In order for a Colorado courtroom to dissolve the marriage and provide permanent decrees that settle all financial problems, the couple must meet the following criteria.
The courtroom can issue a dissolution or legal separation ruling if the couple fulfills the first two bullet points. If one of the last two bullet points are missing, the courtroom may lack authority to divide marital assets and debts, issue parenting orders, or require the respondent spouse to pay child support or alimony.
Ways to Dissolve a Marriage
In Colorado, there are multiple ways to form a marriage, as well as several ways to dissolve one, all of which require a court decree. Divorce, or the dissolution of marriage, is the most traditional and widely used method. Couples could also get a legal separation or even an annulment. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but the regulations and processes are very similar because they are all governed by the same set of laws. Finally, the courtroom will resolve any unresolved issues, including child custody, marital estate division, maintenance, child support, spousal support, and more. To learn more about the divorce process in Colorado, speak with one of our Park Hill attorneys.
The Divorce Process
In Colorado, most divorces take 6 to 9 months to complete, depending on the marital issues at hand and whether they undergo litigation. There is no one set of steps that will apply to every divorce case because the crucial stages depend on the specific details in your case. The first thing to remember is that unless a judge issues a courtroom order, nothing is legally binding. Keep this in mind in the future.
Petition for Marital Dissolution
The first step is to prepare the documents for filing for dissolution of marriage with your local courtroom. Being the Petitioner or Respondent has no advantages or disadvantages, with the exception of any issues concerning Colorado’s jurisdiction over a partner. You can also file as co-petitioners if you choose. A judge won’t treat a partner who initiated the divorce any differently than the one who initiated the divorce.
Following the filing of the initial petitions, a judge must serve the other spouse with the documents. Or the spouse must sign a waiver of service, which starts a formal 91-day clock before the courtroom can issue a dissolution order. However, as previously indicated, the majority of divorce proceedings take significantly longer. It’s a rare situation in which both spouses are completely cooperative, complete all disclosures, and sign all agreements. All of this can take a long time depending on the details of each case.
When the divorce process starts, each partner must submit a sworn financial statement and provide significant financial disclosures. Your legal team will tell you what information you need to provide. These initial financial disclosures are essential in all divorce cases, even if the spouses previously agreed on everything. This is because even if the spouses have reached a complete agreement, the courtroom must still evaluate if the arrangement is fair and not unconscionable before it’s approved.
Initial Status Conference
Within 40 days of the couple filing the petition for dissolution, the court will hold an Initial Status Conference to determine deadlines for disclosures, expert appointments, and, if necessary, a temporary orders hearing date. The ISC lasts around 10 minutes, and the spouses will hardly have to speak.
If both spouses have legal representation, they can file a Stipulated Case Management Plan, which allows them to set their own schedule. This basically means that it’s no longer necessary for anyone to take a break and appear in the courtroom. The ISC is only required if one of the spouses doesn’t have a lawyer.
A partner may seek further information if there’s a suspicion that an asset has vanished, there are worries about where debts originated, or there’s a need to look at a spouse’s educational or career background to decide an appropriate income to impute. Below, we’ve listed some of the information you can obtain.
If there is no agreement, lawyers can’t issue discovery requests until after the Initial Status Conference. From a strictly practical sense, you should generally wait until you get the other spouse’s financial declarations before choosing what additional information you desire.
If the spouses can’t agree on any important issues and don’t want to wait for the entire disputed final orders hearing, the courtroom can issue interim orders that will only exist until the courtroom finalizes the divorce.
Each side gets roughly 25 minutes to present their case, plus time for the courtroom to rule during a temporary orders hearing. Other witnesses are rarely summoned at this point because there isn’t much time for direct questioning and cross-examination of all clients.
This final round of the lawsuit generally happens 6 to 9 months after divorce proceedings start. If the case is uncontested but you have children and one of the parties doesn’t have an attorney, you must undergo rapid uncontested permanent orders hearing before a judge. During this hearing, the court will review the agreements. Both spouses will testify under oath.
If judges dispute your case, you will most likely have a half-day contested permanent orders hearing. During this hearing, the spouses will have more time to make their case, including time for additional witnesses, a parenting expert, and so on. A full-day hearing is feasible, but it requires agreement from both lawyers. Even then, judges may summon the attorneys for a status conference to explain why the couple needs more time. A contested half-day permanent orders hearing happens about 9 months after the case’s start. Meanwhile, a full-day hearing might happen a year after the case’s start.
Due to Colorado’s preference for settlement over litigation, the spouses must meet and discuss the subject outside of the courtroom before taking up time on the already-overburdened docket. The same caution that applies to courtroom procedures should be used here. Some of these may not apply in situations where complaints are quickly addressed.
Do I Have to Attend a Divorce Hearing in Park Hill?
In Colorado, couples can obtain a divorce decree without ever having to enter a courthouse. If you want to avoid the courtroom, consulting and working with family law attorneys at Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Carlton is the most reliable way to achieve this goal. Even if the couple completes all paperwork and reaches a full agreement, the spouses must attend a quick, final hearing. But if they have already filed an “affidavit for decree without the presence of parties,” a final hearing is unnecessary.
This affidavit simply notifies the courtroom that the lawyers have filed all of the necessary documents. Additionally, this affidavit notifies the courtroom that it should grant the divorce decree without an in-person hearing. The couple can only use this affidavit can only to avoid a courtroom appearance if they don’t share kids under the age of 18. But if the couple does have kids, both parties must have Park Hill family law attorneys representing them in the courtroom.
How to Prepare for a Divorce
The decision to divorce needs both mental and physical preparations. Before beginning the divorce procedure, we recommend making the following preparations.
Consult with your lawyer about different options. It isn’t always necessary to go to the courtroom to get a divorce. Mediation and collaborative divorce are less stressful alternatives. Get your supporting documentation ready, including information on your earnings, household contributions, and pre-marital assets, and more. Bring out your prenuptial agreement if you have one.
Calculate how much your single life will cost you based on your current financial status. Do you have a new place to stay or would you rather keep your home? If you have kids, you may find that child and spousal support are insufficient to sustain your new lifestyle. So think about the adjustments you’ll have to make in the future.