In Colorado, one of the questions that many family law attorneys are often asked is whether the Court has to be involved in a person’s divorce proceedings. Short answer: Yes, the Court has to be involved. However, to what degree the Court is involved (and how many Court proceedings the parties must attend) is up to the parties themselves.
First, in order to get divorced, an action must be initiated within the Court system. A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage starts that action. However, a Court cannot issue the Decree of Dissolution (which is the document that legally declares the parties divorced) until at least 91 days have passed since the other person was served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Generally, the Court will hold an Initial Status Conference within 42 days from the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This is generally the first court appearance and attendance by the parties is required. That conference is generally informal and allows for parties to provide a “snapshot” of how they see the case to be proceeding ( for example, whether there will be experts involved, additional hearings requested, etc.). The Court will then usually calendar additional court appearances at that time.
The parties then have the control of how many additional court appearances will be needed and dictate that through settlement. Should the parties agree to all issues, then the parties would need to submit their agreements in writing. If both parties are represented by counsel, and the Court determines that the agreements are fair and not unconscionable and are in the best interests of any children, then the Court could waive any additional appearance and simply adopt the agreements as Orders of the Court.
However, should the parties reach agreements on all issues before filing the Petition for Dissolution and both parties are represented by counsel, the parties could file all the required documents and might never have to go to Court. But, should any issues not be full resolved by agreement, the Court will require the parties to go to trial on those disagreements.