What is involved in a Colorado dissolution of marriage (AKA divorce)?

When contemplating divorce, there are many aspects to consider. One aspect is the emotional stages involved. Divorce can be a stressful time for many. You are likely to experience various emotions in the divorce process, but keep in mind that you can move forward to a better future.

Grounds for Divorce
In Colorado, the legal standard for divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Some other states have divorce standards based on fault, however Colorado is not among them. This means that there is no requirement to submit any evidence as to the fault of either party in causing the divorce. It also means that for the most part fault is irrelevant in divorce court matters, which can be difficult to understand to someone who feels wronged in the relationship.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period
At least one spouse must be a resident of Colorado for a minimum of 90 days prior to filing for dissolution. The petition should be filed in the county where the non-filing spouse resides, unless the parties agree to file in a jurisdiction where the other party resides and both parties file together. After filing all necessary documents, there is a 90-day waiting period prior for issuance of a divorce decree.

Property Division
Spouses have assets and debts that must be divided. Any property acquired during the marriage is generally marital property, except for inheritances and gifts made to just one party. However, parties can also have separate property assets that can not be divided, for example assets owned prior to the marriage. Some assets are mixed. An increase in value on separate property that occurs during the marriage is considered marital property.

Colorado is an equitable distribution state. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal, but rather fair. The court will evaluate several factors to determine how property should be divided, such as the contribution of each spouse to the household to include financial contributions as well as time devoted to supporting the household and family, the value of the marital property, the value of separate property, and the earning capacity of each spouse.

Spousal Maintenance (AKA Alimony)
One spouse may be required to provide financial maintenance (alimony) to the other. The maintenance threshold is generally at least three years of marriage and generally a court will not award maintenance to a party in a marriage of a shorter duration. Maintenance awards are very discretionary. Some factors considered are the duration of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, the financial resources of each spouse, and the ability to seek education or find appropriate employment. Either spouse may request a modification of the maintenance amount if there is a substantial change in circumstances, unless the parties agreed that maintenance would be nonmodifiable.

Child Support
Child support is calculated based on an income shares approach and continues until graduation from high school or age 19. An income shares approach involves calculating both parent’s income to determine what an appropriate amount of basic child support is based on the Colorado child support guidelines. Parties can agree to a longer duration; however, a court can not order a longer duration. The Colorado Courts website has an online calculator that you can use to determine the amount of child support. Child support “add-ons” include expenses for unreimbursed medical expenses and work-related childcare costs. Sometimes educational costs can be added on as well depending on the educational needs of the child.
In Colorado, a court can not order parents to fund a child’s college education, whereas in some other states, a court can. Child support can be modified in the event of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. A substantial change of circumstances is considered to be a 10% or more change in the child support amount (not in the income of the parents). Child support recipients may opt to receive support through the Colorado Child Support Enforcement Agency.

Child Custody
Colorado courts make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child and favor the active involvement of both parents. If parents do not agree to a custody arrangement, a court considers many factors such as the relationship between the child and parents, the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, and each parent’s ability to encourage contact with the other parent. A child custody order can be modified on consent or upon a substantial change in circumstances.

If you live in Denver or the great State of Colorado and are contemplating divorce, contact us today for an assessment of your legal rights and obligations.