Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) in Colorado
Filing for Divorce: Divorce in Colorado, referred to as Dissolution of Marriage, may be obtained when at least one of the spouses has been a Colorado resident 90 days or more before the date a petition for dissolution is filed with the court. The petition is filed in the District Court for the county in which one of the spouses resides, and may be for the purpose of dissolving either a marriage entered into with a license or that was formed under the common law. By statute, the court may enter a decree divorcing the parties once 90 days have passed from the time the court obtained jurisdiction. The court obtains jurisdiction over the spouse filing the petition at the time it is filed and over the other spouse at the time a summons and the petition is served on that party. Upon filing the divorce case, an automatic injunction – a restraining order – arises which prohibits both parties from harassing the other, removing the children from Colorado, and from disposing of, or hiding, marital property.
Financial Disclosure: Once the court obtains jurisdiction over both parties, the spouses are required to complete a financial affidavit and provide each other with full disclosure of their assets and liabilities. The required disclosure assists in the determination of alimony, or separate maintenance, child support, and in dividing the assets and liabilities of the marriage between the parties. Property or debts acquired during the time of the marriage are referred to as "Marital" and will be divided between the parties at the time of divorce. Property that was from before the marriage, or obtained as a gift or by inheritance, is referred to as "Separate" or sole property and is not divided between the parties.
Temporary Orders: Sometimes the parties to a divorce need interim or temporary orders and directions from the court regarding division of financial responsibilities – such as who will pay which bills, who lives in the house and family support – or regarding parenting rights and responsibilities – such as schedules for when the children are with one parent and not with the other parent, or who is to make decisions affecting the children. Usually, a Magistrate (a lawyer appointed by the Judge) will provide temporary or interim orders after a short hearing requested by one of the parties to give some relief or direction until the permanent or final orders.
Permanent Orders: The Permanent Orders hearing, if contested, is held before a District Judge. At this hearing, the court enters a decree dissolving the marriage and permanent orders dividing property and debts, allocating responsibility for the care and parenting of the children, and directing the payment of child support and, if necessary, alimony or maintenance. The Permanent Orders hearing can be as short as an hour or take several days, depending upon the complexity of the issues and the tenacity of the parties or their lawyers.
Post-Decree Modification: After the divorce is final, some things may change and the order entered before may no longer be appropriate. If there is a significant change in income, child support or maintenance may be modified. Child support may also be modified because of a change in the parenting responsibilities. The parenting schedule may need to be revised because a parent is moving out of state, or the circumstances of the parties has changed and the children are being cared for more by the other parent than before. The Court retains jurisdiction – the power – to modify or change the prior orders when it involves the children and family support.
Enforcement and Contempt: The Court always has the power to enforce the orders it has made through proceedings for contempt. Contempt may be "remedial" or "punitive". Remedial is where the court finds the non-compliant party has the ability to act as ordered, but has failed to, and imposes penalties conditioned upon the party becoming compliant. Punitive is where the court finds, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the actions of the party are willful and in defiance of the court's authority and imposes unconditional penalties such as jail and a fine.