Unlike legal advice, these articles will not help you to directly apply the law to your unique situation. Contact us if you wish to schedule a consult for legal advice.
The term “divorce” is no longer used, in the legal sense, in the State of Colorado. This term has been officially changed to “Dissolution of Marriage.”
If your matter involves a child or children for whom you would like the court to make orders, but you were not married to the other party, you might be filing a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. You will often hear this referred to as an "APR" case.
The term “custody” is also not really used legally in Colorado either. While it does occasionally appear, you will quickly become used to the correct legal phrase “allocation of parental responsibilities” which includes decision making and parenting time. We talk with our clients extensively about how these matters might be resolved out of court, what goes into a parenting plan (including age appropriateness) and resources which can be utilized to assist parties to arrive at a good parenting plan. We also discuss resources available for parties unable to reach agreement. Article #8 has more information in this regard.
In Colorado what you might think of as “alimony” is called “maintenance.” Maintenance determined and ordered by the Court is subject to modification. Contractual maintenance is an amount and duration agreed to between the parties and is not subject to modification, so long as that is specifically stated in writing in any Separation Agreement or other settlement agreement entered into by the Parties and approved by the Court. Only the parties can agree to Contractual Maintenance. After being approved by the Court the Court will then lose jurisdiction over that issue.
Colorado is a state with “no fault dissolution.” This means that the courts will not consider the behavior of either party with regard to property division, child support and maintenance. The only exceptions are that if any behavior of the parent directly affects the well-being of any of the children, this behavior can be considered with regard to parental responsibility (previously known as custody) and parenting time (previously known as visitation) or if one party misuses property or debt, the court will examine that issue. “No fault” also means that there are no longer any grounds for dissolution except the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” That ground is pre-printed in the Petition and in the forms as it is the only grounds for a Dissolution of Marriage in Colorado. Usually, if one party wants a dissolution and the other party does not, the marriage will nevertheless be deemed irretrievably broken and the dissolution granted. Occasionally, the courts will grant a continuance for up to 63 days so that the parties can get some counseling on the question of whether the dissolution ought to be final.
A legal separation is essentially the same procedurally. The only difference is that the parties remain legally married to each other when the Decree is entered at the Permanent Orders Hearing. All of the matters of parental responsibility, property division, support, etc., must be agreed upon or determined in court in order to get a Decree of Legal Separation. Six months after that, a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage may be granted, without the agreement of the other party, if either party requests it. Generally, therefore, only a small percentage of people ask for a Decree of Legal Separation. Sometimes, it is requested for psychological reasons, religious reasons, or because one spouse otherwise would not be able to obtain health insurance. There are times that people wish to work on their marriage or because they feel that there are other reasons why they do not want to obtain a Dissolution of Marriage and therefore opt for a Legal Separation.