Since 1969 when California Governor Ronald Regan signed into law the country’s first no-fault divorce statute, all 50 states, including Colorado, followed suit and now grant divorce under a no-fault system.
No fault divorce means that you do not have to prove that the marriage contract was broken by adultery, desertion, cruelty, nonsupport or similar facts that would be necessary under a fault system. In fact, evidence and testimony about marital misconduct will often be refused by Colorado divorce courts.
In order to receive a divorce in Colorado the following rules apply:
- Either the husband or the wife must have been a resident of Colorado for 90 days, 1
- If custody of children will be at issue, then the children must have lived in the state of Colorado for 6 months, 2
- Before final divorce orders can be entered 90 days must pass from the day either the husband or wife were served with the divorce action 3, and
- One or both spouses must state the marriage is irretrievably broken. 4
Irretrievably Broken Marriage
Divorce in Colorado under a no-fault system is granted because the marriage is irretrievably broken. Both parties may agree to this or one party must state the marriage is irretrievably broken in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.5 It only takes one of the two parties stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken for the Court to issue a divorce decree.
However, Colorado law indicates that if one of the parties has denied that the marriage is irretrievably broken, in their Response to the Petition, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including reconciliation, and shall determine whether the marriage is irretrievably broken or continue the matter for further hearing and suggest counseling. 6
To make its decision, the court will weigh all the evidence and make its own independent determination of the facts. 7 In addition, the person who contests the divorce must provide evidence to challenge that that marriage is irretrievably broken.
Knowing that your spouse may contest whether the marriage is irretrievably broken can be overwhelming, but it practice it is rarely a significant concern. It is important to note that counseling can only be suggested and not ordered and, in general, if one spouse feels the marriage cannot be saved then the Court will likely agree.
In almost all cases the question as to whether a marriage is irretrievably broken is not an issue. The parties to the divorce are not arguing over the grounds of the divorce but working on determining the distribution of assets, debts, and who should have visitation and parental responsibilities for the children.
Although Colorado is a no-fault state with regard to the grounds for receiving a divorce and for the determination of marital issues, economic fault of the parties can be considered as part of the equitable division of marital assets and debts. Economic fault is where a party wastes marital assets or unreasonably incurs marital debts in anticipation of divorce. The economic fault analysis is only appropriate in relatively extreme cases, and must be carefully argued so that it doesn’t offend the prohibition against the Court’s consideration of marital fault. The theory of economic fault is often helpful where one party has hidden marital assets, but where the other party cannot prove where the assets have gone, only that they were wasted or dissipated.
Other Issues in Colorado Divorce Cases
Under older laws based on fault the parties to a divorce would receive assets, maintenance, child support, and parental responsibility and visitation based on how severe the other parties mistakes were leading to the divorce. This would create trials that would often focus primarily on the parties making accusations of misconduct against one another.
Under the current Colorado law, the marital assets are distributed equitably to balance the interests of the parties, spousal maintenance is allocated based on the income of the parties, child support is determined by a mathematical formula, and visitation and parental responsibilities are determined by what is in the “best interests” of the children.
Make Your Divorce Efficient and Fast
Although many divorces are charged with negative energy and bitter feelings that may lead to argument and disagreement, the more the parties can agree on the terms of the dissolution the faster and smoother the process will go. Even more importantly, the spirit of agreement and compromise can help reduce the likelihood that the parties will end up back in court in the months and years after their divorce is finalized. This is particularly true where children are involved. In divorces with minor children, even though the marriage of the parties is being dissolved, the parties will benefit tremendously from efforts to build a solid post-divorce co-parenting relationship. Although the marriage may be over, parents in a divorce will continue to have some amount of interaction and dependence on one another for the sake and benefit of the children.
The issues that will be most important in your divorce action will be children, child support, maintenance (alimony), property, and debt. The more spouses can agree on the terms of these issues the more efficient your divorce will proceed. Even in cases where there are minor children of the divorce, if both parties are represented by attorneys, the divorce process can be completed without having to go to court, presuming there are no disputed issues. If only one party has an attorney, however, and there are minor children involved, the parties will still have to go in front of the judge so that the judge can fulfill their duty to insure that the agreements related to the care and support of the children are, in fact, in the best interests of the children.
Taking the Next Step to File for Divorce
The next step is to meet with a Colorado divorce attorney at Cohen & Cohen to review your matter and protect your interests. Cohen & Cohen offers free consultations in divorce and child custody matters.
The attorney can initiate a divorce action by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or enter an appearance in your already ongoing divorce case. If your divorce case has already begun, it is important to get experienced legal counsel to help you navigate the process.
We Can Help You Protect Your Interests
If you need assistance in a matter involving divorce, at Cohen & Cohen, we can help you understand your rights, make better legal decisions, and provide professional representation in your case.
Speak to the Colorado divorce attorneys at Cohen & Cohen to see how our experience helping spouses file or defend a divorce action can help you. Contact us online or call at 303-933-4529 to schedule an appointment with an experienced Denver divorce attorney.
1 – C.R.S. § 14-10-106(1)(a)(I)
2 – C.R.S. § 14-13-201
3 – C.R.S. § 14-10-106(1)(a)(III)
4 – C.R.S. § 14-10-110
5 – C.R.S. § 14-10-110(1)
6 – C.R.S. § 14-10-110(2)
7 – In re Franks, 189 Colo. 499, 542 P.2d 845 (1975)
8 – C.R.S. § 14-10-106(1)(a)(III)
9 – C.R.S. § 14-10-120.3