The Procedures During a Divorce in Colorado
By Beverly Bird
If you're divorcing in Colorado, the process is going to take at least three months because the state will not grant a divorce until 90 days after one spouse files for divorce and serves the other with a copy of the papers. If your divorce is contested, it will take longer. However, the wait may not be as long as in other states because Colorado's divorce procedure includes several deadlines for moving cases through the court system in a timely fashion.
Filing and Service
A Colorado divorce begins with one spouse filing a summons and a petition for dissolution of the marriage. After the other spouse is served with the documents, he has 20 days to file a response to the petition with the court. If he lives in another state, the deadline is extended to 30 days. Colorado uses different petitions for divorce, depending on whether a couple has children.
Case management involves the court setting deadlines for various aspects of the divorce process to keep the litigation moving along. In Colorado, case management takes place at a scheduled initial status conference with court personnel. The conference usually takes place six weeks after the filing of a petition for dissolution.
Many divorces require temporary court orders to address issues such as custody and support until the dissolution of the marriage is final. At the initial status conference, the court will order a date for a temporary orders hearing to resolve these issues, usually within about a month. Colorado law requires divorcing couples to meet at least once before this hearing to try and resolve things on their own. If they're successful, the court will issue "stipulated" temporary orders, meaning both spouses consent to the terms. Otherwise, the court will make an order on the issues at the hearing.
After temporary orders are in place, spouses or their attorneys will initiate a series of discovery procedures. Couples are required to file financial disclosures with the court and exchange them with each other early in the proceedings. These disclosures define things such as income, budgets, assets and debts. Spouses have to file them even if they've reached a settlement and their dissolution is uncontested. In contested matters, attorneys might use other discovery methods as well. These might include interrogatories -- written questions which each spouse must answer under oath -- or a demand for documents, such as copies of bank and retirement plan statements.
Colorado requires all divorcing spouses to engage in a series of settlement efforts. If they have children, they must first take a parenting class. Then they must attend mediation to try and resolve any outstanding issues. Three months after the initial status conference, the court schedules a 90-day review of the case and spouses must have attended mediation by this time. If they reach an agreement, they can submit a stipulated final orders agreement to the court at the review. Otherwise, they'll notify the court they're going to need a trial, called a final orders hearing in Colorado. If spouses request a final orders hearing, they'll have to try and reach a settlement one more time. Colorado requires a pretrial meeting before the hearing date, during which final negotiations take place. Judges decide divorce trials in Colorado; the court doesn't use juries in dissolution matters.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.