Colorado Divorce FAQ

Get answers to the most common questions about divorce in Colorado.

By , Retired Judge

The divorce process can often seem overwhelming. You have to deal with the emotional and practical changes that come with ending a marriage, while trying to navigate a legal system that's likely completely foreign to you. And then there are the money worries that are almost always in the picture. But you can find answers to your questions about divorce laws in Colorado, as well as the help you need.

Who can file for divorce in Colorado?

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. (Learn more about how to file for divorce in Colorado.)

Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite-sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.

What are the legal grounds for divorce in Colorado?

Colorado is strictly a "no-fault" divorce state. This means judges won't consider either spouse's misconduct or fault (such as adultery or drug abuse) in deciding whether to grant the divorce, how to divide property, or whether to award spousal maintenance (alimony).

The only "ground" (legal reason) for divorce in Colorado is that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." This just means that the couple can't get along, and there's no reasonable chance of that status changing. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §14-10-110(1) (2022).)

Does Colorado require separation before divorce?

Colorado doesn't require spouses to separate before they may file for divorce or get their final dissolution decree. But many spouses do separate, or at least consider it. If you're thinking about separating from your spouse, you need to look into whether moving out of the family home—either before or during divorce—is in your best interest.

Note that Colorado also offers "legal separation" as an alternative to divorce. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106(1) (2022).)

How much does divorce cost in Colorado?

When you file your initial paperwork to start the divorce process (including a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage"), you'll need to pay a filing fee, unless you apply and qualify for a waiver. To apply for the waiver, ask the court clerk in the county where you're filing for divorce for a "Motion to File without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit" (Form JDF 205).

As of August 2022, the filing fee for a dissolution petition in Colorado is $230, but that amount is subject to change. In situations where your spouse has to be "served" with the divorce papers (meaning, having the papers legally delivered to your spouse), you'll probably incur a small fee for that service.

Beyond the filing fee, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:

How long will it take to get a divorce in Colorado?

Before the Colorado courts can issue a divorce decree, there's a 91-day waiting period from the date the non-filing spouse receives the divorce papers or otherwise enters an appearance in the case. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106(1)(a)(III) (2022).) This is basically a cooling-off period, so that the spouses can assess whether there's any chance of reconciling.

As with cost, the actual amount of time your divorce will take depends on the circumstances in your case. Uncontested divorces usually don't take much longer than the waiting period. But if your divorce is contested, you'll have to go through a number of legal steps that can add several months to the process.

And if you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement agreement at some point in the process (more on that below), going to trial will require even more time—usually more than a year. Court backlogs can also make the entire process take longer.

How is marital property divided in Colorado?

Courts in Colorado distribute marital property based on the rule of "equitable distribution." This means judges will divide property based on what they believe is fair under the circumstances of each case. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-113(1) (2022).)

Assigning a value to each asset is usually pretty straightforward. But dividing some property can be tricky at times. You'll often see this with a family-owned business, where you may need the input of a forensic accountant. Splitting pensions or retirement accounts is another example that often requires hiring an expert.

How is child custody decided in Colorado?

All decisions about the legal and physical custody of children in any Colorado divorce must be based on what would be in the children's best interests.

Judges will consider several factors when they make custody decisions (or when they decide whether to approve the parents' agreement on that issue), including the custody preferences of children who are mature enough to express an intelligent opinion on the subject.

What are the child support guidelines in Colorado?

Like all states in the U.S., Colorado has guidelines that include detailed rules for deciding who must pay child support and how much those payments should be. Learn how child support is calculated in Colorado, including when support amounts may depart from the guidelines.

How does spousal maintenance work in Colorado?

Before judges will order a spouse to pay spousal maintenance in Colorado, they must consider a long list of factors, such as the length of the marriage, a spouse's ability to pay, and the spouses' physical and mental health. Unlike most states, Colorado law provides judges with a formula to determine the amount of spousal maintenance

Temporary spousal maintenance is available while the divorce is in progress, if the judge believes it's warranted.

Can we agree to an out-of-court settlement in our Colorado divorce?

Yes, you may agree with your spouse about how to handle the issues in your dissolution of marriage at any point during the process, from before you've filed the divorce papers right up to just before a trial.

If you've worked out all your issues before filing for divorce, the terms of your settlement will normally be written down in a divorce settlement agreement, and the court will consider your case to be uncontested. In that scenario, you can get your "Decree of Dissolution of Marriage" once the 91-day waiting period has expired.

When you have an uncontested case, you might be able to get your divorce decree without going to court. That can happen if there are no children involved, and neither spouse is expecting. If there are children, you may still avoid a court appearance if both spouses are represented by attorneys. Otherwise, you'll have to appear in court for a short hearing so that the judge can make sure you both understand your settlement and have met all the requirements for divorce.

What happens if we can't agree on a divorce settlement?

If you aren't able to agree with your spouse about one or more of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Anytime you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's always in your best interests to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair to both you and your spouse.

When can I get an annulment in Colorado?

If you want to get an annulment, you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the narrow grounds for void or voidable marriages. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-111(1) (2022).) Learn more about annulment in Colorado, including the allowable reasons, the legal process, and the effects of annulling a marriage.

Where can I get more information and help with my Colorado divorce?

You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Colorado.

Here are some other resources:

  • Court services. You can find divorce information and court forms on the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
  • Mediation. If you want the cost-and-time advantages of an uncontested divorce but are having trouble agreeing with your spouse about all of the issues, divorce mediation can help you find solutions and common ground. At the end of the process, the mediator will typically prepare a written divorce settlement agreement.
  • Online divorce. If you've reached a complete settlement but need more help with the uncontested divorce forms than you can get through the court's website, you might try an online divorce service that will provide you with the completed forms, based on your answers to a questionnaire.
  • Hiring a lawyer. Of course, there are some divorces that require a lawyer's help. If that's true in your case, here are some questions to ask before hiring a divorce attorney.