Grounds for Divorce in Colorado

Continue reading to understand what you need to prove to get a divorce in Colorado.

By , Attorney

Like the mountains in Colorado, marriages can experience high peaks and low valleys, but when you can't seem to climb out of the valley with your spouse, it might be time to talk about ending your marriage. Unlike what you see on television, most states, including Colorado, don't require spouses to rehash bad experiences and point fingers in order to get divorced.

No-Fault Divorce

Colorado is a purely no-fault divorce state, which means the court doesn't need to know whose fault it is that your marriage is over. To be successful in your divorce action, you'll need to tell the judge that your marriage is irretrievably broken with no chance of reconciliation. In other words, your relationship is so badly damaged that no amount of time, therapy, or intervention will repair it.

In pure no-fault divorce states, like Colorado and Illinois, judges won't decide any matters, including custody, property division, or spousal support, based on whose fault it is that the marriage didn't work. There are some no-fault states, like Michigan, where judges can consider fault, like adultery, insanity, or abuse, when making a final decision about these specific issues, but the current trend seems to eliminate fault altogether.

What If My Spouse Disagrees?

In most cases, both spouses usually agree that their marriage is over. If that's the case, the courts in Colorado presume that the marriage is broken, and unless one of the spouses can prove otherwise, will make a finding (put it in writing) that the marriage can't be repaired. Once the court makes this decision, it considers the marriage dissolvable, meaning it can be terminated.

If on the other hand, one spouse files for divorce and the other disagrees that the marriage is beyond repair, even in this no-fault divorce state, the court must take extra steps before it can grant a divorce. The court will consider:

  • what circumstances gave rise to the divorce filing
  • the potential that the marriage can be reconciled, and
  • either state on the record (in writing or in court) that the judge agrees that the marriage is broken, or if the court isn't convinced, the judge ask the couple to attend counseling and pause the divorce proceedings for no less than 35 days but not more than 63 days.

For example, in one Colorado case, a wife introduced evidence to show that she and her husband were constantly arguing and fighting, that she was continually unhappy with her husband, and that he had previously threatened her life. This evidence didn't necessarily show fault, but it gave the judge a snapshot of the couple's marriage, which was enough to convince the judge that the marriage was so broken, there was no chance of reconciliation, and a dissolution of marriage was necessary.

What are the Major Legal Issues in Divorce?

Most divorce cases will present the same major legal issues throughout the process, which include:

No one knows your family situation better than you, so if you can work together, you may be able to avoid a lengthy court process by entering into a settlement agreement on these issues. It's important to understand that even in cases when couples agree, the court may need to review and approve any agreement if it involves custody, parenting time, or child support.

What do I Need to Do to get Divorced in Colorado?

Before you can successfully request a divorce in Colorado, you must prove that you were a resident of the state for at least 90 days before you file. To demonstrate your residency to the court, you will need to show that you lived in the state and intended on staying. Spouses will need to show a judge proof of a lease, driver's license, income tax returns, or school enrollment if there is any doubt about the residence before filing for divorce. The residency requirement prevents a spouse from finding a state or judge who will enter a more favorable decision—called forum or judge shopping.

After filing the initial divorce request—called petition—couples living in Colorado will wait a minimum of 90 days before a judge can issue a final divorce judgment. This "cooling off period" allows spouses to consider reconciliation, or in some cases, allows enough time for couples to work out an agreement before starting a contentious divorce battle.

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