The short answer to this question is yes. As a no-fault divorce state, Colorado allows both parties to divorce without going through the court ordeal. There’s one caveat though: you and your spouse should be able to agree on the division of all assets and financial and custody arrangements on your own. If that’s the case, you can hire a shared attorney and have them file the paperwork for you.
Still, you should understand that depending on your circumstances, several divorce options are possible.
what is a Pro-Se Divorce
Pro-se stands for a divorce without a family lawyer. In other words, you are representing yourself – prepare the required documents, fill them out properly, and submit to the courthouse.
Neither one of the spouses needs to appear in court. The one drawback is that you may forget some important detail that should have been addressed and it may hang out there without resolution.
How to File for a Pro-Se Divorce
Considering that you and your spouse don’t have any major disagreements, here’s a sample checklist of the most common details to be ironed out pre-divorce:
- Division of real property – this includes any ownership that you hold jointly such as marital home, land, vacation home, etc. How will this property be divided? Or will one party get ownership in exchange for a financial payment?
- Division of other property – such things as cars, furniture, or even valuables such as jewelry, collections, antiques, etc. should also be negotiated.
- Custody of minor children – support payments, visitation schedules, health insurance, schooling, etc.
- Taxes for the filing year in which the divorce will be final, as well as claiming minor children as dependents.
Remember: every situation is unique, and you may have details that are not covered in this checklist. You can review the official Colorado court guidelines for filling here.
Can You Still End Up in Court When Filing For a Pro-Se Divorce?
Yes, a pro-se divorce does not fully cancel out court appearances. As you begin the discussions around property division or custody, all sorts of misunderstanding may come up. Also, even amicable divorces can suddenly get side-railed due to anger, resentment, or some other minor accusations. Spouses may not, in the end, be able to reach agreements and compromises. At this point, they are better off getting attorneys both to protect their rights and to have the support and advice of an objective, unemotional professional.
Moreover, any issue or mistake in filing papers can result in clerical misinterpretation. Thus, both or either of you may be called to the court for further clarifications and corrections. This can get problematic as in Colorado pro-se divorce litigants are held to the same standards as licensed divorce attorneys.
Alternatives to a Pro-Se Divorce
An uncontested divorce is probably a better-known option to pro-se divorce. In this scenario, both spouses agree to the divorce and all of the divisions and issues. But they also agree that one of them will hire a family law attorney and have them complete all of the paperwork, as well as file it. The benefit of this option is that an experienced professional will ask the right questions and ensure that no critical details are left out.
Mediated divorce is the second alternative that does not involve court visits. In this situation, both parties hire a single divorce attorney to perform the duties of a mediator – a neutral third-party that will help you make all the decisions and agreements. Once all of the matters are finalized, the attorney files the paperwork, and the parties are kept out of court. It’s also important to note that there will be a delay, because, in Colorado, there is a 91-day waiting period between the filing and the divorce decree.
Ultimately, it is your call whether to navigate the divorce paperwork on your own or hire a qualified legal professional. However, to reduce the chances of court appearance it is always advisable to have proper representation.