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Colorado Divorce Paperwork - How to Complete, File, and Serve

By Tolison & Williams / October 30, 2020

If there's one thing the pop culture always got right about the legal aspect of the divorce, it's that you need to prepare, file, and then serve the divorce papers. But what kind of “papers” are these exactly? Do they impact the cost of your divorce? And where are you supposed to get them? Below is our comprehensive take on all things surrounding divorce papers in Colorado.

What Are Divorce Papers?

Divorce papers are the collection of legally binding forms that must be completed and filed with the court to start the divorce process. Divorce forms can be completed jointly by both spouses (if the two can agree on most matters to file uncontested), or they can be completed and submitted by just one of them (if an agreement can't be made and it turns into a contested divorce). In the second case, the filing spouse must then serve these papers to the other one.

Where to Get Divorce Paperwork?

Colloquially, the legal divorce paperwork has two components:

    • Personal documents you need to prepare such as proof of property ownership, financial statements, prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Essentially, different types of documents detailing your family matters, commitments, and obligations. You usually have them at hand. 
    • Court-supplied divorce forms — documents you’d have to fill in (or request your attorney to do so) and submit to your local courthouse for the divorce proceedings to begin. These can be downloaded from the Colorado State Court Website or requested at a county/district court. 

In this post, we detail where to get and how to prepare both types of documents.

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Documents You Need to Prepare for a Divorce in Colorado 

Paperwork for divorce appears to be complex because the exact number of documents (and legal forms) you’ll have to prepare will differ depending on whether you are:

  • The petitioner (i.e., the person filing for divorce) or the respondent
  • Divorcing with children or without 
  • Ready to settle the matters out of court or expect a contested divorce 

You'll also have additional paperwork if you have children with your spouse, owned property together, ran a joint business, or have some other situation that adds complexity to your case.

In addition to the various forms required by the courts, you'll also need to dig through your files to find the requested supporting documents. These will be required to prove that assertions you make are correct and to give the court the information they need to make a fair and just ruling.

That being said, in most cases, you’ll have to prepare the following documents for divorce: 

  • Petition For Dissolution of Marriage — a court form stating that one or both parties of the marriage are seeking a divorce.
  • Certificate of Marriage — You will need a copy of your marriage certificate for the divorce proceedings. This can usually be found in the county in which you were married.
  • Summons Form — This is a court form required if you are filing for divorce separately from your spouse. Divorce summons informs them about your decision and obliges them to respond to your action.
  • Parenting Plan — If there are children of the marriage, both parties must submit a parenting plan. This plan should cover items such as holiday visitation schedules, where the child will attend school, religion to be practiced, and medical decisions. The parenting plan can be a full joint plan, which means that both parties agree to everything, a partial joint where there are some agreement and disagreement, and a parenting plan completed by one parent. The latter is where the parents cannot agree on anything.
  • Child Support Worksheets — these are state-issued forms related to child support. 

What Forms Are Needed To File for Divorce in Colorado?

You can find most forms you will need on the state of Colorado’s judicial branch website, but we've also linked to each document below. From there, you have the option to select divorce or legal separation with or without children. All Colorado divorce paperwork forms that apply to each process are available for download in PDF format. They also come with basic instructions for completing them. 

Colorado Divorce Papers With Kids

Here are the Colorado divorce forms you will need if you and your spouse have shared children. Many of these are related to parenting and child support. These can be particularly tricky to complete if you and your spouse are not on good terms.  

When filing for divorce separately, you’ll need to complete and present the following papers to the court clerk: 

To start the divorce process, you will need to provide these three forms to the court. After filling out each form, make two copies of each document. The originals will go to the court for filing, one set of copies should stay with you, and the second set of these divorce papers will be served to your spouse. 

Next, plan your visit to the local courthouse. Go to an establishment in the county where you and/or your spouse have legally resided for the past 91 days. 

At the local courthouse, you’ll need to file these forms with a clerk. Alternately, your divorce attorney can do that for you, in case you have already found one. Right now, this needs to happen in person. However, there is a beta program for online divorce filing in Colorado that you may qualify for.

The clerk will provide you with a signed summons copy. Additionally, they can also give you:

  • A Case Management Order (CMO) asking to provide extra documents or perform mandatory action (e.g. attend parenting classes) by a certain deadline. 
  • Notice of initial status conference (ISC) — a date when you’ll need to appear to the court and file the remaining documents. 

After meeting with the clerk, make a copy of the signed Summons form and, if you've received them, the CMO and the ISC Notice. Pack these documents together with the Petition and Case Information Sheet. This is the document packet you’ll need to serve to your spouse.

Colorado Divorce Forms Without Kids

When no kids are involved, there are fewer papers to deal with. Most uncontested divorces without kids can even be finalized without courtroom appearances. Though, you may still need to attend the initial status conference (ISC) in person.  Without kids, you can still choose to file for divorce either jointly or separately. 

When filing separately, download and fill out these three forms first. If filing jointly, you'll only need the first two:

As in the previous cases, a copy of these papers must be served to the other party, along with a copy of a CMO and Notice of ISC (if any). Serving can be done by mail or by hand-delivery, but you can get more information on how to serve divorce papers in Colorado below. 

How to Serve Divorce Papers in Colorado? 

First and foremost — you cannot serve your own divorce papers yourself in Colorado. But you do have several other ways that you can serve divorce papers to your spouse:

Serving by regular mail

Your first option is to personally send the divorce papers by regular mail. This is allowed. Apart from the aforementioned copies of the documents, you also need to download and print two copies of the Acceptance of Service form. This document must be signed by your spouse as their acknowledgment of receiving the divorce papers. They must also mail back a signed copy to you so that you can submit it to the court, along with other required documents.

Serving by regular mail works best when your spouse is ready to collaborate. 

Serving by certified mail

Alternatively, you can mail all the papers via “certified/registered mail with return receipt requested.” You can prepare and mail the letter yourself at the Post Office. The post office will give you a slip, proving that you’ve sent the letter. Hold onto it, and be sure not to misplace it! 

The postal service will attach a green card to your letter, called the "return receipt.” When handed the letter, your spouse must sign this card to confirm that they received it. Then, the postal service will mail the card back to you. 

Keep both documents — the slip and the return receipt — as you’ll need to provide them to the court as proof of serving, along with the Proof of Service form. Also called “Affidavit of Service,” this document is a legally binding statement that details how you’ve served the divorce papers.  

Serving by hand delivery

Of course, your soon-to-be-ex can refuse to sign the return receipt. In that case, the envelope will be mailed back to you, and you should try another route. 

Hand-delivery is the third way of serving divorce papers in Colorado. Remember, you can’t personally give the papers to your spouse. But you can:

  • Ask someone close (a family member or a common friend) to serve the papers to your spouse. You can also ask another person. The only requirement for the server is to be aged above 18 and not part of the divorce case. 
  • Enquire with your local sheriff if they provide serving services in your county. 
  • Hire a professional process server who’ll locate your spouse and hand them the papers. 

In all three cases, the person doing the hand-delivery will have to sign the Proof of Service form.

How Long Does it Take to Be Served with Divorce Papers?

It depends on the selected method. If you are serving your spouse by certified mail, your letter should reach them in 5 days on average (if you are in the same state). You can also opt for a speedier hand-in document courier service for same-day delivery. Or choose the right moment and approach them for personal service. Remember, the official 90-day waiting period begins only after your spouse was served. 

What's Next When You Can't Serve the Divorce Papers?

Finally, alternative scenarios are possible if the spouse's whereabouts are unknown, they serve in the military, live abroad, or are in jail. In such cases, you'll need to file a separate motion with the court to request service by publication or by posting.  At this point, it’s best to have a divorce attorney at your side. 

What Happens After the Divorce Papers Are Served?

There is a mandatory 91-day waiting period that represents the absolute minimum amount of time before a divorce can be finalized. This waiting period starts either on the day of joint filing in an uncontested divorce or on the day of service in a contested one. It is much more common that the divorce will take longer than 91 days, but that is the minimum amount of time. During this time and before your set ISC date, both you and your spouse will also need to complete and sign the following forms depending on whether or not you have children: 

Filing with children - forms to complete before ISC

  • JDF 1111 – Sworn Financial Statement (Both parties must complete their own).
  • JDF 1113 – Parenting Plan. (Can be filled separately or jointly)
  • JDF 1115 – Separation Agreement (Can be filled separately or jointly)
  • JDF 1104 – Certificate of Compliance (Both parties must complete their own)
  • JDF 1117 – Support Order (Can be filled separately or jointly)
  • JDF 1116 – Decree (fill in the caption only)
  • Child support worksheet A or B 

Filing without children - forms to complete before ISC

  • JDF 1111 – Sworn Financial Statement (Both parties must complete their own).
  • JDF 1104 – Certificate of Compliance (Both parties must complete their own)
  • JDF 1115 – Separation Agreement (Can be filled separately or jointly)
  • JDF 1116 – Decree (fill in the caption only)
  • JDF 1201 – Affidavit For Decree Without Appearance (applicable for uncontested divorces)

Optionally: you may also need to fill in a JDF 1129 form – Pre-trial Statement if you and your spouse cannot agree on certain matters, stated in the separation agreement. You’ll have to bring all of these papers to the initial status conference.  

How to Fill Out Divorce Papers?

Most of the Colorado divorce paperwork comes with baseline instructions and notes on which fields you must field and what type of information you are required to provide. Certain divorce papers such as a Parenting Plan, Support Order, and Separation Agreement should be filled together with your spouse. The best option to ensure correct form filings is to consult with a divorce attorney. 

When to Seek Help with Divorce Paperwork

Colorado divorce paperwork may look challenging to navigate on your own. If you are not sure how to fill out divorce papers in Colorado or expect that your spouse may object to certain terms, it's best to hire an attorney that can advocate for your needs, according to Colorado Family Law. A qualified family lawyer can advise you on child custody issues and other potentially contested matters in your case to ensure that your paperwork is solid. To get in touch with a professional, request a free Denver Family Law consultation today!

FAQs about divorce papers in Colorado 

Below are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about divorce paperwork in Colorado. 

How long does it take to file divorce papers?

For the initial filing of divorce petition, information case sheet, and summons (if filing separately), there are no legal time constraints. The filing procedure at a local courthouse takes under an hour (or even faster if there are no queues). However, subsequent divorce paper filings in Colorado such as financial disclosures, parenting plans, separation agreement, and others should be submitted before the court-appointed initial status conference date, scheduled within 42 days after filing the petition. If you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse before that, the court will grant you an extension for filing the remaining divorce papers. 

How do I get a copy of my divorce papers?

Most court-submitted divorce papers (forms) are filled in two copies — you keep one for yourself (or with your attorney) and file one with the court. Your local court clerk checks both versions and lets you keep one. When your divorce is finalized, you will receive a divorce decree. If, for any reason, you’ll need to obtain another copy, you can always request one with a Colorado court division that granted you a divorce. 

What happens if the spouse doesn’t sign divorce papers?

When your spouse doesn’t want to sign the jointly filled court divorce forms, the divorce becomes contested. This means you both will have to appear in front of the judge to make the ruling on your case. Once that happens, the other party will be legally obliged to sign the finalized divorce paperwork, stating the terms of your divorce. 

Do divorce papers need to be notarized in Colorado?

Yes, some of the divorce papers in Colorado may have to be notarized. Particularly, any type of affidavit or sworn legal statements (e.g., a Sworn Financial Statement)  should be signed either in front of a court clerk or a notary public to avoid any grounds for subsequent disputes.  

Can I get a divorce without going to court?

Yes, you can get a divorce without any court appearances in Colorado. This is called an uncontested divorce. In this case, you and your spouse reach an agreement on the terms of our divorce with the help of a family law attorney or a trained mediator. Then sign respective uncontested divorce papers and ask your attorney to file them with the local courthouse. 

What is the fastest way to get a divorce in Colorado?

The fastest way to getting a divorce in Colorado assumes that you already have an agreement on the terms of your divorce and do not plan to lead any further negotiations. If that’s the case, you can work with a family law attorney to prepare your divorce papers, submit them to the court, and pick up your divorce decree once it’s issued in 3 to 4 months. 

When To Bring In An Attorney

Colorado divorce paperwork may look challenging to navigate on your own. If you are not sure how to fill out divorce papers in Colorado or expect that your spouse may object to certain terms, it's best to hire an attorney that can advocate for your needs according to Colorado Family Law. A qualified family lawyer can advise you on child custody issues and other potentially contested matters in your case to ensure that your paperwork is solid. To get in touch with a professional, request a free Denver Family Law consultation today!

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