Divorce is legally called “dissolution of marriage” in Colorado. These are the steps to follow to pursue divorce in Colorado’s El Paso County.
Step 1. Meeting The Prerequisites
Colorado law follows a “no fault” divorce system in which you do not have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong before you can seek divorce. Colorado only requires that the marriage is now “irretrievably broken.” Seeking to end the marriage is usually enough to prove that the marriage is at this stage of brokenness, thus meeting the grounds for divorce.
Before you can file for divorce, you must meet Colorado’s residency requirement – you or your spouse must have resided in the state for 91 days or more. Note that residency means more than just staying in Colorado, but actually making the state your primary residence. Residency might be proven by such things as having a Colorado driver’s license or being registered as a Colorado voter.
If you have a child who is below 18, they must have also lived in Colorado for 182 consecutive days or more. If the child is younger than six months, they must have lived in Colorado since birth.
Step 2. Filing At The Courthouse
You need to file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse lives. The El Paso County Judicial Building is located at 270 S Tejon Street in Colorado Springs. You can ask the court clerk to file for Dissolution of Marriage, and will be provided with a packet of forms to fill out. Alternatively, you can download these forms online to print and fill out. Here’s where to find files for divorce with no children or divorce with children.
Upon completing the documents, file them with the court clerk and pay the necessary filing fees. You will now be referred to as the Petitioner and your spouse as the Respondent.
As the case progresses, the court may ask for additional documents from you, such as financial disclosures and affidavits.
Step 3. Serving The Papers
“Service” is the required process of delivering the initial divorce papers to the other party so that they are notified and have a chance to respond. Under Colorado law, the papers must be served by a person of legal age who is not involved in the divorce. Your spouse must sign the Proof of Service, which you then need to notarize and submit to the court. (See our blog post on serving divorce papers, here.)
Once they have been served, your spouse has to respond within a deadline: 21 days if they were served within the state, or 35 days if the service was out-of-state. Their failure to respond in time means the divorce could ‘default’ in your favor.
Step 4. Attending the ISC (And Parenting Class)
The Initial Status Conference (ISC) is a brief meeting with a domestic court facilitator where preliminary information about the case is presented. This is the court’s first look into the case, and it should result in a case management plan where schedules and deadlines are set.
If you have a child in the marriage, you are also required by Colorado law to attend a parenting class conducted by a court-approved provider. The list of El Paso County parenting class providers can be found here.
Step 5. Hearings
If both parties agree on all matters of the divorce, the court will only conduct a final hearing where the divorce decree is entered, officially terminating the marriage.
But if you and your spouse have divorce disputes (such as on child custody, child support, property division, or alimony), you must first attend a contested hearing. Here, you and your spouse will have a chance to present your respective arguments. Having a lawyer is invaluable in this contested hearing, as it can easily get contentious and you’ll want to convince the judge to decide in your favor.
Before the date of the contested hearing arrives, many courts require divorcing couples to attend mediation. This is an out-of-court method to resolve disputes with the help of a neutral mediator. Family courts are now more inclined to require mediation because of its benefits for families, and because it helps wrap up divorce cases faster.
If you and your spouse are able to resolve your disputes through mediation or another process, you may craft a divorce agreement together, usually in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding. This agreement can then be submitted to the court, and if the judge approves it, it can become the official divorce order.
Consulting with a Lawyer
Each divorce case has unique factors that can affect how the case proceeds. If you have questions about your Colorado divorce, or if you want to ensure that your interests are protected every step of the way, talk to us at Goldman Law by calling (303) 656-9529. With our extensive Family Law experience, we can guide you on the most favorable divorce choices for your specific case.