If you're seeking an uncontested divorce in Colorado here's what you need to know.
Marriage is the basic foundation of the modern family structure, but it is not uncommon for couples to realize that their marriage is not working. Couples divorce for many different reasons, but most couples still have at least one thing in common--the desire to avoid a lengthy court battle and to separate quickly and smoothly.
Fortunately, Colorado courts make divorce proceedings relatively easy and painless if both spouses have agreed to separate. Where a divorce is uncontested, the court process runs smoothly and an experienced attorney can help move the process along without significant hassle.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Colorado?
In the State of Colorado, a divorce is also known as a dissolution of marriage. Either spouse may file for a divorce in Colorado so long as either or both spouses have lived within the State of Colorado for at least 90 days.
The State of Colorado provides thorough and extensive online instructions for seeking a divorce, and an experienced divorce attorney can help make the process painless. The Colorado Judicial Branch’s website has conveniently posted both a frequently asked questions page1 as well as a divorce process flowchart2 that can help shed some light on what the divorce process looks like.
An uncontested divorce, also known as a “decree upon affidavit” is a divorce in which both spouses agree that a divorce should occur and have no or minimal difference of opinion as to the splitting of property and/or child custody issues. In other words, if you and your spouse do not agree on the nature of the divorce proceedings, then you may still file for divorce, but your divorce filing will not be “uncontested.”
The process for seeking an uncontested divorce is simpler and more streamlined than regular divorce proceedings. Standard divorce proceedings will often require lengthy mediation and a court hearing (similar to a mini trial). Uncontested divorce proceedings simply require both spouses to agree to submit an affidavit, a type of sworn legal filing, to proceed with the divorce. The hearing process in an uncontested divorce is summary in nature, and is not adversarial.
When Can Someone Opt for an Uncontested Divorce?
Unlike in other states where many different reasons for seeking a divorce exist, only one ground for divorce exists in Colorado: that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and the couples cannot reconcile their differences. Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, which means that neither spouse must prove that the other spouse did anything wrong, such as cheating or being abusive. Instead, divorce can occur as soon as the marriage cannot be continued for any reason.
An uncontested divorce, however, has additional requirements. In addition to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, the following other criteria must also be met:
- The residency requirement for a divorce (either or both spouses must have lived in Colorado for at least 90 days before becoming eligible to file for divorce);
- Both spouses either have no marital property (as contrasted with separate property), or have agreed to a signed separation agreement that describes how they will divide their property after a divorce; and
- Either the spouses do not have any children under 18 years of age and the wife is not pregnant, or the spouses have agreed to a signed separation agreement that describes a child custody arrangement, visitation scheduling, and child support payments.
Uncontested Divorce Separation Agreements
Even if you and your spouse did not share property (which would be unlikely) and had no children, it is still a good idea to sign a separation agreement. A separation agreement is a contract between two spouses that describes the terms of their divorce, property division, and child-related issues. A signed separation agreement makes the court’s job easier because the judge can rely on the agreement instead of making a ruling. Thus, a prior-signed separation agreement streamlines the divorce process.
A complete separation agreement should first address the division of property between the spouses. This includes deciding who retains real property (houses, vacant lots, business property, etc.), vehicles, personal property (electronics, clothing, kitchen equipment, appliances, etc.), money held in joint bank accounts, and pets.
Your separation agreement with your spouse must also address the disposition of issues relating to your children, if you have any. Custody is the most important issue involved. Additionally, the agreement should also describe a visitation schedule (if any) for the spouse who does not retain custody, as well as a schedule for making monthly child support payments based on the child’s needs.
While it is possible to seek an uncontested divorce without the help of an attorney, it is good practice to have an attorney review any separation agreement before you sign. In general, no one should sign any binding contract without having an attorney review it for legal pitfalls and traps. This is especially true in cases where one spouse is represented by counsel and the other spouse has no attorney.
State-Provided Divorce Forms
For couples seeking quick, painless, and inexpensive divorce filings, the State of Colorado’s judiciary branch provides convenient online forms. The Colorado Judicial Branch website segments its divorce forms into two categories: divorce and separation where children are involved, and divorce and separation where no children are involved.
The Colorado Judicial Branch website contains many different forms for all types of circumstances, but an experienced attorney can help you quickly file the appropriate forms with little hassle and at minimal expense.
If after reading this article, you still have questions about Colorado divorce law or uncontested divorces in general, you should consult an experienced family law attorney.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- See Divorce, Colorado Judicial Branch
See, e.g., Guide to Getting a Divorce or Legal Separation With Children of This Marriage, Colorado Judicial Branch [.pdf]
The Colorado Judicial Branch website also contains a separate flowchart that describes divorce without marriage.