Divorce – State FAQ – Colorado
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Colorado prior to filing for divorce in an Colorado court?
A: At least one of the parties must have been a resident of the State of Colorado for a period of ninety (90) days immediately prior to the filing of the action for dissolution of marriage.
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is the Petitioner, and the other spouse is referred to as the Respondent.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. An action for dissolution of marriage filed in Colorado is filed in the District Court. The action may be filed in the county where the respondent resides or the county where the petitioner resides if the respondent was served in the same county or is a non-resident of the State of Colorado.
Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The document granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating the proceeding is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, while the title of the order granting the judgment is referred to as the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Grounds for Divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only ground for dissolution of marriage (divorce) in the State of Colorado. This is a no-fault ground, meaning the fault of one party in destroying the marriage is not an issue.
Q: What is meant by the term, “legal separation”?
A: A legal separation is based on the same grounds as divorce; however, the couple are not allowed to re-marry as if one were dead.
Summary divorce procedure
Q: What are the conditions for a Summary (simplified) Dissolution of Marriage (divorce) in Colorado?
A: A judgment of dissolution of marriage may be obtained by the filing of affidavits by either or both parties when the following conditions are met:
1. The parties have no minor children and the wife is not pregnant, or the parties are represented by counsel and have entered into a separation agreement which provides for custody and child support;
2. Service of process has been effected upon the non filing spouse;
3. There are no contested issues; and,
4. There is no marital property to be divided by the court or the parties have entered into a separation agreement which provides for the division of the marital property.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Colorado is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. There is no fixed standard to divide property, each case will be decided on its facts, and the trial court’s discretion will not be disturbed on appeal without a showing of clear abuse. When considering how to divide property, the court will consider the following factors:
1. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property;
2. The value of the property set aside to each spouse;
3. The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time of the property distribution; and,
4. Any increase or decrease in the value of the separate property of the spouses during the marriage or the depletion of the separate property for marital purposes.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it most likely available for consideration as divisible property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: The court may award alimony to either spouse upon a finding that the spouse seeking alimony:
1. Lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs; or,
2. Is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition is such that it would be inappropriate for that spouse to seek outside employment.
Q: For how long must alimony be paid?
A: The award of alimony shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital fault, after considering factors such as:
1. The financial resources of the party seeking support;
2. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment;
3. The standard of living established during the marriage;
4. The duration of the marriage;
5. The age, physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking support; and,
6. The ability of the spouse from whom alimony is sought to meet his needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking support.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: All issues regarding custody of minor children, including physical custody and decision making responsibility, will determined according to the best interests of the child. In determining the best interest of the child as it relates to parenting time, the court will consider all relevant factors, including those listed in the Divorce Information Section on the Colorado Divorce Main Page.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: Colorado has enacted child support guidelines which establish the presumptive correct amount of support. The courts may deviate from the guidelines upon a finding that the application of the guidelines be unjust, inequitable or inappropriate.