How Do I File for Divorce in Colorado?

Learn about the forms and steps needed to file for divorce in Colorado—and how to get help with the process.

By , Legal Editor

Divorce is stressful enough without worrying about all the forms and requirements involved in the legal process. Depending on your circumstances, however, getting a Colorado divorce doesn't have to be all that difficult, particularly if you and your soon-to-be ex can cooperate. Here's what you need to know about the divorce process in Colorado.

Before Filing for a Colorado Divorce

There are several things you should know and steps you must take before you can file your divorce papers.

Do You Meet Colorado's Residency Requirements for Divorce?

In order to get a Colorado divorce (or "dissolution"), you or your spouse must have had your permanent home in the state for at least 91 days immediately before you file your initial divorce papers. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106 (2023).)

Even if you meet the 91-day residency requirement, you can't get a Colorado divorce that addresses any parenting issues for your minor children unless the children have lived in the state with a parent for at least 182 days (or, if a child is younger than six months old, since birth). This is true even if you have an agreement about those issues (more on that below). That's because your agreement would have to become part of the divorce decree. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 14-13-102(1), (7), 14-13-201 (2023).)

Will Your Divorce Be Uncontested or Contested?

You should also figure out whether you and your spouse may file for an uncontested divorce in Colorado. If so, you can take advantage of Colorado's streamlined procedure for joint divorce filing. Also, if you want to file for divorce online, most of the online divorce services require that you have an uncontested case.

In order to get an uncontested divorce, you must have reached a marital settlement agreement (known in Colorado as a "separation agreement," even if you don't get a legal separation). The agreement must cover all the issues involved in ending your marriage, including:

If you're having trouble agreeing with your spouse about any of these matters, you can get help from a mediator. Many mediators and mediation services will help you prepare a document that reflects any agreement you've reached during the process.

Without an agreement, you could file for a contested divorce on your own. But you almost certainly would need a lawyer's help to get through the contested divorce process in Colorado without jeopardizing your legal rights. (Learn more about when you need a divorce lawyer and when you're a good candidate for DIY divorce.)

Getting and Preparing Colorado's Divorce Forms

You can download the official Colorado forms for self-represented (DIY) spouses, along with instructions and guides through the process, from the Colorado Judicial Branch's forms index (under "Family Matters"). There are different sets of forms and instructions, depending on whether you and your spouse have minor children.

The basic initial forms you need will be the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation (JDF 1101) and the Case Information Sheet (JDF 1000). When you're filing for uncontested divorce, you may complete and file the petition jointly (as "petitioner" and "co-petitioner"). If not, the petitioner (the spouse who's starting the divorce process) will also need to complete a Summons for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation (JDF 1102), and the other spouse (the "respondent") will need to complete the Response (JDF 1103).

These are the Colorado state forms. Because individual counties may have additional requirements, you should check with local court clerk about the rules in the county where you will be filing the paperwork.

Filing Your Colorado Divorce Papers

Once you've filled out the forms, make at least two copies (one for the court and one for each spouse) and bring them for filing to the court clerk's office in the county where you or your spouse lives. You also have the option of filing your divorce papers electronically, through Colorado's eFiling system.

Either of you may handle the filing if you've completed the petition jointly. Otherwise, the petitioner will do this.

When you submit the paperwork, you'll need to pay a filing fee. If you're filing jointly, you can split the fee ( $230 as of 2023, but always subject to change). If you can't afford to pay, ask the clerk for a Motion to File without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit (Form JDF 205). A judge will review your affidavit and decide whether to waive the fee. If you don't qualify for a waiver, you might be able to pay the fee in installments.

The court clerk will keep the original of your paperwork and give you the file-stamped copies. If you haven't filed jointly, make sure that the clerk signs the summons.

Serving and Responding to Divorce Papers in Colorado

If you've filed the divorce petition jointly, you can simply make sure that each of you has a copy of the paperwork. Otherwise, as the petitioner, you will need to serve your spouse with the documents as soon as possible. You can do this in different ways.

  • If your spouse agrees to waive formal service, you may simply hand over or mail the documents. However, your spouse will have to sign the Waiver and Acceptance of Service form (JDF 1102(a)) in the presence of a notary or court clerk, and you will have to file the form with the court. So you should make these arrangements ahead of time to save trips to the court.
  • Without a waiver, you must arrange to have a process server hand-deliver the divorce papers to your spouse (or your spouse's attorney). A process server may be a sheriff, private process server, or anyone over the age of 18 who is not involved in the divorce. The process server should return a completed Return of Service form (JDF 1102(b) to the court or to you (in which case you will need to file the form with the court).
  • If you've tried but haven't been able to find or serve your spouse personally, you may ask the court for permission to accomplish service by publishing a notice in a local newspaper. Different rules may apply when your spouse is in the military, in jail, or in another country. Check with the court clerk for service rules in these unique situations.

Generally, the court will dismiss your divorce petition if you haven't completed service within nine weeks after filing, although the time might be extended for a good reason. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-107(4)(a); Colo. Rules Civ. Proc., rules 4, 5 (2023).)

After being served with the divorce papers, the respondent spouse has 21 days to file a response—or 35 days if service was out of state or by publication. (Colo. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 12 (2023).) The filing fee for the response is $116 (as of 2023).

Next Steps in Your Colorado Divorce

Of course, filing the paperwork is just the beginning of the Colorado divorce process. The details may vary depending on your situation (especially whether your divorce is contested or uncontested), but here's an overview of the next steps.

Financial Disclosures and Other Forms

Shortly after you file for divorce, you and your spouse must exchange certain information about your finances (including their income, assets, debts, and monthly expenses). The Mandatory Disclosure – Form 35.5 (JDF 1125) lists the documents that must be exchanged. Then, each of you must complete the following forms:

  • a Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosures (JDF 1104)
  • a Sworn Financial Statement (JDF 1111), and
  • if applicable in your case, Supporting Schedules for Assets (JDF 1111SS).

You both must file these forms with the court within 42 days after service of the divorce petition or after the joint petition was filed. (Colo. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 16.2(e) (2023).)

Make sure that you've gathered all the information you need to fill out the financial disclosure forms completely and accurately. If you give false information, you could be subject to a fine or even jail time, and your divorce case could be reopened.

If your divorce is uncontested, you should also file the Separation Agreement form (JDF 1115), which includes your agreements regarding spousal support, property division, and allocation of debts. And if you have minor children, you will file your Parenting Plan (JDF 1113) and Child Support Worksheets. (You can automatically calculate the amount under Colorado's child support guideline by using the court's child support calculator.)

Finalizing Your Colorado Divorce

When you and your spouse have filed for an uncontested divorce and don't have minor children, you may be able to get your final divorce without going to a hearing by filing an Affidavit for Decree Without Appearance of Parties (JDF 1201). If you meet the requirements and the judge agrees, the judge will simply review your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will issue a final dissolution decree—as long as at least 91 days have passed since your filed your joint petition or served your spouse with the divorce papers. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 14-10-106(1)(a)(III), 14-10-120.3; Colo. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 16.2(c)(1)(D) (2023).)

Otherwise, you'll need to go through at least some of the following steps:

  • Initial status conference. You and your spouse (along with your lawyers, if you have them) will generally meet with the judge for an initial status conference (unless your attorneys have submitted an agreed case management plan). The status conference is an informal meeting held outside the courtroom to give the spouses an opportunity to identify the major issues in the case. The judge also will hear any requests for temporary orders for child and spousal support while the case is pending. Your case management order will have all the details on deadlines and other requirements (such whether you'll need to attend a parenting class).
  • Temporary orders hearing. Because divorce proceedings can stretch on for months or even years, it's often necessary to arrange for temporary financial support for a spouse or the couple's children. If one or both spouses have requested temporary orders (and they aren't able to agree on the issue), the judge will hold a hearing to decide whether to grant the orders. In most cases, the temporary orders will stay in effect until the case is settled or goes to trial.
  • Discovery. Like every other state, Colorado allows each spouse in a divorce to ask the other to produce certain information. Known as "discovery," this process involves serving the other party with written requests for documents and other information. "Interrogatories" are one of the most common discovery tools, which involve a written set of questions the other party must answer on paper as if he or she were replying under oath.
  • Permanent orders hearing. If, like most divorcing couples, you've reached a settlement agreement at some point in the process, you'll usually need to attend a final hearing so that the judge can review your agreement and other paperwork, ask you a few questions, and issue your final dissolution decree. But if you and your spouse haven't managed to agree about all of the issues in your divorce, you'll have to go to trial (known in Colorado as a "permanent orders hearing") to have a judge hear the evidence and make a decision about any of the unresolved issues before issuing your divorce decree.