Divorce Process in Colorado

What is the first step in getting a divorce?

For some people, the first step in ending their marriage is to file for legal separation. Many couples choose to legally separate because their relationship is on the rocks but they still want to try to salvage the marriage without the pressure of living in close quarters. For others, the purpose of legal separation is to test out terms for child custody, alimony, and property division without the finality of a divorce. If, however, you are ready to take the plunge and move ahead with your divorce, then the first step for you to take is to go to court to file a petition for dissolution of marriage.

No-Fault Divorce

Before you can file your petition, either you or your spouse must have been established as a Colorado resident for at least 90 days. Colorado is a "no-fault" divorce state, meaning that you do not have to prove that either party is to blame for the failure of the marriage. This is now true of nearly all states, whereas in earlier years it was necessary to demonstrate that one of the spouses had caused the divorce to be necessary through actions such as adultery, domestic abuse, or desertion. In today's legal system, all that is required now is to state that the marriage is "irretrievably broken."

In most cases, both spouses agree to getting the divorce and they each sign the petition as co-petitioners. If, on the other hand, your spouse is not in contact with you or is opposed to the divorce, then you will have to have the petition delivered through a process server or law enforcement official. The petition will state your terms for the divorce, and your spouse will have 20 days in which to file a response that either accepts your terms or asserts a counter-claim. In the event that your spouse fails to file a response before the deadline, the court may rule in your favor in default.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

You have the option of either reaching an out-of-court settlement for your divorce or of bringing it before a judge. The former, which is referred to as an "uncontested divorce," can be achieved through mediation or negotiation with your spouse, while the latter, a "contested divorce," is essentially a courtroom trial. An uncontested divorce has the advantages of being more private, faster, and less stressful, in addition to the fact that it allows you to maintain a greater degree of control rather than having the judge issue arbitrary rulings for you. Uncontested divorce is, however, not always possible, and if this is true in your case, then it is important to have an attorney who is prepared to fight aggressively to defend your personal interests. Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, there are certain guiding principles that are used to decide the outcome of a divorce in Colorado:

Child Custody and Visitation
When the judge is ruling on a contested divorce or reviewing an uncontested divorce settlement, he or she examines the arrangement for parental responsibilities to ensure that it serves the children's best interests. This includes questions such as whether each parent is willing to foster the children's relationship with the other parent, the degree to which each parent can provide for the children's needs, and whether either parent has a history of domestic violence or child abuse.

Property Division
The family law courts in Colorado apply the principle of "equitable distribution," which means that the division of assets and debts in a divorce is intended to be fair, rather than strictly equal. The property division may not, in other words, be an even 50-50 split between you and your spouse. Factors that influence the division of property include each spouse's contribution to the marital estate, services rendered as a homemaker, which parent will receive child custody, and whether certain assets are separate or shared property.

Spousal Support
There is no guarantee that alimony will be awarded in any divorce, but it is not uncommon. Spousal support is typically awarded in cases in which one of the spouses has been financially dependent on the other and will require a period of time to acquire the necessary training or education to become economically self-sufficient. The purpose of spousal support is to help the recipient maintain an acceptable standard of living while easing back into single life.

Speak with a Colorado Springs Divorce Attorney Today

To learn more about the process of divorce and to take the first steps in your own family law case, contact a Colorado Springs divorce lawyer at Clawson & Clawson, LLP now. An attorney from our firm can meet with you for a free consultation to discuss your concerns and review your legal options. We know this may be a stressful experience for you and we are ready to stand by your side throughout the entire process.

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