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Divorce in Colorado

Denver Family Law | Divorce

At Tolison & Williams, Attorneys at Law, LLC,
we operate on the family-comes-first principle as Colorado divorce lawyers. We understand the mental toll of undergoing a divorce, family separation, and ongoing negotiations surrounding custody, parenting time, and asset division. That’s why our goal is to help our clients gain the best outcomes the Colorado divorce law allows them to obtain.

Divorce Process in Colorado: Overview

Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. Neither you nor your spouse needs to take the blame for deciding to end your marriage.

This means that marriages can be dissolved when one spouse believes they have "irreconcilable differences" or "irreparable breakdown of the marriage." As such, if one spouse requests to get a no-fault divorce, the other spouse cannot prevent the divorce from happening without going to court.

To only legal requirements for getting a divorce in Colorado:

  • In-state residency for a minimum of 91 days before filling (for one spouse)
  • If children are involved, they must reside in Colorado for at least 181 days
  • The divorce process starts after the mandatory 90-day waiting period

You can choose to file for divorce jointly (if you both come to the terms of separation) or file separately. In this case, you will need to prepare the divorce papers and serve them to another party. As soon as the other side receives the papers and signs them, a 90-day waiting period starts. Therefore, 90 days is the minimum amount of time needed to get a divorce in Colorado.

Step-by-Step Overview of Colorado Divorce Process:

  1. Submit a petition for divorce at the local courthouse. In 2021, some counties accept online divorce filings
  2. If filing separately, serve the divorce papers to another party
  3. Prepare and provide financial disclosures
  4. Attend the Initial Status Conference (this can be skipped if you hired a divorce attorney to represent you)
  5. Attend temporary order hearing (if these are court-appointed)
  6. Sit down for a divorce discovery session (if requested by the other party’s attorney)
  7. Attend mediation (as an alternative to court hearings)
  8. Attend permanent order hearings (if the decision hasn’t been reached at this stage).

Learn more about each step of the divorce process in Colorado here.

Contested Divorce

In a contested divorce, one party files a petition with the court and the other party is expected to respond. This is common when spouses cannot agree on terms of the divorce (like child custody, property division, and other terms), and spouses will need to hire a divorce lawyer in Colorado to help them resolve this dispute.

Signs That Your Divorce May Be Contested

  1. The spouse refuses to sign divorce papers
  2. You cannot reach an agreement regarding child custody
  3. You don’t agree on child visitation and support
  4. The spouse refuses to collaborate when it comes to asset division
  5. They refuse to provide disclosures and financial information
  6. You cannot reach an agreement when filling in a parenting plan
  7. The other party behaves aggressively, threatens, and gaslights you or your children
  8. You believe that you have the right to certain assets, while the other party doesn’t agree
  9. The spouse refuses to consider alimony or is determined to pay minimal child support.
  10. The other party hired an aggressive attorney who bullies you to accept their terms

If you are dealing with any of the above, reach out to our team of family and divorce lawyers in Denver.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on the terms of the divorce. This type of divorce is more streamlined than other types, but it still is best for spouses to consult with an attorney in this case, especially if you divorce with children.

Typically, uncontested divorces can be settled out of court as long as both of you can reach an agreement on the separation teams. Learn how to get an uncontested divorce here.

In our experience, uncontested divorce in Colorado is usually the fastest and cheapest way to separate from your spouse. Our Colorado divorce attorneys are always focused on ensuring that our clients can complete their divorce without attending court hearings to minimize both the emotional and financial costs of divorce.

Got Questions?

Get a free phone consultation with the experts at Tolison & Williams!

Common Law Divorce

Colorado is one of 16 states in the USA that observes common law marriage. You are married by common law if you have done one of the following:

  • You use the same family name
  • You’ve hosted a public celebratory ceremony
  • In everyday life, you refer to each other as ‘husband/wife’
  • You have listed yourself as married on public records
  • You have joint property ownership, checking accounts, and/or file joint tax returns

This form of marriage looks, acts, and smells like a traditional marriage — the only aspect missing is the marriage license administered by the state.

The divorce process for common law marriages in Colorado does not involve court visits. Learn how to file for a common law divorce here. However, you may need to seek legal counsel if you cannot agree on the terms of your separation when it comes to asset division, visitation, or child custody. One of our family and divorce lawyers in Denver can help you decipher the intricacies of common law marriage and divorce.

Collaborative Divorce

Similar to an uncontested divorce, a collaborative divorce is accomplished without the need for court involvement.

Instead, you can hire a divorce attorney, trained in the collaborative law process, to negotiate divorce settlement terms. Doing so is often much simpler than having a judge determine how the marriage will be ended.

Throughout the collaborative law process, all parties agree to come to resolutions without involving courts. This saves both time and money from avoiding litigation. The benefits of collaborative divorce in Colorado are numerous:

  • Avoid the lengthy and costly divorce litigation process
  • Save your children from the trauma of courtroom battles
  • Minimize present conflict and future tensions

Learn more about collaborative law and how it might be the best option for your marriage.


Divorce After a Short-Term Marriage

Couples who have been married for only a small amount of time (under 12 months) can get divorced in a few different ways depending on the circumstances — either via annulment or via traditional divorce.

The overall process of getting divorced after a short-term marriage is similar to traditional divorce, but it is less likely that spousal maintenance or alimony will be awarded to either spouse. In most cases, property division involves more non-marital assets than marital assets, since spouses haven't had time to accumulate these assets together.

Learn more about divorce and short-term marriages here.


Got Questions?

Get a free phone consultation with the experts at Tolison & Williams!

Divorce and Bankruptcy

In today's tough economy, it's no surprise that divorcing couples often have extreme debt matters to handle as well. This can include extensive credit card debt, mortgages, student loans, and car payments. In many cases, if you have a great deal of debt, it is in your best interest to file bankruptcy — either individually or as a couple — before proceeding with a divorce. An experienced divorce lawyer can advise you of your best options.

Our attorneys represent clients in a wide range of divorce matters. In situations of extreme debt, we have the ability to fully analyze the financial information of divorcing couples to determine if bankruptcy may be an option for you. If it is, we can work with your bankruptcy attorney to complete the process, advising on the implications the bankruptcy may have on your divorce.

Understand Your Legal Rights

When considering both a divorce and bankruptcy in Colorado, it is important to be aware of your rights and how they could affect you. Through bankruptcy, you can have much of your marital debt wiped clean — allowing for a fresh start for both parties after the divorce. Filing for bankruptcy also will put an automatic stay on the divorce process, as well as freezing any foreclosures, repossessions, garnishments, or other legal action against you.

The first step is to meet with our family law attorneys to discuss your situation, address your questions and concerns, and understand your options.

Divorce and Debt

A lot of couples enter the marriage with debt or accumulate it during their time together. Some may have extensive credit card debt, mortgages, student loans, and car payments. Respectively, division of debt often becomes one of the central issues in their divorce. An experienced Colorado family law attorney can help ensure that your marital debt is distributed fairly and equitably.

When we represent you in a divorce, we can talk with you extensively about your financial obligations. We often partner with clients to make divorce more cost-effective, employing strategies that save time, money, and stress. We also commit to protecting your best interests and ensuring that you are not paying more than your share.

Can you use a joint bank account to pay your divorce attorney retainer?

One of the first questions we are asked is whether marital funds may be used to pay our team's retainer. The answer is "yes." You can use funds from a joint account to hire your divorce attorney. And if you have a marital credit card, Colorado law allows you to access funds to hire representation.

What information about debt do you need to share with your attorney?

If you do not understand the full scope of your assets and debts, don't worry — that is OK. Many people leave marriages with little knowledge of their true financial circumstances because a spouse has traditionally handled financial matters.

We can often obtain that information during the divorce through a formal legal process known as "divorce discovery." The other side may be required to disclose the information under Colorado family law.

Still, the more information you can give us, the better we will be able to represent you. We recommend looking into your finances and writing down important bank account numbers early in the divorce process. When divorces become contentious, that information often becomes hard to access.

If you enter into your divorce with a great deal of debt, it is important to keep up payments while divorcing so that you do not limit your options down the road. Be sure to keep an open mind as your financial situation changes. You may want to explore other remedies to help you live debt-free. We can discuss your options in a free, confidential consultation.

Divorce and Foreclosures

When seeking a divorce, business owners, doctors, farm or landowners, and other high-income/high-asset individuals face additional complexities. Although they still have to deal with property division, custody, and support matters, these can be elevated to a much higher degree when more assets are involved. In these circumstances, it is in your best interests to hire an experienced family law attorney.

Through the Tolison & Williams firm, we assist clients with a broad range of legal concerns, including high-asset divorce. We are prepared to handle every aspect of your business and asset valuation, working with certified public accountants (CPAs) and other experts to determine the value of both marital and non-marital assets. It is our goal to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.


Farm Divorce Lawyer

Divorces involving farmland also can cause potential complications. Issues can include a substantial number of assets, debts related to equipment, and inherited property that may not be subject to division.

As an experienced Brighton high-asset divorce lawyer, we are able to handle all aspects of your farm valuation. In addition, we can help with all other assets and debts, as well as advise on every aspect of the divorce, including custody and support.

High-Asset Divorce

With the difficult housing market, it is not uncommon for divorcing couples to be facing foreclosure of their shared home. Although creditors may only base their collection actions on the person listed on the mortgage, the divorce courts will view the debt as a joint responsibility. In these situations, it may be possible to settle the foreclosure before divorce proceedings begin, eliminating the need to include it in debt division matters. An experienced divorce lawyer can advise you of your options.

Our team has the knowledge and skills to assist clients with even the most complex divorce concerns, including foreclosure issues. We can thoroughly analyze your situation to provide an honest assessment of your options. Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to use tactics that will stop your foreclosure.

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Know Your Options In Adams County and the Whole Denver Metro Area

When dealing with a divorce and foreclosure in Colorado, it is important for all involved parties to understand the options available. A foreclosure can have intense ramifications on both parties after a divorce. Several strategies can be used to eliminate the foreclosure complications from your divorce. These include short sales, loan modifications, and bankruptcy. We will work with you to find the best possible solution and guide you through the legal process at every step, from initial consultation to the finalization of your divorce.

Frequently Asked Questions on Divorce

There are a lot of unanswered questions about divorce. We've answered some of the most common ones below:

Do I need an attorney to get divorced?

Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, which means that an attorney is not required. It's important to understand that the outcome of your divorce might be affected if you decide not to seek the services of an attorney.

Some people think that they can split amicably with their spouse without a lawyer, but it's not uncommon for issues to arise that can create deep rifts and cause lasting emotional and financial damage.

How long will the divorce take?

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. Click here to learn more.

How do I file my petition as either contested or uncontested?

After the initial filing, the parties work on financial disclosures. This is the opportunity for each party and his or her 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, value of cars and other property.

In approximately 40 days, a status conference is held in the jurisdiction where the motion is filed. If the divorce is contested, it will be placed on the court docket. The divorce will be not be completed any sooner than 92 days from the filing date.

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. Additionally, this 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.

How do I make a divorce faster and less expensive?

Divorce has a reputation for being stressful, but there are things you can do to limit the loss of time and money and to limit the stress that divorce can bring. At our Brighton-area law firm — Tolison & Williams, Attorneys at Law, LLC — we often share a series of tips for making divorce faster and less expensive.

  1. Decide what matters
    If your spouse is amicable and you are reasonably able to discuss the issues you are facing, try to sit down and have a conversation about what's important. What would it look like if you were both content with your lives post-divorce? Knowing what you're aiming for makes it easier to make overall decisions about your divorce.
  2. Agree to uphold parenting ideals
    If you have kids, talk about your beliefs regarding raising kids in two households. What goals do you have for your children in the divorce process? What things do you agree on as parents? When parents can agree not to take actions that hurt their children — like telling them about the other parent's shortcomings and bad behavior — they can both avoid those behaviors. The result is a divorce that's less stressful for the children.
  3. Try Mediation
    This approach can save money, too. Even if parents are not able to come to an agreement regarding child custody and parenting responsibility, they may be willing to mediate those issues. Mediation is generally considered to be less expensive than litigation. In mediation, you and your attorney will work with a certified mediator who can assist you and your spouse in coming to an agreement.
  4. Keep reasonable expectations
    The most important tip we can give is to have reasonable expectations about your divorce. Talk with your lawyer about your situation, get a clear picture of your assets and understand how the court may view your relationship with your children. The best way to achieve an inexpensive and quick divorce is to be realistic about the end of your marriage so that you can begin investing in your future.

What are common divorce mistakes?

There are a lot of mistakes that people can make when getting a divorce. We've listed out the top 10 mistakes below:

  1. Hiding money
    This is one of the worst mistakes a person can make in a divorce. When you deliberately hide money from your spouse, you run the risk of the court finding out. If your actions are discovered, the judge may side with your spouse and award him or her the larger share of your property — exactly the opposite of what you hoped to accomplish.
  2. Lying to your lawyer
    Lying to your lawyer can only work against you because when issues come up in your divorce, your lawyer will not be prepared to properly represent you. Lost your temper? Went out for a wild night? Did something you regret? It may feel painful now, but it's best to fess up. Remember that your relationship with your lawyer is protected by the attorney-client privilege so that anything you say to her is confidential. Your lawyer won't tell on you, but she will use the information you provide to represent you to the fullest.
  3. Saying bad things about the other parent in front of your kids
    Judges don't hesitate to take action against parents who alienate their children from the other parent. Like hiding assets, this plan can backfire. Judges may punish you for your bad behavior by ordering less parenting time or awarding child custody to the other parent.
  4. Not having realistic expectations about your assets and debts
    Sometimes people expect to earn money in a divorce. The truth is that things rarely work this way. Expecting your divorce to be a get-rich-quick scheme can lead to disappointment. In a divorce, the assets that formerly supported one household must now be divided to support two, so spouses' standards of living often decrease — not increase.
  5. Fighting just to fight
    Many people get so caught up in their divorces that they spend thousands of dollars fighting over the lawn gnome or Aunt Hilda's favorite casserole dish. Only after things calm down do they realize that they've wasted valuable resources on something that didn't matter in the long run. When a divorce becomes contentious, turn to your lawyer to help you keep a level head.
  6. Being sneaky
    Spouses are often driven to desperate measures in a divorce. They steal computer passwords and break into their spouse's email accounts. They secretly record their spouses or install computer-monitoring software. These approaches can come back to haunt you — especially when kids are involved. During a divorce, it's best not to do anything you wouldn't want the judge to know about.
  7. Emptying your bank accounts
    Your divorce may seem like a good time to go on a spending spree. But the judge will probably learn about your latest shopping trips, exotic vacations or the rounds of drinks you bought the entire bar. It's best to be wise, frugal and respectful with your money during a divorce. Save celebration for later, after the matter is finalized.
  8. Facebook misbehavior
    It may be tempting to send out an angry tweet, slam your spouse on Facebook or post explicit details about your latest wild adventures, but holding back is a good idea. More and more, social media is being used as evidence in Colorado courtrooms. Your conduct is relevant to the outcome of your divorce, so put your best foot forward.
  9. Reassigning your stuff
    In the time just before your divorce or during the divorce process, don't dispose of marital property by selling stuff or giving it to family members. In Colorado, as soon as you begin the divorce process, you cannot dispose of marital assets. Courts may trace assets disposed of just before the divorce if they suspect that something isn't right.
  10. Not seeing a lawyer to make sure that agreements are enforceable and realistic
    You may think that you can handle your divorce on your own. You may be right, but the best way to protect your interests is to meet with a lawyer — at least for an hour or two — to review your divorce plans. You may be overlooking important factors or failing to take opportunities. When it comes to your divorce, time with an experienced attorney is well worth it.

Consider a Free Consultation with A Colorado Divorce Attorney

Setting up a consultation with a divorce attorney can be easier than you’d expect. Some law firms, like ours, even offer free initial consultations so you can learn whether or not you like that attorney well enough to hire them. Many attorneys even offer online consultations or meetings to make accessibility easier for their clients who may be limited time-wise or can’t travel easily. If you are on the hunt for a divorce attorney, reach out to our team at Tolison & Williams for a thorough and family-first approach to practicing family law.