Dissolution of Marriage/Legal Separation

Getting married in Colorado can be a relatively easy, quick and inexpensive process. After paying $30 and obtaining a license from the appropriate county office, a couple is permitted to immediately solemnize their marriage themselves. There is no mandatory waiting period or residency requirement, although the license is only valid for 35 days after issuance.

In contrast, a marital dissolution requires extensive paperwork, court intervention, 91 days of residency in the State of Colorado and, assuming the parties are in total agreement and will not be utilizing legal counsel, a minimum of $230 in court fees. In addition, the court will not issue a decree of dissolution until 91 days after the court acquired personal jurisdiction over the respondent (i.e. the date on which the respondent was officially served with the Summons and Petition for Dissolution or on which the respondent signed a “waiver of service.”). The party who files the petition is called the “petitioner.” The party responding to the petition is the “respondent.” One spouse may initiate the dissolution action or both may file as “co-petitioners.” When the parties file as co-petitioners, service of the Summons and Petition is not required as there is no respondent, although the papers must still be filed with the court.

Are allegations of spousal misconduct or fault necessary to secure a divorce?

Colorado is a “no fault” state. Either spouse can petition the court for a dissolution and need only allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” as the basis for the divorce. A marriage is “irretrievably broken” when one party no longer wants to be married to the other. Marital fault or misconduct is irrelevant for this purpose.

How is a dissolution action commenced?

A dissolution action is commenced by the service and/or filing of a Summons and a Petition for Dissolution. The petition must allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken;” set forth the names, ages and residences of all children born or adopted during the marriage; state that the 91-day residency requirement has been met; note the date and location of the marriage as well as the date of separation (if applicable) and specify the relief sought (i.e. dissolution, division of marital property, support and/or attorney’s fees and costs). Upon the filing of the summons and petition, an automatic temporary injunction is in effect that prohibits either party (without the written permission of the other party) from taking certain actions before permanent orders have been issued by the court. This includes transferring property, discontinuing insurance coverage or taking the children out of state. The Colorado Courts maintain a database of forms on its website. Whether you elect to represent yourself or utilize the services of an attorney, we strongly recommend that you take time to read the instruction sheets and flow charts found on the Courts’ website to familiarize yourself with the process.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation is an alternative to divorce which can finalize all financial and child custody issues leaving the parties technically married for the purposes of health care coverage (where the insurer makes it available under these circumstances), insurance and military benefits as well as religious reasons. A Decree of Legal Separation may be converted into a Decree of Dissolution by either party after it has been on file with the court for a period of six months.