The dissolution of marriage in the State of Colorado can be a lengthy and complex legal process fraught with unexpected events and trying delays. We have found when our clients have a general conceptual awareness of the chronology of the divorce proceedings, this can help to alleviate many of their concerns.
- To begin the divorce process, one of the parties usually retains the services of a family law attorney who is licensed in the State of Colorado.
- The attorney files a petition for the dissolution of marriage, which is a legal document that states the reasons why the client wants to obtain a divorce and how they intend to settle the financial and child custody issues.
- The other party is served with the petition along with a summons that requires a response.
- The party who has been served has to respond to the petition within a specific time frame. If the party who has been served fails to respond to the petition within that period of time, the court assumes that the party agrees to the terms.
- Part of the divorce process requires that both parties submit financial disclosures and exchange information regarding assets and debts. Upon review of this data, the parties and the court can decide how to distribute the property in an equitable manner and how to calculate maintenance and child support.
Initial Status Conference: After the divorce is filed and the other party is served, the Court in many counties in Colorado will set a hearing with either the Judge/Magistrate or a Family Court Facilitator. This hearing is typically held within 42 days from the date the petition is filed. At the initial status conference, progress on financial disclosures is evaluated, deadlines are typically set for mediation, the need for temporary orders or a child and family investigator are considered.
Temporary Orders: After the divorce is filed, certain issues may need court intervention on a temporary basis. A Temporary Orders Hearing can be set at the request of either party for the Court to enter orders on issues that arise during the months/years that the divorce proceeds through the Courts. These orders are not final, which is why they are called Temporary Orders. The Court can address such issues the temporary payment of bills, temporary parenting time, temporary child support, temporary maintenance, temporary occupancy of the marital home, etc. The Temporary Orders Hearing itself is short and requires preparation to efficiently present evidence on all the issues that the parties want the Court to consider and enter orders.
Mediation: Prior to a contested final orders hearing (and temporary orders hearing), the parties may be required to mediate on all of the contested issues. A mediator is a neutral third party that the parties meet with whose role is to promote compromise and agreement. If an agreement is reached on all of the contested issues, a memorandum of understanding is drafted and filed with the Court. If only some of the issues are agreed upon or no agreement is reached between the parties, then the case will proceed to a contested hearing with the Court.
- After the financial disclosures and exchange of information the parties, if at any point the parties agree upon all of the issues, a settlement agreement is created and submitted to the court at an informal hearing. If the parties agree on the issues, a settlement agreement is created and submitted to the court at an informal hearing.
- If the court approves the settlement agreement, the parties will be granted a divorce decree.
- If the court does not approve the document, or if the parties cannot come to an agreement, the case will proceed to trial.
- At the trial, each attorney will present evidence and argue in their client's behalf. The judge will rule on the unresolved issues and then grant a dissolution of marriage.
- The divorce process can continue for several months or several years depending on the cases level of complexity, the ability of the parties involved to cooperate, and their willingness to compromise. Generally, when the parties can keep their emotions to a minimum and reach a compromise in a rational manner, the sooner they can begin to move forward with their lives.