At the very minimum, a divorce in Colorado can technically take as few as 90 days. This is the mandatory waiting period imposed by the local divorce laws. However, this waiting period only starts when the court receives the signed divorce papers from both spouses, so you will also require time to prepare.
Realistically, the average divorce timeline for an uncontested divorce in Colorado is closer to 4 months. Couples who choose to go to trial through a contested divorce, rather than settle outside of the courtroom, should expect a longer timeline — 6+ months from our experience.
What Impacts the Divorce Timeline in Colorado
Each step of the divorce process requires some preparation. Additionally, there are specific legal timelines you must meet. To better understand how much time your divorce may take in Colorado, let’s take a look at the main process steps.
Filing the Divorce Papers
The first step of the divorce process is to file your petition and case information sheet as either contested or uncontested to a local courthouse. These are the two basic divorce papers required for every type of divorce. If you don’t have kids and file together with your spouse, these two forms suffice to begin the legal proceedings.
However, if you are filing separately, you will also need to prepare a divorce summons form and then serve it to the other party along with the other two documents. The service of process may take some time if your spouse eludes you for some reason or cannot be reached. Thus, you need to factor in the time for both.
How Much Time Do You Have to Respond to Divorce Papers in Colorado?
After being served with the divorce papers in Colorado, the receiving party has 21 days to respond. This is an essential point since the official 90-day waiting period will start only when the court receives the signed forms from two spouses. Respectively, if one party doesn’t want to collaborate at this stage or drags on with the response, your divorce will take longer than three months.
Initial Status Conference (ISC)
After the clerk accepts the initial filing, you will receive two other important documents:
- A Case Management Order (CMO) — this order summarizes which other documents you must prepare and/or requires a party(ies) to perform mandatory action (e.g. attend a parenting class).
- Notice of initial status conference (ISC) — details when you’ll need to appear to the court to file the documents, request in CMO.
The initial status conference is scheduled approximately 42 days after your filing, and it is held in the jurisdiction where the motion is filed. By this time, ideally, you will need to prepare the following set of documents:
- Financial disclosures (financial statements)
- Parenting plan (if divorcing with kids)
- Support order (if divorcing with kids)
- Separation agreement (if you could reach one)
If the divorce is contested, it will be placed on the court docket. After the initial status conference, temporary orders may be set for payment of debts, child support, custody, and other matters while the divorce is pending.
Overall, during the ISC, the court will provide you with a further estimated timeline of your divorce. If by the ISC date, you have settled on most matters, you can receive your divorce decree shortly after the 90-day waiting period is over.
However, in reality, many couples require more time to decide on the terms of their separation.
You are given 20 days from the filing date to work on financial disclosures. This is the opportunity for each party and their lawyer to understand what the marital estate entails and make the best possible decisions. The goal is to have a set of financial documents with nothing omitted — including student loans, credit card debts, the value of cars, and other property.
However, if one party doesn’t wish to collaborate and provide disclosure information, the financial disclosure filing period can be extended to 42 days. Also, the court may grant an even further extension during the ISC if there are reasonable circumstances for that.
The 90-day-minimum waiting period is the time when parties attempt to settle the divorce through alternative dispute resolution, mediation, and settlement conferences. If this is not possible, both parties prepare for trial. The latter obviously will extend the timeline of your divorce in Colorado.
If you could reach a settlement before your ISC date, you’ll need to fill in and bring JDF 1115 – Separation Agreement form. If you agree only on certain matters, prepare JDF 1129 form – Pre-trial Statement. The court will then refer to this document to make the final ruling after hearings.
To sum up: The realistic divorce timeline will be determined during the Initial Status Conference. If you and your spouse are parting ways on good terms and agree on most matters, you may be able to divorce faster (in about 3-4 months). However, any frictions or delays in document submissions or settlement negotiations will extend your divorce timeline in Colorado to 6+ months.
Other Factors That Impact the Divorce Timeline In Colorado
Depending on your personal circumstances, other factors may delay your divorce:
- Colorado residency status. You must be a legal resident in Colorado for at least 90 days to file for a divorce.
- Legal separation. If you have already legally separated, then you must wait a minimum of 6 months after the date of your legal separation to request a divorce from a Colorado court.
- Property division. Couples with a sizable amount of joint (marital) property will probably spend more time on property division negotiations. The same is true for high-net-worth individuals with joint assets. If this aspect of your divorce becomes contested, then you may need to attend additional court hearings and this will extend the divorce timeline.
Finally, remember that the divorce cost is proportional to the divorce timeline. The sooner you can settle on most matters (out of court), the more affordable your Colorado divorce will be.
How Can I Speed up a Divorce in Colorado?
To speed up a divorce in Colorado, you should be ready to settle with your spouse out of court. If you can agree on the parting terms and work out a parenting plan with the help of an attorney or mediator, rather than the judge, the timeline of your divorce will be shorter. Prepare to collaborate with your spouse and seek a qualified divorce attorney who can help you with divorce papers submission and prevent case escalation to the trials stage.