Colorado

Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce/Dissolution of Marriage

Authored By: Colorado Legal Services
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Frequently Asked Questions

 

 


Q.

General Information:

What is a Dissolution of Marriage?

A.

Colorado laws use different words and terms than what you may be familiar with. A "Dissolution of Marriage (DOM)" is the term Colorado law and Courts use to mean Divorce. It is also important to note that the Courts call what you may be familiar with as Custody "Allocation of Parental Responsibility (APR)" and call what you may know as Alimony "Maintenance."

Q.

What is an annulment? How can I get my marriage annulled?

A.

Click here for information about annulment on the Colorado Legal Services website.

Q. What's the difference between a legal separation and a Divorce?
A.

If you are legally separated, you are not Divorced and are not legally able to marry another person. You are married but separated. Divorced means your marriage has been legally dissolved by the Court.

Q.

Issues that Come Up With Divorce:

What is the process to get a Divorce?

A.

The process to get a Divorce varies depending on whether you have children from the marriage. The Colorado Judiciary Branch provides very informative step-by-step directions on how to file for a Divorce with or without children.

Form JDF 1100 - here is a .pdf or MSWord file for instructions on how to file for a Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) or legal separation with children of this marriage.

Form JDF 1099 - here is a .pdf or MSWord file for instructions on how to file for a Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) or legal separation if there are no children of this marriage or the children are emancipated (see glossary for definition of emancipation).

Q.

I have been served with Divorce papers. What should I do?

A.

First, get legal advice to find out what your rights and responsibilities are. Second, if you desire, find out if your spouse will change his or her mind. If not, you need to try to work out with your spouse how you're going to divide the property and debts of your marriage. Most importantly, if you have children, you and your spouse need to work out how you're going to provide for and spend time with them after your Divorce. The Divorce Court is going to try to get you to come up with a parenting plan you both can live with, so the earlier you start, the better. DO NOT ignore your Divorce! You have been sued. If you don't at least respond to being served, the Court has the right to make decisions for you without your input!

Q. Do I have to have a reason to file for Divorce?
A.

No. All you have to do is convince a Judge that your marriage is "irretrievably broken."

Q. Can my spouse Divorce me if I object?
A.

Yes. All your spouse needs to do is convince a Judge that your marriage is "irretrievably broken." That's the only legal standard Colorado uses. A spouse filing for Divorce is usually enough to convince the Judge of that. The idea is that if a marriage must be kept together by Court Order, it's an irretrievably broken marriage. On rare occasions, a Court may postpone the decision and request that the couple get counseling.

Q. How long does it take to get a Divorce?
A.

You and your spouse must wait at least 90 days from the time the Divorce is filed to the time it will become final. This is known as a "cooling off period" to see if you and your spouse can save your marriage. However, there is no way to know exactly how long it will take to get a Divorce. Typically, the more spouses work with each other to resolve their issues, the shorter time a Divorce will take; the more spouses argue with each other, the longer (and more expensive) the Divorce will be. A decree dissolving your marriage can not be entered by the Judge until at least 90 days have passed since the date of filing and service on the other party.

Q. Is Colorado a no-fault Divorce state? What does that mean?
A. Yes. It means that the Court won't try to assign blame to either spouse for the failure of the marriage and that there doesn't need to be a specific reason to get a Divorce.
Q. I'm not working. Will my spouse have to pay me Alimony?
A.

Maybe, maybe not. Colorado uses the term "Maintenance" instead of Alimony. An award of Maintenance is decided by the Judge. It is not Child Support. Maintenance is not awarded in most cases. If you do get an Order for Maintenance, it is usually temporary and rarely for a long period of time. Whether your spouse will have to pay Maintenance depends on a number of factors. For example, if you're not working because you're caring for your infant, or because you were a housewife during the marriage and lack skills to get a decent job, you may get an Order for Maintenance. But if you don't have a good reason for not working, you probably won't get Maintenance. Keep in mind, though, that once you get to a point where you can work, Maintenance will more than likely stop.

Q. I'm worried about what my spouse may try to do when he/she sees I'm asking for Divorce. Is there any legal protection for me?
A.

Upon filing your Divorce/Dissolution of Marriage papers, an automatic temporary injunction is in effect that will prohibit both you and your spouse from taking certain actions before a Permanent Order about your Divorce is in place. This will prevent both of you from transferring property that may or may not be considered marital property, from discontinuing insurance coverage, or from taking your children out of the state or out of the country.

If you need more protection than that which the temporary injunction would provide and feel that your safety is at risk, you may need a Protection Order. Click here to go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website for more information about Protection Orders.

Additionally, if you have experienced domestic violence in your marriage, this may affect your case. To learn more about how the Courts work with domestic violence victims and resources that are available to those who have survived domestic violence, click here to view information on the Colorado Legal Services website.

Q.

Location/Jurisdiction Issues:

Can I Divorce my spouse if I don't know where he or she is?

A.

Yes. Where your spouse lives doesn't affect your ability to Divorce, although it could have some effect on the distribution of your property or the relationship with your children. If you don't know where your spouse is, you have to make a good-faith effort to make sure your spouse (1) knows you're suing for Divorce and (2) gets a copy of your Divorce petition. After you've made a reasonable attempt at serving your spouse, you may request that the Court authorize service on your spouse by publication of a summons in a local newspaper. There is a fee you will have to pay for the cost of publication in a local newspaper.

Q. I just moved to Colorado. Can I file for Divorce?
A. Not until you've lived in Colorado for 90 days. Also, you have to live in Colorado with the intent of staying in Colorado permanently. For example, you can't just stay at a Colorado hotel for 91 days, then try to get divorced under Colorado law.
Q. I have been served with Divorce papers from another state. What should I do?
A.

Get legal advice. There are a number of things that go into deciding which state's law applies to your Divorce. DO NOT ignore the Divorce papers! If you do, a Court you've never been to would have the right to determine your Divorce, distribute your property, even decide your relationship with your child. You can go to this website - www.lawhelp.org - and check to see if the other state has information available to help you.

Q.

Property Division in a Divorce:

Is Colorado a community property state? What does this mean?

A.

No, Colorado is considered a marital property state, which is similar to community property states that use a community property system and basically look at any property you get during your marriage as also being owned by your spouse. For example, if you buy a car with your own money during your marriage, your spouse likely owns it, too. By Colorado's marital property system, spouses have claim to more things, such as the difference in the value of separate property that became more valuable during the marriage.

When the Court divides property, it may look at the contribution each spouse made to be able to acquire property (Courts do look at being a homemaker as an important contribution); the value of the marital property; the financial situation of each person and their ability to earn after the Divorce, and how Custody/Appropriation of Parental Responsibility has been decided.

There is some property that you may not think of as marital property to consider in dividing your marital assets. For example, limited partnerships, business interests, investments, and the cash value of life insurance and retirement benefits are all considered marital property to be divided upon Divorce.

On the other hand, separate property will not be divided. Separate property includes:

 
Q.  Who is responsible for the outstanding debts that we have from the marriage?
A.

Just like all marital property is divided between you, so are marital debts. Colorado law requires the Court to enter an Order that equitably (fairly) divides all property and debts of the marriage. Equitably does not mean all debts will be divided 50-50. Responsibility for payment of some of the marital debt by you will be based upon your income, the income of your spouse, the property you will keep from the marriage, and the reasons the debt was built up in the first place.

Q. We own a house and other property. How will the Court divide the property?
A. A Colorado Court will divide your marital property in a manner "that is fair and equitable" to both parties under the circumstances. What is "fair and equitable" is up to a Judge. Divorce Judges in Colorado have a lot of power to divide property however they want. But if you and your spouse can agree on how to divide your property, the Judge will probably agree, too. If you and your spouse can't agree, the Judge will look at the following - where is your child going to live, which spouse needs the property more, and who used the property more during the marriage. The Judge is not allowed to look at who's at fault for the marriage breaking up, so don't think you'll get more property just because your spouse is the one responsible for the Divorce.
Q. I have gotten a Divorce, but my ex-spouse refuses to transfer Title for property that I was awarded in the Divorce. What do I do?
A. A party in a Divorce can still get property that she or he was awarded in the decree even if the other party does not or refuses to sign it over. The Clerk of the Court can be authorized to sign this document. To do this, you must file a written Motion with the Court and ask that the Clerk of the Court be authorized to sign the document in question, as provided in Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 70.  Click here for more instructions and the forms you will need.
Q.

More Information:

I want more information on the issues related to Dissolution of Marriage/Divorce. Where should I look?

A.

Colorado Legal Services also provides the following information on the website:
Appropriation of parental responsibility (Custody)
Alimony/Maintenance and Child Support
Domestic Violence

Additionally, learn more from the
Colorado Bar Association - the Senior Law Handbook, chapter on Family Relations explains the basics of Divorce.

 


This communication is made available by Colorado Legal Services, Inc., (CLS), as a public service and is issued to inform not to advise. No person should attempt to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of an attorney. The opinions expressed in this communication are those of the authors and not those of CLS or its funding sources.

If you need advice on this or any other legal problem, consult an attorney of your own choosing. If you cannot afford an attorney, talk to Colorado Legal Services, 303.837.1321.

Updated 04/12
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