The decision to file for a divorce is not an easy decision. It is further complicated because you need to understand what needs to be done, what can be done, and how to best end your marriage. None of this is easy nor without emotional and potentially financial stress. To make matters worse, it can be overwhelming to read through all of the unfriendly legal jargon, which does nothing more then add to your stress. This page is intended to provide a general overview of the process of a divorce in Colorado and Denver Metro Area. Should you have specific questions or need a more tailored answer, please feel free to contact our lawyer directly.
Denver Divorce Process
In Colorado a divorce is the legal process that you go through to separate yourself from your spouse. During the time of the marriage you and your spouse may have purchased household items, increased your assets, and taken out debts. The process of a divorce is to physically and financially separate yourself from the other party. You may have come into the marriage with your own property but that may or may not have converted, in part at least, into marital property. The more planning that you do in the beginning of the process the more time and energy you may save during a divorce proceeding or fees that you may need to pay to your divorce attorney.
1. Filling a Petition
Colorado divorce process starts by one party filling the petition for divorce in the domestic relations division of the proper district court. The petition must be accompanied by a summons and case information page. The Case information page will be confidential because it contains information such as a social security number. All other forms are public documents that can be publicly accessed. This petition legal form that tells the court you want the divorce and what issues the court may or may not have to address. Along with the Petition you are also required to file a Case Information Sheet and a Summons. There are blank forms of the documents located on the court website, if you choose to represent yourself. The form numbers are notated above.
These forms are filled with the court in the county in which the other spouse lives or if your spouse moved out-of-state, the county in which you live in Colorado. You or your spouse must be have lived in Colorado for more than 91 days, if you just moved here, you will be required to wait 91 days before you can file the petition.
When you file the petition you will be charged a filling fee. If you qualify, the court may waive that fee for you.
2. Get forms form the Court
Once you file the above forms with the court, you will get copies for yourself and your spouse. The second step in the Colorado divorce process it to obtain the Case Management Order from the court. Read this document very carefully and notate any important dates and hearings. If you miss the hearing, the court could dismiss the case and you would be required to start over including paying an additional filing fee.
3. Service of the Forms
Everything that you get from the court must be served on the other party by having a person over the age of 18 personally hand the forms to the person. The divorce process can stall if this step is not completed. You cannot be the person that serves the documents on the other party. It does not have to be a professional, but it can be any person over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case. Your local sheriff may be able to serve the documents for a fee. After the documents have been personally handed to your spouse, the person must complete a declaration or statement called a proof of service. This must be filed with the court.
4. Initial Status Conference
This may be the first hearing that you have with the court and the first time you may see your judge in the divorce process. You want to make a good impression, so be timely, neatly dressed, and prepared. At this hearing, the judge will give you a timeline for completing the divorce process. This should be held within about 45 days of filing the petition. In some counties the court will send notification of the Initial Status Conference, in other counties you will have to call and get the date for the hearing. Both you and your spouse will need to attend this hearing and should be ready to discuss the issues.
You may also get a permanent orders hearing date at this hearing. Again, make sure that you follow all dates and timeline set by the court.
5. Complete all Required Forms
Within the Colorado Divorce process all parties are required to submit a Sworn Financial Affidavit with the court. This is a very important form. The court will use to determine how assets and debts should be allocated between you and your spouse. Take the time to make sure that it is accurate and complete. You should include a property that you have, that your spouse has, and what you have together.
You are also required to file a Certificate of Compliance with the court affirming that you have given the other side all that is necessary.
6. Full Agreements Reached with Other Spouse
If you and your spouse agree to all issues in your divorce, you may not need to have a formal hearing on it. You may present to the judge how you and your spouse believe that all property, debts, assets, alimony, child support, and allocation of parental responsibility (custody and visitation) should be divided. You and your spouse can draft the documents and submit them to the court for approval. This will require a court hearing, but it would most likely be the judge asking both of you if this is how you would like to proceed. Note that even if everything is agreed to the court cannot issue the decree (order of divorce) until at least 91 days have passed since the filling of the petition. Colorado law demands that the divorce process takes at least 91 days.
7. No Agreements Made or Partial Agreements Made with Other Spouse
If you and your spouse cannot agree on some or all of the issues in the divorce, the court may order you to attend mediation and if that is not successfully to set a contested permanent orders hearing. Mediation is a non-binding process where a third party attempts to resolve contested issues. If mediation is unsuccessful, then a trial would be set with the court. You will want to have a list of issues to address with the mediator so that your time is well spent.
If you have a contested hearing, you will have limited time with the judge so you want to ensure that your side of the story is told and the court is aware of what you are asking for and why. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will likely make a final order.
Many people represent themselves in a divorce proceeding especially if both parties are in agreement. You might considering having an attorney atleast review the proposed settlement agreements and parenting plan with you so that you understand what you are giving up, getting, and how your children will be co-parented going forward.
If you cannot reach an agreement and a hearing is required, retain an attorney to assist you in the process and to make sure that your side of the story is clearly shown to the judge.
This page is for general informational purposes. Every divorce is unique and presents its own set of issues. If you would like some additional information or need to talk with a Denver Divorce Attorney – contact us confidentially by call (303) 747-4686 or simply email us.