If you are a party to a divorce, the divorce decree (also known as a decree of dissolution of marriage in Colorado divorce law) is the most important document that comes from that process. The decree summarizes the final decision of the court and contains all of the vital information about your case and specific rulings that both parties must abide by.
What Does a Divorce Decree Cover?
Every decree of marriage dissolution (or legal separation) follows the same form and structure. You can review a sample divorce decree here (courtesy of Colorado District Court).
However, the contents of this document will vary depending on the couple’s specific circumstances. For example, a divorce decree between a childless couple with no assets will include fewer provisions and orders than one between a couple with children who share a home and several cars.
In general, a divorce decree will contain orders relating to the following:
- Custody of Minor Children
- Visitation Schedules
- Child Support
- Division of Property
- Division of Debt
- Whether or Not The Wife Will Return to Her Maiden Name
- Other Matters That Were Put Before The Court
Note: there are a few elements of a divorce decree that are somewhat unique to Colorado. First, Colorado family courts don't use terms like 'custody or visitation.' Instead, they refer to parental responsibilities and this term will appear in your decree.
When it comes to the division of property, Colorado is an equitable distribution state. That means that unless another agreement is made, the court will determine what qualifies as marital property is and divide it equitably. Otherwise, like most other states, the divorce decree represents the document of final judgments that both parties are legally obligated to follow.
You can obtain a certified copy of your divorce decree after the matter is finalized at the courthouse. As well, you can order a copy online or pick it up in-person at any time after your divorce at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Why is The Divorce Decree So Important?
A divorce decree is a legal document stipulating certain orders regarding your former marriage, children, and shared assets. Thus it is imperative to understand the terms of it and abide by those terms. If not, there can be significant consequences.
Here are some examples of non-compliance with a divorce decree:
- Refusing to make children available for the other parent’s visitation time
- Failing to pay ordered child support or alimony
- Not maintaining health insurance
- Refusing to deliver paperwork required to sell a shared property.
When a judge finds that someone has willfully disobeyed a decree from their court, they often take enforcing measures. Colorado courts have two types of mechanisms for enforcing divorce decrees:
- A Motion to Enforce: Once granted by the judge, the non-compliant party will be forced to pay the attorney fees for the enforcement, as well as any other costs incurred by the filing party.
- Contempt proceedings: depending on the circumstances, a judge can issue additional rulings that will either remedy the execution of the decree or punish the offending party with a fine or a more severe measure.
How to Deal With a Divorce Decree
The best way to deal with a divorce decree is with the help of a family law attorney. A specialist can explain the language in the document in layperson's terms. They can help you to understand precisely what your rights and obligations are. In the future, should you wish to have changes made, a reliable attorney will let you know if that is possible, and help you petition for divorce decree modifications.