Divorce FAQs

Divorce in Colorado

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How does divorce work?

You already know that a divorce is the breakup of a marriage. The main legal issues in almost all divorces are:

  • Equitable separation of the marital property
  • Awarding maintenance/alimony
  • Parenting time (custody and visitation)
  • Child support

You file for divorce like you file for a lawsuit – you put together a claim and file it with the court. The next step is the exchange of financial documents and other important information so you can start to negotiate a fair way to split up your assets and debt. You’ll also negotiate for child custody and visitation, as well as child support and alimony.

In most cases, you and your lawyers will be able to negotiate a settlement and the case won’t have to go to trial. If you can’t reach an agreement, you’ll go to court. In addition to the financial documents and other information, experts may be brought in to talk about issues like the best interests of any children. Then the court will decide all of the issues – property division, custody, child and spousal support, and any other questions.

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How long does it take to get divorced?

At least 90 days. Assuming that you come to an agreement quickly and don’t want to take it to court, the court will grant your divorce on day 91. They’ll also issue any relevant orders about your property, children, and support obligations. If things don’t go that smoothly, it’s going to take longer. Sometimes settlement talks can go on for a long time. Sometimes you go to mediation, which can also take time. You may also go to trial. In that case, the timing will depend on where you live and how heavy your local court’s caseload is. Very complicated divorces can take years.

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Can I file for divorce myself?

Yes, you can. But remember that the court holds individuals who choose to represent themselves to the same standard as attorneys. In other words, you still have to follow the same procedures and rules as a lawyer would and you’ll have to figure out the applicable law. Just be careful and do your research in advance. At Cohen & Cohen, P.C., we offer a service called “Ghost Writing” to help people who cannot afford an attorney.

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What is Ghost Writing?

Colorado has recognized that it can be expensive to hire a lawyer. Therefore, the state courts have altered the ethics rules and allow attorneys to ghost write, or otherwise draft pleadings and provide advice to a client, without actually becoming their attorney. At Cohen & Cohen, P.C., we will help you “ghost write” your pleadings, provide you with guidance and procedural advice, and provided limited help in settlement negotiations. The benefit to the client is that they feel better about proceeding without an attorney and are able to have documents which are correct and appropriate for their situation. The downside is that you don’t have a lawyer and you still have to do everything yourself and risk making a mistake that would have otherwise been avoided if you hired an attorney.
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How can I protect my children?

If your children (or even grandchildren) are being taken advantage of by your spouse, former spouse, or guardian then you need to act to protect them. Generally, if this is an issue, the court will appoint a Child & Family Investigator (CFI) or an evaluator to make recommendations and findings about what is really going on with the kids. The court is not obligated to agree with the CFI, but it usually does.

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How are the assets divided?

The court (and both parties!) are looking for an equitable solution. There’s no set plan or formula. If you’re negotiating a settlement, you may decide that it makes sense to split things up in a certain way. For example, you may want one party to keep the house and the other to take less valuable property. If you agree to it (except in some really extreme circumstances), then that’s fine. If you go to court, the court will consider a number of factors (including child care and the ability of each spouse to support themselves) when they decide how to divide the property up.

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Can I keep my own property?

It depends on what you consider your “own property.” Certain property is considered separate property and won’t be included in the marital division of property. That may include property you owned before you got married, for example. But it’s not always that simple. If the property has increased in value during your marriage, the amount of the increase counts as marital property. For example, say you already owned a house worth $100,000 when you got married. At the time of the divorce, it’s worth $110,000. The $100,00 of the house isn’t part of the divorce; it’s yours. But the $10,000 increase is marital property and you may have to split that value.

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How are parenting time and custody issues decided?

There is no easy answer to this issue. In general, the court will try to avoid restricting a parent’s time with their children. The single most important consideration for parenting time and custody issues is the wellbeing of the child. The court may consider where the child goes to school, for example, in order to avoid disrupting that. They may also consider the ability of each parent to support and care for the child. And of course, they’ll consider whether a parent has been convicted of child abuse or other violent crimes.

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How are child support and alimony decided?

Child support is fairly cut and dry. It’s mathematical formula based on each party’s income and factors like how much time the child will spend with each party. The court can also adjust the results under certain circumstances. Alimoney (now called maintenance) is a lot more complicated. It’s based much more heavily on negotiation than on any objective or legal factors. If alimony is a big issue in your case, you’re going to want the help of an experienced lawyer.

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What if I don’t want a divorce but my spouse does?

In Colorado, if one person is determined to get a divorce, then the other person has no choice. It is a myth that papers have to be signed by husband and wife before the divorce can be filed. However, it’s usually best to try to work things out before you get a divorce. Go to a counselor. Talk to your friends and family. Remember, divorce is hard on both parties and can be even harder on your children. That said, not every problem can be worked out. Sometimes, divorce is the best choice for everyone involved.

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I make more money than my spouse. Is that an issue?

Maybe. It will certainly impact the Child Support calculation. It might also impact maintenance (formerly known as alimony) and how debt or property is going to be divided.

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Can I modify my child support arrangement?

If your circumstances change significantly, then yes. In general, you can modify the arrangement if there will be a 10% difference or more in the arrangement.

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Do grandparents have a right to visitation?

Colorado has recognized the rights of grandparents in regards to visitation for their grandchildren in some circumstances. The court will evaluate it on a case-by-case basis; not every case is successful. Your odds of success are much higher with the help of a lawyer that knows how to present your case.

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What is “No-Fault Divorce”?

Colorado is a no-fault state, like most other states in the union. Legally, that means you can get a divorce even if neither party did anything wrong. Practically what this means is that you can get divorced for any reason and that the court doesn’t care what your spouse did to precipitate the divorce (e.g., adultery).

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Do I need to worry about community property?

If you’re considering a divorce, you may have heard about community property. Some states have determined that all of the property in the marriage is community and will be divided 50/50. Colorado is not a community property state. Instead, they courts are more concerned with an equitable distribution – it doesn’t have to be exactly 50/50.

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