Can a spouse simply refuse to go through a divorce in Colorado? The short answer is no. Once the other spouse has filed the divorce petition, the case is opened, and ultimately, the unwilling spouse’s participation is not necessary to finalize the divorce.
In many divorces, one spouse wants to terminate the marriage while the other wants to stay in it. Perhaps they hope to try to repair the relationship, or maintain the legal union for practical reasons. Whatever the reason, the unwilling spouse may try to put the divorce process on hold by refusing to sign papers or participate in meetings. But, as we said in the opening, the divorce will eventually come about.
Contested Divorce In A No-Fault State
Colorado follows the “no-fault” principle in divorce, which means that a person does not need to pinpoint their spouse’s fault in ending the marriage. Instead, the divorce petitioner only needs to establish that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
The act of filing for divorce creates the automatic presumption that the marriage is already broken. If one spouse disagrees with this, they will need to challenge this presumption in court. They must file their official response to the divorce petition, attend a hearing, and present evidence to convince the judge. In other words, the spouse who does not wish to end the marriage must actually participate in the divorce process in order to argue their case.
A hearing on the brokenness of marriage is quite rare in Colorado. Courts most commonly hold divorce hearings in order to decide on specific disputes such as property division and child support. However, it is possible for the responding spouse to be heard in court as to why they deny that the marriage is broken.
If this spouse merely refuses to answer divorce papers or show up at court dates, the court will likely grant a default judgment, siding with the petitioner’s claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Serving Divorce Papers To A Missing Spouse in Colorado
At the start of the divorce process, the petitioning spouse must “serve” the divorce papers to the other party, notifying them that the case has been filed and that their response is requested. Without this service, the divorce cannot proceed.
If the petitioner has lost contact with their spouse, or if the non-filing spouse has left and will not disclose their address, there is still another way to serve the divorce papers. It is service by publication – publishing the divorce notice in a local newspaper for a certain period of time.
To do this, the petitioning spouse will need to file a motion with the court and show that they have made a genuine and reasonable effort to contact the absent spouse. Once the court approves the motion, the petitioner is free to publish their ad in a newspaper of their choice. The absent spouse will be given a specific period of time to respond. If they fail to do so, the divorce will be granted by default.
One caveat with service by publication is that the court may not be able to order anything that requires the absent spouse to pay money. It cannot, for example, order the missing spouse to pay alimony or child support. However, most other divorce issues, such as child custody and division of property, may be decreed on by the court.
In summary, if one spouse has initiated the divorce process, the other spouse’s consent or signature is not needed. It is very possible for the divorce to be finalized even when one party does not cooperate.
For case-specific advice regarding your divorce, call Goldman Law at (303) 656-9529. We’ve successfully handled hundreds of divorce cases in Colorado – both contested and uncontested – and we can effectively guide you through the complexities of your case.