Divorcing couples that 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 file for divorce in Colorado. You or your spouse must have lived in Colorado for more than 90 days (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106 (1)(a)(I).) In addition, if you have minor children with your spouse, they must have lived in the state for at least 181 days prior to filing.
The next requirement is that you need to have "grounds" (legal reasons) for divorce. Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning that you don't need to claim "fault" (such as adultery or cruelty) as a basis for divorce. The only available grounds for divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
In Colorado, you can finalize an uncontested divorce by "decree upon affidavit," which means that the court can grant your divorce after you submit an affidavit rather than you showing up in court for a hearing. To be eligible for an uncontested divorce by affidavit, you'll have to meet the following requirements (in addition to the basic requirements discussed above):
You'll also need to show that you served your spouse with the affidavit according to state law, which this article explains below. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-120.3 (1)(b).)
If you do have children, you will need to make sure that your separation agreement addresses property and debt division, as well as child custody, the visitation schedule, child support, and spousal support.
You can file for uncontested divorce by completing a Petition and filing it with the court clerk, along with a few other forms. You will file in the county district court where either you or your spouse lives.
You and your spouse can file the paperwork together as "co-petitioners," or you can file the paperwork by yourself, in which case you will be the "petitioner," and your spouse will be the "respondent."
If you file the divorce paperwork as co-petitioners with your spouse, you do not have to serve (deliver) a copy of the affidavit on your spouse.
If you file the paperwork by yourself, however, you will need to legally serve the documents on your spouse. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-107 (4)(a).) You can ask your county sheriff to serve your spouse, or your spouse can sign a waiver of service, which is a form you can get from your district court clerk's office.
Once the court receives all of your paperwork, including an Affidavit for Decree without Appearance, the judge will decide whether to grant the divorce immediately or require the spouses to appear for a hearing first. Different judges may have different reasons for asking a divorcing couple to appear for a hearing. Sometimes, the judge will hold a hearing to ask the spouses questions to ensure they meet all of the requirements or make sure the separation agreement is fair to both spouses.
Once the court determines that the spouses meet all the requirements for a divorce and are satisfied with the agreement, the judge will issue a "decree of dissolution of marriage" that legally divorces you and your spouse. The judge can only sign the decree of dissolution after at least 91 days have passed since the spouses filed the affidavit. If you have signed a separation agreement with your spouse, the court will attach your agreement to the decree of divorce.
You don't need to hire a lawyer to get an uncontested or agreed 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. You might want to talk to a lawyer, for instance, if your case feels complex or you have unanswered questions.
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. Another kind of professional—a mediator—can help spouses reach agreements.