You’ve probably heard that some people get divorced without getting an attorney. In Colorado, where divorce is legally known as “dissolution of marriage”, it is indeed possible to pursue a divorce case on your own. However, real-world cases have shown again and again that hiring a lawyer is your best chance at getting a fair and favorable divorce outcome.
Here is an overview of the divorce process in Colorado, and why you need the help of an attorney.
Steps In Getting Divorced Without Attorney In CO
If you represent yourself in your Colorado divorce, these are the steps you must follow:
- Ensure your residency requirements. Colorado law requires that you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 91 days before you can file for divorce. If you have minor children and you’re looking to pursue child custody, your children must have lived in CO for at least 182 days.
- Complete the paperwork. You will have to file a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” alongside other relevant documents with your county district court. You must sign this petition in the presence of a notary public or the court clerk. Once the clerk has filed your paperwork, you will be known as the Petitioner, and your spouse, the Respondent.
- Serve your spouse. After you’ve filed for divorce, you must officially inform your spouse by providing (“serving”) them a copy of the divorce papers. However, you cannot serve the papers yourself – you can have an adult family member or professional server do this for you.
- Attend your court dates. During your filing at the courthouse, the clerk will give you a Case Management Order which contains information and court schedules around your case. The very first court date is always the Initial Status Conference, which is not a hearing but a court meeting with you and your spouse. After this, you may have other court dates such as mediation or a hearing, depending on the judge’s discretion.
- Await the judge’s decision. If the judge decides to approve your divorce petition, they will issue the official “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage”.
For more detailed instructions on the marriage dissolution process, you can visit the Colorado Courts website.
Why And When You Should Hire A Divorce Attorney
Knowing that you can go the do-it-yourself way in a Colorado divorce, you may be asking: Why do I need a divorce lawyer? Here are solid reasons:
- Your divorce is contested. A contested divorce, especially one that involves children, can turn into an aggressive legal battle. Without a lawyer, it will be extremely difficult to ensure the most equitable outcomes for you in disputed matters such as division of marital property, alimony, and parenting rights.
- Your spouse has hired a lawyer. This is a clear sign that you should also protect yourself with an attorney. Even if there is no hostility between you and your spouse, the delicate issues in divorce can still lead to situations where the other party may take advantage of your rights.
- Legal experience is irreplaceable. A lawyer’s first-hand experience in divorce proceedings is one of your most valuable tools. Even though the dissolution process can be outlined in steps, in actuality, it is often a maze of legalities, delays, strategies, and human dynamics. An experienced lawyer should be familiar with these, and thus, able to put you in a favorable position.
- You could miss finer details that are vital. An attorney who is well-versed in Colorado law can perceive legal issues that are significant but not immediately apparent. For example, the division of marital property alone can involve present and future issues such as taxes, debts, businesses, and retirement. At the very least, consult with a family law attorney so you don’t risk overlooking such crucial matters.
- Your spouse is difficult to deal with. Is your spouse uncooperative or antagonistic? Have they threatened you in any way? Do you fear that your children may be affected by their hostility? Getting a lawyer could be crucial in these situations. In some cases, you may need to pursue other legal actions such as getting a temporary restraining order.
If your divorce situation is anything like the above, don’t hesitate to at least talk to an attorney. While you may not have decided about hiring a divorce lawyer, a consultation can give you a clearer idea of whether you may need one.
In Colorado, you can talk to us at Goldman Law. Our highly experienced divorce attorneys will hear your story, listen to your concerns, and then advise you on your best course of action.