Colorado Divorce

Legal Overview

Divorce in Colorado requires that you have been resident for at least 90 days. There is only one ground upon which to obtain a divorce in Colorado a divorce based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Read our detailed legal summary of Colorado including grounds, residency, child custody, child support, alimony, property, settlement agreements, and annulments.


Divorce Process

After a motion for divorce is filed a judge may order mandatory mediation for the spouses.  Mediation is a process by which a third party attempts to help the parties reach an agreement as to contested issues.

Unlike a divorce that dissolves a valid marriage, an annulment is a legal decree that a marriage is void. An annulment proceeding can resolve some of the same issues that would be the subject of a divorce proceeding, such as child custody and support.  Under some circumstances, even if a marriage is set aside because of invalidity, one or both parties may still be entitled to the same rights as a spouse of a valid marriage,  even maintenance under some circumstances. Annulments are granted only in limited situations and cannot be granted merely because the marriage is of short duration. They are normally not granted for “religious” reasons.

Settlement Agreement
A settlement agreement is a written agreement between the parties that sets forth their rights, duties and obligations that arise out of their separation and divorce and may include such things as the division of their property, spousal support, attorney’s fees, custody of their children and child support. Such agreements are encouraged since they may amicably settle the rights of the husband and wife in the estate and property of the other.


Residency Requirements

If you seek to file a divorce in Colorado, it is important to be aware of the residency requirements prior to filing for your divorce. In order to file for divorce you must have be a resident for at least 90 days. The papers for dissolution of marriage, generally, must also be filed in the county where the Respondent lives or, in the county where the Petitioner lives if the Respondent is served in that county.


Grounds for Divorce

The only approved ground available to those seeking a divorce is based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (irreconcilable differences). A divorce based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage can mean a multitude of things, but ultimately it means that there is no reasonable hope that the marriage can continue. The court may approve or reject a marital settlement agreement of the spouses. Standard financial disclosure forms are required to be filed.

To receive a court-approved divorce it is not necessary to show that either one of the parties was at fault in the decline of the marriage. The only thing that is necessary to prove is that there has been a breakdown in the marital relationship to the extent that the objects and goals of marriage have been destroyed and that no reasonable possibility remains that the marriage can be saved.  However, one of the spouses may tell the court they think things can be worked out (that the marriage is not irretrievably broken) and may ask the court to have a hearing to see if the marriage is truly irretrievable. If the court concludes that there is a chance for the marriage to be repaired and there are minor children, the court may delay the proceedings for an attempt at reconciliation.


Division of Property

State statutes now provide for the “equitable” distribution of the marital property of the marriage at the time of the final divorce between the parties. “Marital Property” is generally, other than separate property, all property acquired by either or both of the parties during the marriage and up to the time of final decree of dissolution (divorce) is entered. This is true regardless of how the property is titled.  “Separate Property” is generally property owned by one party at the time of the marriage or inherited property or gifts to one party from a third person and maintained as separate property. Where “Marital Property” and “Separate Property” are mixed together or where “Separate Property” is increased through the active efforts of either party during the marriage, then such property may be classified as “Part Marital” and “Part Separate” property.

In making its equitable distribution awards the courts are not only authorized to make monetary awards to one of the parties, but may also divide or order sold or transfer jointly owned marital property to one of the parties. The court in making its equitable distribution awards is not required to divide the marital property on an equal basis but rather, in deciding what an equitable division of marital property should be, will consider various factors listed in the Equitable Distribution Statute, including the relative monetary and non-monetary contributions of each of the parties to the well being of the family and to the acquisition and care of the marital property. Pensions and retirement plans are subject to the Equitable Distribution Statute to the extent that the same were accumulated during the course of the marriage of the parties.


Spousal Support

Due to increasing changes in the law and in society, including changes in sexual equality, this area of the law of divorce is in the process of great change. Spousal support, when awarded, may be periodic and/or in a lump sum, the amount of which depends upon such factors as the respective ages, assets and earning potential of the parties and the duration and history during the marriage. Spouse support is not awarded to punish a guilty spouse but rather is to lessen the financial impact of divorce on the other spouse.


Child Custody

This is the often the most crucial issue in divorces. In determining where the children will live and when they will see each parent, and who will make the major decision for children until they are 19, the court is guided by one standard–the best interests of the child. Allocation of parenting time, decision making, and a child support award will not be given to a parent as a reward or as punishment to the guilty parent but rather to the one most adaptable to the task of caring for the child and able to control and direct the child.

Other factors considered may include the age of the parent and child, the physical and mental condition of the parent and child, the relationship existing between each parent and each child, the needs of the child, the role played by each parent in the upbringing and caring for the child, the home where the child will live and the child’s wishes if the child is of sufficient age, intelligence and maturity to make such a decision.  Allocation of parenting time and decision making can be modified after the initial decision is made, these changes are referred to as post-decree modifications. It is important to understand, however, how a pattern of parenting time may impact the ability to modify parenting time and the standard that will be applied in post-decree cases. The standard in post-decree modifications may not be best interests, but may be a much harder standard referred to generally as “endangerment”.

If the parties can not agree to an appropriate parenting time and decision making arrangement, then the Court will decide. An important factor to the court in most parental rights cases is which parent will be the most likely to see to it that the non-custodial parent remains a strong part of the child or children’s lives.


Child Support

Either party in a divorce action may be obligated to pay child support, even if they earn less than the other spouse.  The use of the state Child Support Guidelines provides an amount of child support that is presumed to be correct, but the court may deviate from these guidelines in appropriate circumstances. The award is subject to change so long as the obligation to support remains. It may be increased or decreased if a material change occurs in the financial circumstances of either or both of the parents of the child.


Colorado Resources


Laws & Courts:

Colorado Law – statutes 14-5-206 through 14-14-113 cover divorce related topics. Instructions are as follows: 1.) click Colorado Revised Statutes, 2.) click on Title 14: Domestic Matters, 3.) Pick topic.
Colorado Courts Homepage – news, legal archives, and current court information for lawyers and the general public.
Supreme Court Decisions – search Supreme Court decisions by date.
Appellate Court Decisions – search Appellate Court decisions by date.

Additional Resources:

Cordell and Cordell, P.C. – dedicated to helping divorced and divorcing fathers maximize their role in their children’s lives. Cordell and Cordell has built its reputation largely on a willingness to step on toes, to unapologetically challenge discrimination where encountered in the system, and to undertake bold and imaginative strategies to enhance its clients’ chances of success. Men come to Cordell and Cordell because they want to feel that their interests and the interests of their children are aggressively championed.
Domestic Violence Against Men – resource for Colorado men wrongfully accused of domestic violence. Includes detailed information about the common use of restraining orders, allegations of domestic violence and abuse, child abuse, and sexual abuse by women in divorces.
Colorado Bar Association – site includes a public interest section, an extensive legal research section, and news from the CBA.
Colorado Family Law Guide – comprehensive guide to Colorado family law, including divorce, paternity, child custody, child support, and military issues.
Children’s Rights Council – national nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that works to assure children meaningful and continuing contact with both their parents and extended family regardless of the parents’ marital status.

Public Access to Court Records – provides access to information on Colorado district and county court cases including both open and closed cases. Sealed, probate, mental health, and juvenile cases are not available. The site does charge $6 per search. (Source: National Center for State Courts) allows users to review court records pertaining to traffic, criminal, civil, and domestic cases. The cost per search is $5.95 per search. (Source: National Center for State Courts)

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The State Resource pages are provided for informational purposes only. Do not take any actions based upon the information contained within the State Resource pages without first consulting an attorney licensed in your state. We at strive to keep our information up-to-date; however state laws are not static and subject to change without notice.