Colorado Divorce Process
A divorce can bring a lot of things with it, from stress, confusion, and a whole range of other emotions to legal paperwork and even court hearings. In Colorado, the divorce process can also be complicated which is, something that many people just don’t realize until they have to go through it themselves. Throughout a divorce, the married lives of both parties are essentially under a legal microscope so that the result is fair and equitable and the best interests of the children are protected.
When you are ready to divorce in Colorado, you’re embarking on a process that will take at least three months. In this state, you can’t receive a divorce until 91 days have passed since you served your spouse with a copy of the divorce papers, or your spouse waived and accepted service. If your divorce is contested, this process can take longer. The exact timeline will vary depending on the specifics of your case, but there are some general parts to the process most people will experience. Naturally, with so much on the line, having an experienced Colorado attorney on your side can make the process far less stressful.
Initial filing and service
The Colorado divorce process starts when one spouse files a petition for marriage dissolution and a summons, or both parties file together as Petitioner and Co-Petitioner. Once the papers have been officially given to the other spouse, he or she has 21 days to file a response with the court. If he or she lives in a different state, the deadline is increased to 35 days.
Overall case management
The court will set deadlines for various parts of the divorce process to keep the case moving along. This is known as case management. In Colorado, the case management is handled at an initial status conference with court personnel, which is usually set for about six weeks after the divorce petition is filed.
Issuing of temporary orders
In many divorces, temporary court orders are needed to handle issues such as child support, spousal support, parenting time, use and possession of property, and payment of bills until the divorce is finalized. During the initial status conference, the court will set a date for a hearing related to temporary orders, which is usually within 30 days. Some counties require the parties to mediate prior to participating in a temporary orders hearing. It is important to engage in discussions prior to going to a hearing, and if the parties reach an agreement, they can enter into “stipulated” temporary orders, which means both parties have consented to the terms. If the couple is not successful in reaching an agreement, then the court will enter orders addressing these issues at the hearing.
Common discovery procedures
Once the case has been filed , the spouses or their attorneys will start the discovery process. Both spouses must file financial disclosures in court, and each spouse is also supposed to receive a copy of the other spouse’s financial disclosures, and their sworn financial statement. The sworn financial statement outlines information on debts, assets, income and budgets. The financial disclosures will still have to be exchanged, and the sworn financial statement filed with the Court, even if the couple reaches a settlement and their divorce is uncontested. In a contested case, the attorneys for both spouses may use other methods of discovery, such as issuing questions that each spouse has to answer under oath (known as interrogatories) or making demands for specific documents (known as requests for production of documents), such as copies of retirement plan statements.
The settlement efforts
Spouses divorcing in Colorado are required to try different methods of settlement. If they have children, both parents must take a parenting class to learn how to co-parent after divorce. Unless there is domestic violence involved, all parties will be ordered to attempt mediation, which are meetings that involve a neutral third party who will try to help them come to an agreement. If the parties are able to come to an agreement, then they can submit their Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan (if children are involved) for the court to review and approve. Otherwise, they will tell the court they need a permanent orders hearing. Often, the Court will require a second mediation session prior to the permanent orders hearing. Many Districts require a pretrial meeting with the parties and their attorneys prior to the permanent orders hearing. If that fails and the spouses go to the hearing, the judge will ultimately decide the divorce terms for them.
Given how complex the Colorado divorce process can be, having an experienced Colorado divorce attorney on your side will help take the confusion out of it. Having someone prepared to fight for your interests can make a huge difference when it comes to the outcome of your divorce.
At Lewis & Matthews, we make your case and your questions our priority, so you always know exactly where you are and what is going on in the divorce process. Your divorce settlement today will have an impact on your post-divorce life, so you can’t afford to leave anything to chance. Speak to us today about your case by calling (303) 329-3802.