COLORADO DIVORCE: A User Friendly Guide to the Colorado Divorce Process
Colorado divorce is law flows from essentially two statutory sections, substantively from Colorado Revised Statues, Title 14, Article 10, and procedurally from the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 16.2. Understanding the process and rules can greatly assist when divorcing in Colorado.
Getting Started: Necessary DocumentsA Colorado divorce case is commenced with the filing of three main documents: 1. Petition for Dissolution of Marriage 2. Summons 3. Case Information Sheet These are the initial documents filed to get a case going and will contain statistical information regarding the parties and the marriage, including information regarding children. Additionally, the Petition will also contain information regarding the relief a filing party is requesting, which can relate to property and debt division, spousal support (maintenance), child custody, child support, and attorney fees. It is important to list any relief requested, as failure to do so could lead to a waiver of the right to do so down the road. When filing a divorce the court will require a $200+ mandatory fee. Divorce documents must be personally served on the other party and proof of service will need to be filed with the court. Other documents will need to be filed to conclude a divorce. Regardless of the nature of the case, whether there are contested issues, both parties will have to provide finical disclosures pursuant to C.R.C.P. 16.2. This will include such items as the following: 1. Sworn Financial Statement 2. Pay Stubs 3. Tax Returns 4. Bank Statements 5. Financial Account information 6. Credit Card Statements 7. Insurance documentation 8. Child Expenses (if there are children). The expectation of the court is that both parties will comply with disclosure rules so that there is transparency for all related to the marital estate and income. In instances in which the parties are in agreement on all issues a Colorado divorce case can be done 91 days from the date of service on the second party. In those cases, the parties will also need to submit the following: 1. Decree of Dissolution of Marriage 2. Separation Agreement 3. Support Order (if there is child support or spousal support being paid) 4. Affidavit for Entry of Decree Without Appearance of the Parties (in instances in which the parties submit all required papers, are in agreement, and do not need a hearing with the court. This can be done in cases where each party has an attorney or cases in which there are no minor children). The Decree is the official document indicating the parties are divorced and will be signed off on by the judge. The Separation Agreement is the substantive document setting forth all agreements of the parties. It will be made an order of the court for all to follow. If there is spousal support or child support to be paid, the Support Order is separate document, also signed by the judge, which will generally mirror the terms in the Separation Agreement regarding support. In cases in which the parties do not agree to all issues they will ultimately attend a final hearing, at which the court will enter orders, to be reduced to writing and incorporated into the Decree.
The Court Process: Understanding Each Step in the ProcessOnce documents in your divorce case have been filed, the court will generally issue what is called a Case Management Order, which will set forth the court's expectations, time frames or deadlines, and various substantive or procedural rules related to documents and disclosures. With the CMO, the court will also set forth the process for hearings or conferences. The general sequence will proceed as follows: 1. Initial Status Conference 2. Temporary Orders 3 Permanent Orders. The Initial Status Conference is essentially a first meeting with the court. At that conference, parties should be prepared to discuss positions, issues, and how they plan on handling the case. This can include discussion of the need for experts, such as a child custody expert or an appraiser. Though unlikely, courts will sometimes entertain argument regarding the addressing of emergency or immediate issues, such as custody or support issues. The Initial Status Conference is not a full blown court hearing, but should be taken seriously. In some case, the court will allow the parties to set a Temporary Orders Hearing. This type of hearing relates to the establishment of temporary orders to govern while the divorce case is pending. In contested cases, it may take several months between the time of filing and the final hearing. As such, statute and courts recognize that people may need orders related to support, child visitation, or temporary use of property. Any order entered at a temporary orders hearing will govern until the final, Permanent Orders hearing. The Permanent Orders hearing is the final contested hearing before the judge. At this hearing, all contested issues will be addressed. This will include final division of property and debt, post decree spousal support, final child support orders (which can be modified with changed circumstances), and final custody orders (which can also be modified). A contested final orders hearing will generally take one-half day to a full day and will generally require extensive preparation by you and your attorney. This will, of course depend on the issues. Parties to a case might agree on 5 of 10 issues and can put those agreements into writing prior to the hearing, thereby only leaving the remaining 5 to be heard by the judge. Again, if people reach agreement prior to the Permanent Order Hearing, they can submit a Separation Agreement reflecting such and avoid the contested matter. In instances in which there are children and the parties have an agreement, but one or both do not have an attorney, they will need to show up for an Uncontested Permanent Orders Hearing, which will entail the court making sure they understand the agreements and find them fair. This hearing will generally take 5 to 10 minutes. At the end of the process the court will sign the decree and any necessary orders. At that time the parties will be officially divorced.