What Is The Colorado Divorce Process?
When you file for divorce in Colorado, there are short-term issues such as marital property division that will be resolved during the divorce process. But the most important issues, like your family relationships, will last a lifetime. If you and your spouse have children, you will have to co-parent together, which can be difficult following divorce.
At The Offices of Keane Law, LLC, our lawyers are here to guide you through the divorce process with an eye toward both the short-term goals and your family’s long-term future. We offer a free 30-minute consultation to answer your questions.
Understanding Divorce In Colorado
Here is a road map to Colorado’s divorce process:
- Petition: The divorce process in Colorado begins with a dissolution of marriage petition. This petition can be jointly filed, or one party can file the petition and have it served upon the other. While it makes no legal difference who files the petition, how you file for divorce set the tone for the rest of the divorce. If you choose to file jointly, you can begin your divorce on the same page.
- Initial status conference: Within 40 days of filing your divorce petition, you, your spouse and your lawyers will have an initial status conference (also known as an “ISC”) with the judge. This meeting will usually be held in a conference room rather than in a traditional courtroom. The judge usually does not wear a robe and the atmosphere will be less formal than a court proceeding. Substantive decisions are rarely made during your initial status conference. The goal of the initial status conference is to help the judge determine the issues of your particular case, give you a chance to ask the judge for immediate orders if there is a short-term concern, set the tone for good communications, answer your questions about the process, and set a trial date.
- Financial disclosure: Within the first 40 days, you and your spouse will exchange financial information, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, cars, real estate and your monthly budget. In Colorado, this is known as Rule 16.2 disclosures.
- Temporary orders: Between the time when you file a petition and the time of trial, you and your spouse can have a Temporary Orders hearing to decide interim issues such as who pays the mortgage, car payments, child support and visitation pending entry of a final decree of dissolution. If the issues are about money, this hearing will usually be held in front of a magistrate. If the issues are about children, then the hearing will usually be held before a judge.
- Discovery and interrogatories: As a part of trial preparation, either party can serve “discovery,” consisting of interrogatories and requests for production of documents, on the other party. Requests for production of documents are requests to produce specific documents in your custody or control. Interrogatories are written questions which you must answer under oath. If you don’t answer truthfully or produce requested documents, there can be serious sanctions later.
- Mediation: At least 30 days before your trial, you will be required to go through mediation. However, the judge can excuse you from mediation in certain situations such as domestic violence. At mediation, we work with your spouse and his or her lawyer to settle all the issues of the case. If a case settles, the lawyers work together to draft settlement documents which are then filed with the court. At Keane Law, we believe that clients are always better served if they have a strong hand in crafting the language of the orders that will govern their lives after the decree of dissolution enters. We work hard to give our cases the best possible chance of settling with the best possible outcome for our clients, because it is easier to live with rules that you and your spouse have agreed upon than it is to live with rules that a judge has imposed upon you.
- Trial: Colorado law requires that you wait at least 90 days after you file your divorce petition before the court can enter a decree of dissolution. If you and your spouse agree on all issues, you and your spouse can file settlement documents and the court will enter a decree of marriage dissolution after it has approved the settlement documents. If you and your spouse do not agree on all issues, you will proceed to trial and the judge will resolve the issues for you.
- Post-decree modifications: If issues arise after your divorce due to a change in your circumstances, you can return to court to seek post-decree modifications or enforcement of existing orders.