In Colorado the divorce procedure is called a dissolution of marriage. A dissolution for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting, the issue of alimony may arise. If there are minor children, they will need to resolve issues of child custody, visitation, and support.
To file for dissolution of marriage in Colorado, one of the parties must have been a resident of Colorado for at least 90 days. If your spouse is a Colorado resident, you will file in the District Court in the county where your spouse lives. If your spouse does not reside in Colorado, you will file in the county where you live.
You begin the procedure by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the Superior Court of the county where you live. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all matters, and your spouse is willing to cooperate in the process, you can procede with an uncontested dissolution. For this most basic procedure, you, and possibly your spouse, will be required to attend a court hearing. The judge will ask some questions, to be sure you understand and agree to everything, and will enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you will have a contested dissolution, which become much more complex.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds are legally recognized reasons to get a dissolution and sever the marital relationship. Colorado has what is commonly called a no-fault ground for dissolution. You need to state in the Petition that: “The marriage of the parties is irretrievably broken.” This is the only ground for dissolution in Colorado.
Property Division in Colorado
Your property and debts will need to be divided. You and your spouse may agree on this. If the judge must decide the matter, Colorado law allows each party to keep his or her non-marital property, which is property
- acquired before marriage,
- acquired by gift or inheritance,
- acquired in exchange for non-marital property,
- acquired after a legal separation decree, or
- designated separate by a written agreement of the parties.
The marital property is divided considering:
- each party’s contribution to acquisition of the property,
- value of separate property,
- economic circumstances of the parties, including whether the custodial parent should remain in the home,
- any increase or decrease in value of separate property during the marriage, and any depletion of separate property for marital purposes.
Alimony in Colorado
In deciding whether to award alimony, the judge must consider whether the party seeking alimony (1) lacks sufficient property to meet his or her own needs, and (2) is unable to be self-supporting by employment, or has child custody responsibilities such that employment outside the home is inappropriate. To determine the amount and duration of alimony, the judge must consider:
- financial resources and ability of the spouse seeking alimony to meet his or her own needs,
- time needed to obtain education or training to find appropriate employment, and future earning capacity,
- the standard of living established during the marriage,
- duration of the marriage,
- age, physical and emotional condition of the party seeking alimony, and
- ability of other party to meet own needs while paying alimony.
Child Custody in Colorado
If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. Traditionally, one parent was awarded custody, and the other was given visitation rights. Colorado, following modern trends, has replaced the concept of custody with parenting time and decision-making. It all still comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on these matters, the judge will determine the parenting time by considering the following factors:
- the wishes of the parents,
- the wishes of the child, if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences,
- the interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other significant person,
- the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community,
- the mental and physical health of all persons involved,
- the ability of the parties to encourage sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent,
- whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support,
- the physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to practical considerations of parenting time,
- any history of child abuse or neglect,
- any history of spouse abuse,
- each party’s ability to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs, and
- any other relevant factor.
The factors considered in determining decision-making are:
- all of the factors listed above for parenting time,
- the ability of the parties to cooperate and make decisions jointly,
- whether the past pattern of the parties indicates the ability as mutual decision-makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child, and
- whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each parent.
Child Support in Colorado
Children must be financially supported. This almost always results in one parent paying money to the other. Child support takes into account the needs of the child, and each parent’s ability to meet those needs. This is done by referring to the Colorado child support guidelines and tables.
A Decree of Dissolution of Marriage may not be entered until 90 days after service of the Petition on the other party. There is no provision in Colorado dissolution law for the restoration of a former name, therefore you would need to go through a separate name change procedure to accomplish this.
If you and your spouse agree on the major issues, an online divorce may be right for you. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney to get advice or help filing for divorce with the LegalZoom personal legal plan.