You and your spouse have decided to end your marriage. Friends and relatives come forward to discuss their divorce experiences. But what about you and your spouse? What are the steps in getting a Colorado divorce?
- Filing a petition
- Serving the documents
- Settlement hearings
- Temporary orders hearings
- Final orders hearings
Filing a petition
The process begins with filing divorce papers. While it is generally referred to as divorce, it is legally called a dissolution of marriage. To get a divorce, you must state that your marriage has hopelessly failed. As a requirement for filing, you or your spouse must have resided in Colorado for a minimum period of 91 days.
Most Colorado divorce cases take six to nine months to settle. This depends on the issues involved and whether they are disputed or not. It may be possible to speed up the divorce procedure in some cases. Even so, many couples contest one or more areas in the divorce which could include property division, alimony, child custody, and child support.
There is no single course of action that applies to all cases because issues differ with every couple.
Serving the documents
After a summons and a petition for dissolution of marriage has been filed, documents are served on the other spouse who is given 20 days to file a response with the court. The response can be filed personally or through the help of a lawyer. The 20-day deadline is extended to 30 days if the other spouse resides in another state. The petition forms themselves may vary if the divorcing couple has children.
Once documents have been filed and responded to, two things happen immediately.
- Each spouse is required to file mandatory financial disclosures (referred to as Rule 16.2 disclosures) which they will share with one another early in the proceedings. These disclosures specify financial information regarding income, properties, funds, and debts. Spouses must file these disclosures even if they have settled matters amongst themselves and their divorce lies undisputed.
- The court then sets an initial status conference to determine the steps needed for settlement or trial. The initial status conference is an informal meeting with the court. The divorcing couple and their lawyers (if any) must appear to show how they might resolve issues on their own.
The court will set a temporary orders hearing at the status conference, usually within a month, to resolve issues such as support and child custody until the divorce is final.
All divorcing Colorado couples must participate in good faith settlement discussions. These meetings strive to have couples avoid court involvement by settling issues amongst themselves. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible when disagreement arises on certain issues.
Couples are also required to attend at least one round of mediation, a more structured method to resolve case problems. If the couple has children, they must first attend a parenting class.
Temporary orders hearing
The court sets a 90-day review of the case three months after the initial status conference. The spouses should have attended mediation by this time. If the couple has come to terms, the court issues what are called stipulated temporary orders. If the couple still disagrees on matters, they must notify the court that they need to go to trial, known in Colorado as a final orders hearing.
Final orders hearing
If spouses request a final orders hearing, they need to try once more to resolve their issues. In many cases, divorcing couples must again participate in mediation before the court approves a final orders hearing. The court then orders the couple to attend a pretrial meeting where last minute negotiations are conducted.
If the couple still takes issue on certain terms, the next procedure is the permanent orders hearing, which means a court trial. Going to court can be very difficult as well as emotionally and financially draining. The court at trial will concentrate on custody issues, the maintenance of a spouse, and if the other spouse can afford it, dividing property and assets in a fair manner. If children are involved, the court will make decisions given the best interests of a child.
At the close of the final orders hearing, a decree of dissolution of marriage will be entered.
Contacting a divorce lawyer
Throughout this entire process, an experienced divorce lawyer can guide you through each step and help greatly in achieving an acceptable resolution.
You do not need a lawyer to file for divorce in Colorado and you do not necessarily have to go to court. More than 95% of divorcing couples are willing to peaceably settle their issues out of court. Before the process begins, however, meeting with a competent divorce lawyer only makes sense. You must be positive that life changing decisions are well thought out before beginning. A lawyer will discuss options and tactics before-hand that you may have never considered.
If you are currently going through a divorce, contact our attorneys at Goldman Law, LLC to help you know your rights and legal options. Call our qualified family law attorneys at (303) 656-9529 or email us through our contact form to schedule a consultation and receive a professional case evaluation.