Divorcing couples who agree on all property division and child custody issues should consider an uncontested divorce. In general, divorce can be an emotionally exhausting and challenging process. However, uncontested divorces offer a quicker, less expensive procedure to end a marriage than a contested divorce.
This article will help you decide if you are eligible for an uncontested divorce in Colorado and provide the basic steps you'll need to take for an uncontested divorce in your area.
You must meet the state's residency requirements to get a divorce in Colorado. You or your spouse must have lived in Colorado for more than 90 days just before you filed your initial divorce papers. In addition, if you have minor children with your spouse and you want your divorce to address any child-related issues, your children must have lived in the state with a parent for at least 182 days (or since birth for any child younger than that) before you filed. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 14-10-106, 14-13-102, 14-13-201 (2021).)
You also need to have a "ground" (legal reason) for divorce. Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning that you don't need to (and may not) claim that your spouse's misconduct caused the divorce. The only available ground for divorce in the state is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree that this is the case. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106 (2021).)
Finally, in order to get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must have a written marital settlement agreement (known as a "separation agreement" in Colorado). If you're having trouble reaching an agreement on your own, divorce mediation may help you resolve your disputes.
To start the divorce process, you will complete a petition for dissolution of marriage and file it, along with a few other forms, with the court clerk in the county district court where either you or your spouse lives. In an uncontested divorce, Colorado allows both spouses to sign and file the paperwork jointly as "co-petitioners." When you do this, you'll save steps and money on filing fees. Otherwise, you'll file the paperwork by yourself, in which case you will be the "petitioner" and your spouse will be the "respondent."
Check with the Colorado Judicial Branch for the full list of forms and instructions. You should also check with the court clerk's office in the county where you'll be filing to see if there are local forms and procedures. Alternatively, you can use an online divorce service, which will provide you with the proper completed forms, based on your answers to a questionnaire.
You may file your divorce papers electronically, through the Colorado Courts E-Filing System.
If you've filed the divorce paperwork jointly with your spouse, you do not have to serve (deliver) a copy of the documents on your spouse. However, if you've filed by yourself, you will need to serve the documents (usually by having your county sheriff hand-deliver them) unless your spouse signs a waiver of service form.(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-107 (2021).)
In Colorado, you might be able to finalize an uncontested divorce without a hearing if you submit an Affidavit for Decree without Appearance. However, you may not use this procedure if you have minor children with your spouse (unless you are both represented by attorneys and have attached a signed agreement detailing how you will handle child custody, visitation, and child support). (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-120.3 (2021).)
Unless you submit this affidavit and a judge agrees to grant your divorce without a hearing, you will need to appear at a final hearing. Among other things, the judge may ask you questions to ensure that the custody and child support provisions in your agreement serve the children's best interests.
After approving your agreement and determining that you meet all the requirements for a divorce, the judge will issue a final "decree of dissolution of marriage." However, the judge may not sign the decree until at least 91 days have passed since the joint petition was filed or the respondent was served with a petition that wasn't filed jointly. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106 (2021).)
You don't need to hire a lawyer to get an uncontested divorce in Colorado, and you can represent yourself during the process. Spouses can try to handle everything themselves or use an online service that eases the process.
Even though there's no court battle in an uncontested divorce, one or both spouses can hire attorneys to help them through the uncontested divorce. For instance, it's probably a good idea to talk to a lawyer if your case seems complex (especially if you have complicate assets to divide, like retirement accounts). If you choose to work with one, an attorney can give you advice on your proposed settlement and make sure you complete the paperwork correctly.