Getting a divorce is a significant life decision. While you cannot adequately prepare for all the life changes ahead of you, there are specific steps you can take before embarking on the divorce proceedings.
How to Prepare for a Colorado Divorce in 6 Steps
The decision to get a divorce requires both mental and physical preparations. The best way to stave off anxiety and uncertainty is to get educated on all aspects of the divorce.
Here are the steps to take when preparing for divorce:
- Research different divorce strategies.
- Decide on legal representation.
- Prepare divorce paperwork.
- Get your financials in order.
- Plan to attend an Initial Status Conference
- Understand your obligations post-divorce
1. Research Different Divorce Strategies
Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that you and your spouse only need to state that your marriage is beyond repair to begin the marriage dissolution process.
Depending on your circumstances, you may choose to either go through an uncontested or contested divorce process.
- An uncontested divorce is a more amicable termination of the marriage. In this case, you and your spouse already have an agreement on all the divorce-related issues such as custody, child support, division of marital property, and alimony and just need to file the papers. Divorce planning will be lighter in this case.
- A contested divorce assumes that you cannot reach an agreement on certain issues and need legal counsel to settle your disputes. Litigation is the usual route for contested divorces. In this case, divorce attorneys will collaborate with the other party on your behalf and try to negotiate the best settlement possible.
However, a contested divorce can also be de-escalated with a help of a skillful family law attorney. If your spouse is at least somewhat willing to collaborate you can try divorce mediation or obtaining a collaborative divorce
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce—both you and your spouse hire separate legal representation and agree to openly share all the information regarding your divorce and work out an agreement on mutually acceptable terms. In this case, preparation for divorce will involve finding a family attorney to guard your interests and coaching you to do well at divorce deposition.
What is Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is another divorce approach where you hire a neutral third-party (professional mediator) to help you settle the terms of your divorce. Mediation often is a less emotionally draining and costly option for getting a divorce in Colorado than going into court for hearings.
How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation?
If you sense that your divorce won’t go lightly, it’s worth planning ahead for mediation. Here are the steps you should take:
- Research local divorce mediators to better understand their strategy
- Analyze the costs of mediation services and determine how these will be covered
- Make a list of assets, debts, and other marital property
- Prepare all the relevant financial documents
- Think about the main issues you’d want to negotiate and settle
- Separately, make a list of issues you can probably agree on in private
This post further details what you should expect during divorce mediation in Colorado.
2. Find Appropriate Legal Representation.
Depending on your divorce route, you may need an amicable divorce attorney who can lead negotiations with your spouse or a more brazen specialist to protect your best interest in the court. Find a Colorado divorce attorney who best matches your case and can transparently explain your options. Prioritize candidates who have significant experience in cases similar to yours; are responsive and trustworthy.
After you sign on with the divorce attorney, you will have to provide them with your statement of net worth, a preferable custody agreement (if you have children), as well as additional information that you plan to use in your case. So make sure that you have all the necessary document copies ready in advance.
Here’s how to prepare for an initial consultation with a divorce attorney:
- Ask if an attorney has a client intake sheet to fill in
- Consider which divorce route might work best for you
- Prepare a list of all shared assets (debt and property)
- Collect all tax returns, payslips, and other financial documents, illustrating your family income
- Bring relevant marriage documents—a decree, prenuptial and postnuptial agreement, separation agreement
- If you have children, take a copy of their birth certificates, ID documents.
- Make a list of questions you’d like to ask—about their approach, experience, past cases.
- Think about any important facts or evidence a divorce attorney may need to know before taking your case.
3. Prepare Divorce Paperwork
Divorce is a legal procedure. Respectively, be mentally ready for a lot of divorce paperwork.
Here’s what forms to prepare for divorce in Colorado:
- State-required divorce forms (usually filled together with your attorney):
- Case Information
- Custody preferences (if the children are involved)
- Suggested visitation schedule
- Sample parenting plan
- Legal marriage documents
- Marriage decree
- Prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement (if any)
- Separation agreement
- Copy of personal ID (for you, your children, and the spouse)
The above list is a good starting point for getting ready for divorce. Depending on your personal circumstances, your divorce attorney will further advise you on the type of documents and other evidence you may need to bring if the matters become heated.
Need help preparing your divorce paperwork?
4. Get Your Finance In Order
Money matters are a big source of anxiety for divorcing couples, especially if you are financially dependent on your partner or have a long history of co-mingled finances—a common case for gray divorces.
Here’s how to financially prepare for a divorce:
- Consider how you will separate joint assets and liabilities
- Estimate the likely cost of divorce
- Think about how you will fund your post-divorce life
Asset division is often the most contesting part of every divorce. Thus, it’s best to think early on which assets you’d prefer to keep and where you are willing to negotiate.
It’s always worth meeting with financial professionals as part of your divorce preparations. A qualified accountant or financial planner can help you assess the economic impact of your divorce and develop a new strategy for moving further.
Additionally, they could help you:
- Estimate the worth of marital property (e.g. family home)
- Divide business assets from a joint venture
- Look into organizing your retirement funds and investments
The cost of divorce in Colorado can vary significantly. The ballpark rate is $14,500 on average. However, this number can go higher for complicated divorces requiring litigation. So it's essential to start saving money in advance.
Many divorcing couples, however, have shared bank accounts. If that's your case, do open a separate account as soon as you decide to seek a divorce and start putting some income aside so that your spouse cannot access it.
Can I Empty My Bank Account Before Divorce?
If it is your personal bank account, yes, you can. Joint account emptying and closure usually require the presence of two parties. However, it isn’t a smart move to empty any joint bank accounts before the divorce proceedings. Most likely, the money stored in it is marital property and hence, will have to be equitably distributed.
5. Plan for Attending an Initial Status Conference
After the divorce papers are submitted (and served if filled separately) the court clerk will appoint an Initial Status Conference (ISC) date within 42 days.
An ISC is an interim step in the divorce process. During this informal court meeting, you and your spouse will be asked to submit the remaining divorce papers such as:
- Sworn Financial Statement
- Parenting Plan
- Separation Agreement
- Certificate of Compliance
- Support Order
Depending on the outcomes of ISC, several scenarios are possible:
- If you have reached an agreement and documented it in respective forms, your divorce will be finalized in 90 days.
- If some matters are still contested, you can request the court to grant an extension for further divorce discovery, negotiations, or mediation.
However, if you are your spouse cannot reach an agreement after all those steps are completed, the court will then appoint temporary or permanent divorce orders hearings which would involve appearances in front of a judge. This moves the divorce into a contested stage and would make the entire process more financially and emotionally draining.
How to Prepare for Divorce Emotionally
If you anticipate that your divorce may be complex, undergoing marriage counseling and/or therapy can be beneficial for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have kids, speaking with a child therapist may be necessary too if you want to reduce the emotional toll of divorce on your children. Overall, get strong emotional support from your family, friends, or a licensed professional.
6. Understand Your Obligations Post-Divorce
Be pragmatic and estimate how much your single life will cost you. Do you have a place to stay or would you rather keep the house? What if your alimony and child support does not fully cover your new life? Likewise, if you are on the paying side, consider how this will affect your lifestyle too. Think through the adjustments you may need to make in the future.
Finally, move on to organizing other aspects of your life and making decisions regarding shared property, assets, and liabilities. Having a trustworthy divorce attorney at this point can be highly beneficial, as they would help you streamline the divorce preparation and shift focus towards the new future on the other side of the process.
What Happens After You Get a Divorce?
After the most challenging part is over, you will receive a court-issued divorce decree—a legal document stipulating the end of your marriage. You will have to pick it up from the county clerk. Once this formality is done, you can move on to enjoy your new status and plan for the good times ahead.
Common Questions About Preparing for a Divorce
Here are answers to common questions our clients ask when preparing for a divorce.
Does it matter who files for divorce first in Colorado?
No, legally it does not. Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, meaning neither party is expected to come up with reasons for divorce or take the blame. Filing for divorce first, however, would give you the advantage of finding the right legal representation earlier and getting emotionally prepared.
Is Colorado a 50/50 divorce state?
No, Colorado practices the rule of “fair and equitable” division when it comes to assets division and parenting rights allocation. Such distribution doesn’t necessarily assume a 50/50 split—other scenarios are possible. This is in contract to communal property states, where each spouse is entitled to 50 of the divided assets and liabilities.
What should you NOT do during a divorce?
Apart from giving your emotions free reign over your judgment, there are several other things we advise our clients’ NOT to do:
- Abandon children or ignore your parental responsibilities
- Financially withdraw from contributing to shared expenses
- Ignore the option of mediation or collaborative divorce
- Involve the children or other family members in your negotiations
- Acquire extra debt or avoidable expenses
- Act rash and place blame on the other party
What is a fair divorce settlement?
A fair divorce settlement is one that leaves you content with the reached agreements. It’s highly circumstantial and depends on your financial and non-tangible contribution to family finances, household, and child care among other things. The fairest divorce settlements are equitable ones—such where each spouse receives a part, equal to their contribution.
What should you not forget in a divorce agreement?
A divorce agreement should fully cover each party’s rights when it comes to asset division, alimony, child support, custody, and visitation. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may want to include specific provisions about how shared real estate, retirement plans, investment accounts, and other financial matters will be divided. Likewise, specify any obligations regarding ongoing expenses, especially surrounding kids.
Can you date while separated in Colorado?
Yes, you can date other people while being officially separated from your spouse—there’s no Colorado law against that. What you cannot do is legally enter a new marriage before your divorce decree is finalized.