Getting a divorce can be a highly-emotional and nerve-wracking experience. Sometimes it is helpful to have an outline of the procedure to take some of the fear out of the unknown. The following is a simplified overview of the divorce process in Colorado and basic notes on what to expect through the process. This is not a substitute for the advice of a competent attorney.
Divorce in Colorado
A divorce or dissolution of marriage is the most common legal proceeding in Colorado. As such, a divorce follows a well-established life cycle through the family court system in an effort to reach an equitable resolution to the end of a parties’ marriage.
Colorado is a no-fault state. This means that under Colorado law, the only grounds for dissolving a marriage is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” All it takes is one spouse to believe the marriage is irretrievably broken for a divorce to be granted.
In Colorado, it is common for divorce to take between six to twelve months to finalize. This varies, of course, according to the issues involved, if there are minor children, and whether the divorce is contested or not. While there is no one set of procedures that apply to every case, there are basic procedures common to all cases.
Beginning the Colorado Divorce Process
In Colorado, divorce proceedings begin when one spouse files a summons and a petition for the dissolution of the marriage. Once the other spouse is served with these documents, he or she has 21 days to file a response to the petition with the court. If the other spouse lives in another state, the deadline is extended to 35 days.
Once served with the summons and petition, neither party can cancel insurance, sell assets, change beneficiaries, or move out-of-state with children without mutual consent or until the divorce is final.
Also, parties are required to automatically disclose all their assets, debts, expenses, and income to each other within 42 days of service of the divorce papers. This is required so that everyone can have this crucial information without having to go through formal discovery to get it.
The court sets deadlines to keep a divorce case moving through the system. This is called “case management.” In Colorado, a court will issue a case management order after a scheduled initial status conference with court personnel. This conference occurs no later than 42 days after the service of a summons and petition for dissolution.
Temporary Court Orders
Many divorces require temporary court orders to address issues such as custody and support until the dissolution of the marriage is final. A party can request a hearing for temporary orders at the initial status conference. The hearing takes place as soon as possible.
Discovery or Information-Gathering
Aside from the mandatory financial disclosures, there is often additional discovery that is done. That can be done through written requests for information or depositions of parties or the appointment of experts to value businesses or determine income. Your attorney will be the best person to determine what is necessary to gather all the facts relevant to property valuation or child support or spousal maintenance issues.
Settlement or Trial Proceedings
Almost every divorce case involves the parties attending mediation to try to resolve the case without court involvement first. Many times it takes several sessions of mediation to come to agreements. But, if parties cannot agree on everything, then the parties will have to go before the judge and prove why each should get their way. All family law cases are decided by a judge. There are no juries used in domestic relation cases.
How Experienced Denver, Colorado, Divorce Attorneys Can Help
Although no one is required to have a lawyer in the divorce process, the process is complex. There are deadlines to meet, rules that must be followed, and a lot of questions come up along the way. That is why the first step you should take is to talk to an experienced Colorado divorce attorney.
At Perusse Nixon, PLLC, our divorce attorneys are prepared to take the burden of the divorce process out of your hands and into ours. Contact our office to schedule an appointment today.