Getting divorced can be a lengthy and time consuming process in the State of Colorado. For many years, we told clients that the process would take at least a year. Today, many of the Courts in Colorado are working hard to streamline the process and help parties finalize their divorces in a shorter amount of time. Below is a general outline of a typical timeline in a divorce. Everyone should be aware that each case is different. It is best to talk to a family law attorney in person to determine what will be needed for your specific case.
1. To begin the divorce process in Colorado, at least one of the parties must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Court. This is your request to open up a divorce case.
2. If you and your spouse do not file a Joint Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you must either serve your opposing party with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and a Summons, or have them sign a waiver of service stating that they received these documents. The Summons tells the opposing party that they are being summoned to Court for the divorce process.
3. The opposing party then has the opportunity to file a Response to the Petition with the Court. The Response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must be filed within 21 days after the Respondent is served. However, if you were served outside of the state of Colorado, you have 35 days to respond to the Petition.
4. The Court will then begin setting deadlines for the Parties. The Court will schedule an Initial Status Conference, where both parties will be asked to come to the Courthouse to talk to a Judge, or the Family Court Facilitator, about the Court Process. This is your first appearance in Court, and a good time to ask questions of the Judge, or let them know about unique issues in your case.
5. The Court requires that the parties provide full financial disclosures to each other. These financial disclosures are called the "Rule 16.2 Disclosures." The Court may also require that the parties attend mediation.
6. Most Courts in Colorado today will ask whether or not the parties believe they can settle their case. If the parties do not believe they can settle amicably, then the Court will set begin setting the case for hearings.
7. If either of the parties has an immediate need, such as a need for child support or maintenance, or for parenting time orders, the Court can set a Temporary Orders Hearing. The purpose of temporary orders is to maintain the "status quo" of the marriage, during the duration of the divorce case.
8. Parties are always encouraged to settle their divorce cases amicably. This is why Courts require mediation. If you settle your case at mediation the mediator may write up a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines all of your agreements. Or, the attorneys can draft a Separation Agreement outlining all of the parties' agreements. This document is then filed with the Court, and the Judge or Magistrate can adopt it as an Order of the Court.
9. If the Parties attend mediation and they cannot come to a full settlement of their case, then the Court will set them for a Permanent Orders Hearing.
10. At the Permanent Orders Hearing each Party's attorney will present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments. The Court will consider the testimony of witnesses and review the exhibits and financial disclosures of each party. The Court will make orders regarding your finances, personal property, parenting time, decision making for your children, maintenance, child support, and any other unresolved issues. The Judge or Magistrate will then rule on any unresolved issues, and grant a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
11. Colorado has a rule that a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage cannot be granted for 91 days after the Respondent is served with the Petition for Dissolution. Therefore, you will have to wait at least 91 days to get divorced. However, a contested divorce may take much longer that that. Generally, the more parties compromise and work together to settle their issues, the faster they can finalize their divorce and move on with their lives.
**Please remember that each case is different. It is important to talk to a family law attorney about the specific facts of your case to determine what this process will look like for you. Please call our office, or send us an email, if you have any questions. 303-991-2740, info@JenniferMcDonaldLaw.com **