’. ‘Physical custody’ has now become parenting time, and ‘legal custody’ has become decision making.
The court will determine what suits the ‘best interest of the child’ and will appoint parental responsibility accordingly.
Another question to ask yourself when considering divorce is whether you are looking for an annulment or a divorce.
An annulment declaration means that the marriage never happened, whereas a divorce decree means that the marriage existed and ended.
If you do decide on an annulment, you will have to prove that there were circumstances that took place that warrant an annulment of your marriage. For instance, if you were to obtain knowledge that your marriage was based on lack of capacity, fraud, lack of consent, duress, jest, or dare, you would have grounds to file for an annulment within 6 months of gaining this information.
Additional grounds for annulment are age of consent, failure to consummate the marriage, or, if the marriage is void for any reason, the aggrieved spouse may apply for an annulment but will be subject to a limitation of time.
In order to petition for a divorce in the state of Colorado, either you or your spouse must be a resident of Colorado for at least 91 days prior to filing a petition for a dissolution of marriage.
Once that criteria has been met, you must also file in the county you reside in. You can attend your district court to file the paperwork and documents filed at the district court are subject to a filing fee.
If you have minor children with your spouse, the criteria for residency may be slightly different.
For divorce proceedings in Colorado, the assets are divided in an equitable way during the dissolution of marriage.
Colorado is an ‘equitable distribution’ state. This means that, by law, the marital property is not assumed to be owned equally, and the court will decide how the marital assets are divided. This typically means that there will be a judgment made (or you can agree during mediation) about how the property should be divided.
The law in Colorado determines that following a divorce all property is equitable. However, the assets may be divided in a way to where a spouse has to pay additional taxes.
If it is determined that there should be the division of a retirement account, an appropriate penalty and taxes on withdrawal will be required to complete the transaction. If there is a sale of a marital home, there may be certain tax implications due to capital gains.
In Colorado, alimony is called ‘spousal maintenance’ and refers to a payment that one litigant pays to the other.
There are different types of financial spousal maintenance: temporary, meaning during the duration of the divorce proceedings; rehabilitative, meaning the higher-earning spouse will provide financial support until the other spouse can complete school or obtain employment that replaces lost income; reimbursement, meaning that one spouse has supported the other through schooling or job and now must repay; permanent, meaning a payment for an indefinite time, and lump sum, meaning that one spouse is not asking for any assets, and so a lump sum may be awarded.
In the divorce process, there are a few factors that will need to be considered when awarding spousal maintenance. For example, there is a threshold determination of maintenance which considers whether or not a spouse actually needs spousal maintenance.
Martial debt must also be taken into account. When it comes to marital debt, there are further determinations that need to be made. The court system will assess the amount of the debt incurred and can award further maintenance according to the amount outstanding.
The first form you will need to complete is a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage. This form identifies you, your spouse, the date of your marriage, your children, and any other pertinent information.
The second document required will be a Sworn Financial Statement. This sworn document identifies the income, debts, assets, and expenses of both spouses. This statement is a financial affidavit and it is very important because it is the basis of all financial maintenance and obligations.
The third document required is a Summons Form. In the case that your spouse is accepting of your divorce, a Summons Form will inform your spouse that you have decided to file for divorce and your spouse will have to respond to the summons.
The final forms required for filing for divorce are the Child Support Worksheet, a worksheet that will determine financial responsibilities and obligations; a Parenting Plan which is created by both spouses and will outline custody items like where your children spend holidays, or where they will go school. Finally, you will have to provide a Certificate of Marriage in order to validate that your marriage occurred.
Additional forms may be required - you will learn about all of these documents in your Untie the Knot workshops.
Make sure to fill out all the appropriate paperwork. Once you have completed the correct paperwork, you will be responsible for informing your spouse of your intention to dissolve your marriage.These rules apply to both marriage or common law marriage, and a decree of dissolution is issued once you submit your paperwork. Once all requirements are met, there will be a final agreement. You will be granted a divorce and you will be free to begin a new chapter of your life.