6 Important Things to Know If You're Getting a Divorce in Colorado
The divorce process in Colorado is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you’re following Colorado divorce laws. If you don’t, you may find yourself paying extra expenses and needing extra time to complete your divorce case.
Here are six of the most important things you need to know when filing for divorce in Colorado.
1. Colorado divorce residency requirement
Every state has different requirements for getting a divorce. Most states require you or your spouse to have lived in the state for a specific period of time before you can get a divorce there. Colorado is no different: At least one spouse must legally reside there for a minimum of 91 days before filing their divorce papers.
Why does Colorado impose a residency requirement? Simply put: to prevent forum shopping. This is a situation where one spouse hops from state to state hoping to find a quick and easy route to a divorce decree. Often, said spouse is looking for a way to get more than their fair share in the divorce settlement – which is why most states have divorce laws preventing this activity.
In addition to the residency requirement, Colorado imposes a waiting period of 91 days. This means your divorce cannot be finalized until at least 91 days have passed since your divorce petition was filed.
2. Spouse location
It wouldn’t be fair for Colorado to let one spouse initiate divorce proceedings without notifying the other, especially if there was property to be divided or child custody matters to resolve. According to Colorado law, there are several situations in which a court may have jurisdiction over a spouse who is being served divorce papers:
- The spouse lives in Colorado
- The spouse was served while physically in Colorado
- The parties lived as a married couple in Colorado, and the petitioning spouse still lives in Colorado
A Colorado court could also have jurisdiction over a spouse if the spouse consents to it. This is important because both spouses must receive the opportunity to be a part of the divorce proceedings. Courts have an interest in giving each spouse a fair opportunity to participate in their own divorce. Thus, it’s crucial that spouses are properly notified of their own divorce proceedings.
3. Grounds for Colorado divorce
Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. This means that for your divorce case to be approved, your grounds for divorce can be as simple as the fact that your marriage is irretrievably broken. Only one spouse must allege the marriage is irreparable for a divorce to be granted. Why? States and courts have an interest in preventing unhappy marriages. As such, no-fault divorce — even if it’s only desired by one spouse — is acceptable.
Colorado still allows fault divorces, too. You could provide a reason for the divorce, which may include any of the following:
- Misuse of marital funds
Any of the above would be acceptable reasons for divorce in Colorado. A fault divorce process takes more time because you must present evidence of wrongdoing. It also costs more, though it may be worth it for the petitioner if they seek additional compensation for the marriage ending, such as gaining full custody of the kids or additional assets in the divorce settlement. (This may be possible if the other spouse misused marital funds.)
4. Colorado property division
Colorado is an equitable distribution state. This means the division of property in Colorado divorce is “fair;'“ each spouse will receive a fair share of the marital property through the divorce process. That said, it does not guarantee a 50/50 division of property.
“Marital property” is property (assets and debts) acquired during the marriage, such as a marital home or retirement account contributions made during the marriage. It even includes income earned during the marriage. All marital property is subject to equitable distribution in Colorado.
Separate property is not subject to equitable distribution in Colorado. What is separate property? It’s something you brought into the marriage or acquired during the marriage that was kept separate. For example, if you inherited a vacation property that was never used during your marriage, that might remain separate property. Note, however, that once you make separate property indistinguishable from marital property, it becomes subject to equitable distribution.
When determining how to divide property in a divorce, Colorado courts consider several factors:
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage
- The value of each spouse’s separate property, if any
- The ability of each spouse to financially support themselves after divorce
Many people feel the best way to determine property division is to do it themselves, without court involvement. This gives each spouse more control over their shared property. Negotiation may take place one-on-one at the kitchen table, with your spouse’s divorce attorney, or with the help of a divorce mediator. If you still cannot agree on terms, a court will step in and decide for you.
5. Colorado alimony
Colorado law provides for alimony, sometimes called spousal support or spousal maintenance, in the final divorce decree. Alimony can be awarded via temporary or permanent orders, but it will only be awarded if a judge finds that one spouse cannot financially support themselves after the marriage.
Courts generally only award spousal support in marriages lasting three years or more. Judges also consider the following factors when determining spousal support:
- The current and future earning capacity of each spouse
- Each spouse’s marital assets and property distribution
- Each spouse’s separate property
- The financial situation of each spouse; that is, one spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to provide
Colorado restricts alimony to 40% of the couple’s total combined income minus the lower-earning spouse’s income. Let’s say that one spouse earns $8,000 per month, and the other brings $4,000 home per month. Combined, their income is $12,000 per month. Forty percent of that amount is $4,800. Subtract the lower-earning spouse’s income from that, and $800 remains.
Note: This does not mean one spouse automatically receives $800 per month in alimony. The calculation simply begins the process of determining how much to award one spouse. Courts will factor in taxes as well.
6. Colorado child custody and child support
When it comes to child custody, the Colorado court places the best interests of minor children front and center. More often than not, it’s in a child’s best interest to have both parents actively involved in their life. Although the parents live apart, they should each play a role in the child’s upbringing. This includes making decisions about the child’s schooling, religion, and medical needs.
That said, if one parent has a history of abuse, neglect, or another issue that may prevent them from playing a positive role in their child’s life, the court may not award that parent with equal parenting time or involvement.
That’s where child support comes into play. In Colorado, child support may be awarded to safeguard each child’s financial situation in divorce. The formula to calculate Colorado child support is complex, but the state provides worksheets to help.
Parents can retain control over both child custody and child support decisions by developing a parenting plan together. However, if they can’t agree on terms such as custody, support, or parenting time, the court will step in and decide matters for them.
If you’re struggling to work out the details of your Colorado divorce, Hello Divorce can help. Not only do we offer affordable online divorce plans, we also provide flat-rate services such as divorce mediation and financial planning to help you not only survive your divorce process but also thrive in your next exciting chapter of life.