Colorado Separation Agreement Law

Divorce – Separation Agreements – Colorado

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of separation agreements in Colorado, but does include basic and other provisions.

General Summary: Separation and Property Agreements may be entered into before a divorce is filed to be effective when signed.  They may also be used after the divorce is filed.  The terms of the Agreement, except terms providing for the allocation of parental responsibilities, support, and parenting time of children, are binding upon the court unless it finds, after considering the economic circumstances of the parties and any other relevant evidence produced by the parties, on their own motion or on request of the court, that the separation agreement is unconscionable.

Discussion: Separation and Property Settlement Ageements are governed by the following provisions of the Colorado Marital Agreement Act:

Statutes:

Title 14  Domestic Matters
Article 2  Marriage and Rights of Married Women
Part 3 Colorado Marital Agreement Act

Short title: This part 3 shall be known and may be cited as the “Colorado Marital Agreement Act”.  Section 14-2-301.

Definitions: As used in this part 3, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) “Marital agreement” means an agreement either between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage or between present spouses, but only if signed by both parties prior to the filing of an action for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation.
(2) “Party” means any person who has entered into a marital agreement.
(3) “Property” means an interest, present or future, legal or equitable, vested or contingent, in real or personal property, including income and earnings.  Section 14-2-302.

Formalities: A marital agreement shall be in writing and signed by both parties and is enforceable without consideration.  Section 14-2-303.

Content:

(1) Parties may contract with respect to:

(a) The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;
(b) The acquisition, disposition, management, and control of any property;
(c) The disposition of property upon separation of the parties, dissolution of the marriage, death of either party, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;
(d) The determination, modification, or elimination of spousal maintenance;
(e) The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the marital agreement;
(f) The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;
(g) The rights and obligations in benefits available or to be available under an employee benefit or retirement plan, except to the extent federal law prevents a binding agreement with respect to such rights and obligations;
(h) The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and
(i) Any other matter, including the personal rights or obligations of either party, not in violation of public policy or any statute imposing a criminal penalty.

(2) Unless the marital agreement provides to the contrary, a waiver of “all rights upon death” (or equivalent language) in the property or estate of a present or prospective spouse is:

(a) A waiver of all rights to the elective share, exempt property, family allowance, and homestead exemption of the waiving party in the property of the other;
(b) A waiver of the statutory priority of the waiving party to serve as personal representative, executor, or administrator of the estate of the other; and
(c) A renunciation and disclaimer by the waiving party of all benefits that would otherwise pass to him or her from the other by intestate succession or by virtue of the provisions of any will executed before the marital agreement. Provisions of a will executed before the marital agreement are given effect as if the waiving party:

(I) Disclaimed all interests passing to him or her under the will; and

(II) Became disqualified to serve as personal representative, executor, administrator, or trustee.

(2.3) Unless the marital agreement provides to the contrary, a revocation of “all benefits passing upon death to the relatives of my spouse” (or equivalent language) is a revocation of all benefits that would otherwise pass upon death to the relatives of the spouse from the revoking party by virtue of the provisions of any will executed before the writing. Provisions of a will executed before the writing are given effect as if the relatives:

(a) Disclaimed all interests passing to them under the will; and
(b) Became disqualified to serve as personal representative, executor, administrator, or trustee.

(2.5) For purposes of this section, “relative” of an individual’s spouse means a person who is related to the spouse by blood, adoption, or affinity and who, if the individual and the individual’s spouse were divorced, would not be related to the individual by blood, adoption, or affinity.

(3) A marital agreement may not adversely affect the right of a child to child support.  Section 14-2-304.

Effective date of agreement: A marital agreement becomes effective upon marriage, if signed by both parties prior to marriage, or upon the signatures of both parties, if signed after marriage.  Section 14-2-305.

Amendment – revocation: After a marital agreement becomes effective, it may be amended or revoked only by a written agreement signed by both parties. The amended agreement or revocation is enforceable without consideration.  Section 14-2-306.

Enforcement:

(1) A marital agreement or amendment thereto or revocation thereof is not enforceable if the party against whom enforcement is sought proves that:

(a) Such party did not execute the agreement, amendment, or revocation voluntarily; or
(b) Before execution of the agreement, amendment, or revocation, such party was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

(2) A marital agreement or amendment thereto or revocation thereof that is otherwise enforceable after applying the provisions of subsection (1) of this section is nevertheless unenforceable insofar, but only insofar, as the provisions of such agreement, amendment, or revocation relate to the determination, modification, or elimination of spousal maintenance and such provisions are unconscionable at the time of enforcement of such provisions. The issue of unconscionability shall be decided by the court as a matter of law.

(3) A marital agreement or amendment thereto or revocation thereof that is otherwise enforceable shall not be unenforceable because by the terms of such agreement, amendment, or revocation the rights or obligations, or both, of one or both parties change or expire because of the passage of time or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event.  Section 14-2-307.

Invalid marriage: If the marriage of the parties is declared to be invalid, the marital agreement is enforceable only to the extent necessary to avoid an inequitable result.  Section 14-2-308.

Limitations of actions: Any statute of limitations applicable to an action asserting a claim for relief under a marital agreement is tolled during the marriage of the parties. However, equitable defenses limiting the time for enforcement, including laches or estoppel, are available to either party.  Section 14-2-309.

Effective date – applicability:

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, this part 3 shall take effect July 1, 1986, and shall apply only to marital agreements that become effective on or after said date. All such marital agreements entered into prior to July 1, 1986, shall be governed by the laws then in effect.

(2) The provisions of the amendments to section 14-2-304 (2), as contained in House Bill 96-1342, shall take effect July 1, 1996, and shall apply only to marital agreements which become effective on or after July 1, 1996.  section 14-2-310.

14-2-301. Short title. This part 3 shall be known and may be cited as the “Colorado Marital Agreement Act”.

Separation agreement:

(1) To promote the amicable settlement of disputes between the parties to a marriage attendant upon their separation or the dissolution of their marriage, the parties may enter into a written separation agreement containing provisions for the maintenance of either of them, the disposition of any property owned by either of them, and the allocation of parental responsibilities, support, and parenting time of their children.

(2) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation, the terms of the separation agreement, except terms providing for the allocation of parental responsibilities, support, and parenting time of children, are binding upon the court unless it finds, after considering the economic circumstances of the parties and any other relevant evidence produced by the parties, on their own motion or on request of the court, that the separation agreement is unconscionable.

(3) If the court finds the separation agreement unconscionable, the court may request the parties to submit a revised separation agreement, or the court may make orders for the disposition of property, support, and maintenance.

(4) If the court finds that the separation agreement is not unconscionable as to support, maintenance, and property:

(a) Unless the separation agreement provides to the contrary, its terms shall be set forth in the decree of dissolution or legal separation, and the parties shall be ordered to perform them; or
(b) If the separation agreement provides that its terms shall not be set forth in the decree, the decree shall identify the separation agreement and shall state that the court has found the terms not unconscionable.

(5) Terms of the agreement set forth in the decree may be enforced by all remedies available for the enforcement of a judgment, including contempt, but are no longer enforceable as contract terms.

(6) Except for terms concerning the support, the allocation of decision-making responsibility, or parenting time of children, the decree may expressly preclude or limit modification of terms set forth in the decree if the separation agreement so provides.  Section 14-10-112.

Case Law:

“Nuptial agreements, whether executed before or after the marriage, are enforceable in Colorado and a nuptial agreement will be upheld unless the person attacking it proves fraud, concealment, or failure to disclose material information.”).  In re Estate of Lewin, 42 Colo. App. 129, 595 P.2d 1055, 1057 (1979)

Prior to its incorporation in a dissolution decree a “separation agreement” is a contract between the parties to a marriage.  In re Marriage of Deines, 44 Colo. App. 98, 608 P.2d 375 (1980).  The purpose of the “separation agreement” is “to enable divorcing parties to reach an amicable out-of-court settlement of their claims to the property of the other. . . .”  Newman v. Newman, 653 P.2d 728, 733 (Colo. 1982).  However, before a “separation agreement” concerning property is incorporated in the dissolution decree, it is subject to review by the district court under section 14-10-112(2) for unconscionability. In Re the Marriage of Manzo, 659 P.2d 669 (Colo. 1983)

Before a Colorado court incorporates property division provisions of a “separation agreement” into a dissolution decree, it should first review the provisions for fraud, overreaching, concealment of assets, or sharp dealing not consistent with the obligations of marital partners to deal fairly with each other, and then look at the economic circumstances of the parties which result from the agreement, including a determination whether under the totality of the circumstances the property disposition is fair, just and reasonable.  In Re the Marriage of Manzo, 659 P.2d 669 (Colo. 1983).


Inside Colorado Separation Agreement Law