Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 31, 2020

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The least you need to know…

  • Colorado is a no-fault divorce state.
  • Colorado mandates temporary alimony in most divorces.
  • In Colorado, most divorces take between three and six months to resolve.
  • Those who prefer a legal separation can go through a process similar to divorce while remaining legally married.

Colorado, like every state, has unique laws and rules governing the separation or divorce process. It is perfectly natural to have a host of specific questions about Colorado divorce law. Where can you turn for Colorado Divorce advice?

This article is a great place to start.

What are the requirements for legal separation and for getting a divorce in Colorado? What is the law on Colorado annulments? How is property divided in a divorce in Colorado? Find answers to your questions on divorce in the state of Colorado here.

If you need more specific answers about your situation, you can begin your search for an experienced Colorado divorce attorney by entering your ZIP code in the search tool above.

Frequently Asked Questions: Colorado Divorce and Separation

Before we discuss the differences between legal separation, divorce, and annulment in Colorado, scroll down to see some of the most common questions people have about Colorado divorce procedure.

Does it matter who files for divorce first in Colorado?

The only factor in who would file in the divorce in Colorado has to do with residency. You must be a resident of the county where you file for at least 90 days before you can file. There is no benefit in being the party who files because Colorado is a no-fault divorce state.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Colorado?

A divorce in Colorado cannot proceed until 90 days after the initial filing. In some rare circumstances without children or any issues in dispute, a divorce could be completed on the 91st day. 

Many divorces in Colorado take between three and six months, though the more complicated the issues, typically, the longer the process can take.

How many years do you have to be married to get alimony in Colorado?

Colorado divorce law requires alimony in all divorces when the combined income of the parties is less than $75,000.

This required alimony is temporary unless the judge makes it permanent. The judge also has the option to require temporary alimony in divorces with higher incomes, and can also make this arrangement permanent or longer term.

The factors considered in rewarding alimony are only based on the earning potential of the parties and the roles each played during the marriage.

How does adultery affect divorce in Colorado?

There are only a few ways that adultery will affect divorce in Colorado. The primary circumstance is when there is a prenuptial agreement between the parties that forbids infidelity. You can, however, contesting a pre-marital agreement as invalid.

In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, if one party spent jointly owned money to pay for their adultery, a court will likely account for that in dividing assets.

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Colorado Legal Separation

In Colorado, legal separations require the same legal procedure as divorces, with all issues relating to children, custody, financial support, and property division formally resolved before a judge. The difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that in the case of a separation, you are still legally married.

Should you decide to file for divorce later, the process may need to be completed again in its entirety, though the resolutions regarding material possessions arrived at during the separation proceedings may or may not be reconsidered during divorce proceedings. Common motivations for choosing legal separation over divorce are the preservation of legal marital status for tax or religious reasons, even though the parties may be certain they will not be reconciled in the foreseeable future.

(Note: the above-mentioned “legal separation” is distinct from and should not be confused with the layman’s use of the term “separation,” in which two married people simply decide to live apart from each other without any intervention by the courts.) As in many other states, mediators and other informal means of resolving issues brought about in the divorce are available in Colorado.

Colorado Divorce: How to Get a Divorce in Colorado

Legal separation and divorce in Colorado are closely related. In fact, legal separation uses the same Colorado divorce forms, which you can find on the Colorado Judicial Branch website.

The exact steps needed to get a divorce will depend on your circumstances.

Grounds for Divorce/Fault — No-Fault:

Unlike legal separations, which do not require any grounds for court approval, divorces do require a no-fault filing, which typically asserts an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage relationship.

Residency/Where to File for Divorce:

One must file the petition with the district court which has jurisdiction over the case, which in Colorado is the court for the county in which at least one of the parties has resided for at least 90 days prior to the filing.

Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures:

Dissolution of marriage by affidavit is possible when there are no minor children, a separation agreement has been entered, there are no disputes, no marital property (or in the alternative, agreement as to its division), and the non-filing party has been served with all relevant paperwork.

An affidavit signed by both parties, represented by counsel, and stating these facts, will be sufficient for a dissolution of marriage by affidavit.

This is an efficient type of uncontested divorce. Colorado uncontested divorce forms can be found on the same Judicial Branch site mentioned above.

Colorado Contested Divorce:

Just because Colorado only allows no-fault divorce does not mean that all divorces are uncontested. Any issues that the parties can’t agree on will need to be settled through mediation or in court. 

Custody, property division, child support, and spousal support can all be issues that can’t be settled between the parties. 

Although you can’t allege any fault other than “irretrievable breakdown” when filing for divorce, actions one party or another took to cause that breakdown can be factors in determining support, alimony, or how property is divided.

You can find a walkthrough and a Colorado divorce checklist at the Judicial Branch site above both for divorces with and without children.

Colorado Annulment:

Annulment in Colorado differs from divorce or legal separation proceedings in that the annulment declares the marriage to have been invalid, such that it never properly existed in the first place. Thus, if an annulment is obtained, divorce or legal separation becomes unnecessary.

Annulments are granted under a very limited set of circumstances: failure of a party to give voluntary legal consent at the time of the marriage ceremony because of:

  • force,
  • fraud,
  • either party being under the age of18,
  • either party suffering from mental illness, or
  • either party being under the influence of drugs or other incapacitating substance

Annulments can also be granted due to the inability of a party to consummate the marriage with sexual intercourse.

Note that these factors by themselves are sometimes not enough to justify annulment, especially in a case where the parties continued living together even after discovery of the incapacity.

On the other hand, Colorado will always declare a marriage invalid if the parties are too closely related or if one of the parties was currently married to someone else at the time of the marriage.

The Last Word

There are three ways to effectively end a marriage in Colorado: a legal separation, a divorce, or an annulment. The only effective difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a couple remains effectively married after going through a legal separation.

Both processes involve settling property and custody and any other disputes between the couple, but a divorce terminates the marital relationship completely. 

An annulment renders a marriage invalid as if it had never happened, but can only be granted in limited circumstances.

Did you find out what you wanted to know about divorce in Colorado?

If you still have questions based on your own relationship, you can start your search for a family law attorney by putting your ZIP code into our search tool below.

References:

  1. https://www.coloradomediation.org/
  2. https://www.courts.state.co.us/Self_Help/divorce/forms/index.cfm
  3. https://www.courts.state.co.us/Self_Help/annulment/