Colorado Divorce 101
In Colorado, a divorce proceeding can take as little as 91 days. Most cases, however, take longer to finalize.
Some parties can have their divorce finalized in a few short months, while others must endure the grueling process for years. The length of this process depends on how cooperative each party is with one another and how soon they agree on issue such as child custody, child support, and property division. To receive a final divorce decree near the 91 day mark, both parties must agree on all aspects within the divorce.
Your Essential Guideline for a Colorado Divorce
1) Residency Requirement
First and foremost, at least one spouse must have resided in the State of Colorado for at least 91 days before either can file a divorce action here.
2) Initial Filing and Service of Documents
Either party (or their attorney) may initiate the divorce process by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the local district court. The party initially submitting the filings (the petitioner) must serve the initial papers on the other party (the respondent).
The respondent then has 21 days to file a response if service was in Colorado, or 35 days if served outside of Colorado.
If the parties file jointly, service of process and a response are unnecessary.
Colorado has a mandatory 91-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. This means that even if both parties agree on everything, the earliest the Court can sign a Decree of Dissolution is 91 days after filing and service, if required.
3) Financial Disclosure
Both parties are required to submit financial disclosure documents within 42 days after the Petition of Dissolution of Marriage and the Summons have been served (or filed, in the event that the parties filed jointly).
4) Court Schedules and Initial Status Conference
After the initial documents are filed, the Court will start scheduling court dates and other deadlines. The first date typically scheduled is the Initial Status Conference (ISC), which is the first mandatory meeting between parties before a Family Court Facilitator. The ISC is usually scheduled within 42 days of the initial filings.
5) Temporary Orders
If there is an issue that needs immediate attention from the court, such as a temporary parenting plan for the duration of the divorce action, child support, and/or spousal maintenance, either party may ask the Court to set a Temporary Orders Hearing.
Any order that comes from this hearing is temporary and is normally effective until final orders are entered.
6) Mediation or Divorce Trial
Colorado courts generally require parties to go through mediation to resolve any disputes and, hopefully, arrive at a settlement. This allows them to avoid unnecessary litigation.
Divorce litigation is time consuming, sometimes lasting years, whereas mediation may settle the case in as little as one session. In that case, the parties, or the mediator, draft a settlement agreement, or memorandum of understanding, and submit it to the Court for approval.
If the parties do not reach an agreement at mediation, the matter will go to a contested Final Orders Hearing.
7) Final Orders Hearing
The Final Orders Hearing is each party's opportunity to present his or her case to the Court and to have the Court issue a decision. This generally lasts about a half day, but can take two days or more, depending on the issues.
Once the court makes its decisions, it will issue an order that will control the Parties' actions going forward and the divorce will then be finalized.
Two of the biggest factors surrounding the length of a divorce are the complexity of the disputed issues and the cooperation of each party. Some spouses must work through difficult issues before they can finalize their divorce case. Other may delay the proceeding by being uncooperative and force everything to be settled by a judge.
Each divorce case is different. Having an experienced attorney working with you can help to ease this trying process.
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