Divorce in Colorado is formally known as dissolution of marriage. Here are the steps to take in filing for a divorce in Arapahoe County, CO.
Step 1. Fulfill Prerequisites.
Before you can file for divorce, you must first meet the residency requirement of Colorado. Either you or your partner must have resided in the state for at least 91 days. This doesn’t just mean staying in the state. It means having Colorado as your primary residence – for example, by having a Colorado driver’s license or being registered to vote here.
If you have a minor child, an additional residency requirement is that the child must have lived in the state for at least 182 consecutive days. If the child is less than six months old, they must have lived in Colorado since birth.
In terms of grounds for divorce, the only reason needed by Colorado law is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” When one spouse pursues a divorce, this is usually taken to mean that the marriage has reached this stage of brokenness. You do not have to prove that your spouse did something wrong (e.g. adultery, abuse, and so on). This is called a “no fault” divorce system.
Step 2. File Your Papers.
You must file your divorce papers in the county where you or your spouse resides. The Arapahoe County District Court is located at 7325 S Potomac St #100, Centennial, CO
Go to the court and ask to file for Dissolution of Marriage. You will be given a packet of forms to fill out. Complete these documents and file them with the clerk (filing fees apply). You can also download the forms online (divorce with no children and divorce with children).
Once you’ve filed the documents, you will be referred to as the Petitioner and your spouse, the Respondent. Note that the court may request more documents from you as the case progresses, such as a Sworn Financial Statement and a Separation Agreement.
Step 3. Serve The Papers.
“Service” in this context means delivering the initial divorce papers to your spouse so they are notified of the divorce petition and have a chance to respond. The documents must be served by a person of legal age who is not involved in the divorce. Make sure to get a Proof of Service once your spouse gets the papers. You must then have the Proof of Service notarized and submit it to court.
Once your spouse has been served, they have 21 days to formally file their response (35 days if they are out of state). If they don’t respond in time, the court could likely grant everything you are requesting in your divorce petition.
Step 4. Attend The Status Conference (And Parenting Class).
The Initial Status Conference is a meeting with the court where the divorcing parties present the situation. This is not a hearing, so the judge does not have to decide on anything yet. This is simply the court’s ‘first look’ into the case.
If you have children in the marriage, Colorado requires you to attend a parenting class by a court-approved provider. You can find a list of Arapahoe County parenting class providers here.
Step 5. Attend The Hearings.
If both you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce, the initial status conference will be followed by a final hearing where your divorce decree is entered and your marriage is officially terminated.
But if the status conference reveals disagreements between you and your spouse, the court may schedule a contested hearing. A vast majority of divorce cases are contested, with common disputes on property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. In the contested hearing, you and the other party may present your respective sides of the story. You have to show a solid case if you want the judge to decide in your favor in any of the disputes.
Before the contested hearing date arrives, you may also be required to attend mediation. This is an out-of-court process that tries to resolve disputes with the help of an independent mediator. Family courts are now more likely to require mediation for divorcing spouses, as this method of dispute resolution has many benefits and helps wrap up cases faster.
Consulting with a Lawyer
Each divorce case is unique, and very often, specific family circumstances affect the case proceedings. To know how your Colorado divorce may proceed, talk to us at Goldman Law by calling (303) 656-9529. Our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys can guide you on your best steps and most favorable options.