Getting Divorced in Colorado – FAQ

It’s not the happiest event in your life, or maybe it is, but if you do decide to get divorced in Colorado, it’s important to know the laws and best practices for getting it done properly. Before looking at affordable divorce attorneys in Denver, it’s important to know how Colorado divorce laws vary from other states. 

Divorce laws in the United States have dropped significantly since the 1980s when they were at their peak, but in Colorado, divorce rates were up 4 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to Forbes. The popular saying “half of marriages will end in divorce” isn’t completely accurate, and although divorce rates are declining across the country, nearly 39 percent of marriages will result in divorce. 

Below are some frequently-asked questions detailing facts about filing for divorce in Colorado, what is required, the laws surrounding the practice, and other misconceptions or need-to-know notes. 

Is Colorado A No-Fault State?

Yes, Colorado is a no-fault state as far as grounds for divorce. This means the court won’t consider a spouse’s misconduct in the divorce; only that the marriage between the two spouses is irretrievably broken. In other words, when granting the divorce or awarding property, custody, or other assets, the court doesn’t have to prove one spouse or domestic partner did something wrong. 

Colorado is one of seventeen states that are considered no-fault divorce states. 

How To File for Divorce in Colorado 

To begin the divorce process in Colorado, one spouse or partner, called the petitioner, must file a Petition for Dissolution in their local district court. This petition will outline the reasons for divorce and lay out what the petitioner wants in the divorce. 

This form must be served to the other party in the marriage, either by hand delivery or certified U.S. mail. The respondent can then respond to the form and provide their take on the situation. According to Forbes, The Colorado Judicial Branch has an extensive self-help section that provides forms, instructions and helpful information. 

Is There A Proof of Residency Requirement By The State? 

Yes. Assuming there are no children between the spouses, the two parties must prove they’ve lived in Colorado for at least the past 91 days before filing for divorce. But if you do have children, the children must have lived with a parent for at least 182 days (or since birth if a child is 6 months or younger) before filing for divorce that includes custody. 

What Are The Property Division Laws in Colorado? 

Colorado uses equitable distribution when dividing marital property, meaning it’s not always evenly split down the middle. If a spouse has more assets than another, they’ll get a bigger percentage, or the whole of those assets. 

  • Assets and debts acquitted during the marriage are considered marital property to be divided in divorce, while assets and debts acquired before marriage ( a gift, inheritance, certain debts) are considered individual or separate property not divided. 
  • Factors in determining equitable distribution include the value of each spouse’s separate property, the spouse’s contribution to acquisition of marital property, economic situations or each spouse at time of divorce, or increases/decreases of value of separate property during the marriage, or if separate property was used or spent for marital reasons

Important note: the court will only decide how to divide property if the couple can’t amicably divide it themselves.

What Are The Alimony Laws in Colorado?

Alimony, or court-ordered financial support of payment from one spouse to another, can only be awarded in Colorado if the court finds the spouse seeking support (maintenance) doesn’t have enough property or assets to provide for their needs. The maintenance can be temporary throughout the span of the divoice, or durational for an extended and determined period of time. Permanent maintenance is highly unusual. 

According to Forbes, judges in the Centennial State will only consider maintenance in marriages lasting longer than three years, looking at these factors: each spouse’s gross income, the marital property each receives in the divorce, the financial resources and needs of each party, and the impact of taxes on potential maintenance rewards. 

Colorado uses a formula to set the amount of maintenance: multiply the spouses’ total combined income by 40 percent and then subtract the lower earning spouse’s income. Couples can request to detract from the formula but this is a general guideline in the state. 

For more complicated circumstances like splitting fixed annuity rates paid during marriages, the most common solution in divorce proceedings is to split the annuity in half between parties. 

What Are The Laws On Child Custody & Child Support In Colorado? 

Unlike many other states, Colorado doesn’t use the terms “joint custody” or “sole custody.” Rather, the state determines the levels of personal responsibility each parent has for their child. 

  • If a parent has the child for less than 90 overnight visits a year, the other parent has sole parental responsibility. 
  • If both parents have at least 90 overnight visits, they both have joint parental responsibility.

Colorado courts will determine the best interest for the child before making a decision on custody, or if both parents will have a hand in decision-making for the child. 

In determining child support in Colorado, a complex formula is implemented to decide what is required for meeting the needs of the child based on the parents’ incomes. 

As a general rule, the parent without parental responsibility pays 20 percent of their gross monthly income per one child, and an additional 10 percent for additional children, though other factors are considered in the formula as well which could skew the numbers. Parents are also able to reach their own agreements on support, as long as it’s not too vastly different from the state’s requirements. 

How Much Will The Divorce Cost Me?

Hiring an attorney will cost you roughly $200 to $300 per hour, though rates can vary greatly. The average cost for a divorce in Colorado is $11,000 if your case is contested, though you and your spouse can save yourselves much more money by reaching an agreement. 

If you represent yourself, you will pay a $230 fee for filing papers, and potentially another small fee for serving your spouse with the papers. 

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

The state requires a minimum of 90 days between filing for divorce and the final divorce being issued, though you’d be hard-pressed to get it all done in that time. Depending on if you reach an agreement or go to trial, it could take much longer. Forbes states that most divorces in the state last anywhere from six to nine months. 

In Conclusion

Before untying the knot, have conversations with your spouse about which approach you’d like to take. Reaching a personal agreement can save you lots of time, money, and headaches. 

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