Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the marriage may be dissolved without needing to prove that one party is at “fault.” This also means that marital wrongdoing is irrelevant in a divorce proceeding unless there are child custody safety issues or financial wrongdoing that affect the marital estate. Either spouse may file for divorce without the other’s consent.
In the case of a Legal Separation, husband and wife can similarly separate their finances, domiciles, and parenting time, but the marriage itself remains legally intact. Neither party is to re-marry without converting their Legal Separation to a Decree of Dissolution by the Court.
A Dissolution of Marriage is what is commonly called a “divorce.” At the end of the process, both parties will have divided their assets (including debts) with the help of their respective counsel. If there are children involved, there will need to be further agreements regarding parenting time, parental decision-making, and financial support between the two parents. In a Divorce, the legal marriage itself is terminated and both parties are able to re-marry.
In Colorado, the minimum time between serving the Respondent (or joint filing) and being granted a Divorce Decree or Legal Separation is 90 days. Most divorces in Colorado will typically be completed within one year depending on the factual circumstances of each case.
According to Colorado law, both spouses must provide the Court (and one another) with financial documents in order to best ascertain the value of assets obtained during the marriage. In other words, you must disclose all financial documentation, and then it will be up to the Court to decide what is “separate” property, and what must be divided between spouses. Even though your bank account is only in your name it is still going to be considered marital property if:
Marital debt is “equitably” distributed in the same manner as assets. Normally, the party who is allowed to keep a certain asset (say, a car or a home), will likely be responsible for the corresponding debt.
The house is a marital asset if it was purchased during the marriage. How marital assets are divided depends on the circumstances of your case. If you are able to keep the house in a division of assets, then you will also have to look at your ability to pay the mortgage and expenses. Maintenance (Alimony) may come into play depending on your circumstances. The question of keeping your house requires your attorney to review the facts and circumstances surrounding your current situation.
In Colorado, you don’t have to get married to be legally married. If you are eligible to be married (i.e.; the age of majority, not married to anyone else, mentally capable) then the court looks to a three-prong test to determine if the couple is married under common law. There is no waiting period in Colorado to be married under common law.
Does the couple:
The court will hear evidence from both parties and decide as a matter of fact if the couple is married under common law. Some of the evidence that may be presented to prove a common-law marriage includes:
The judge will calculate the child support amount with a pre-determined formula (Colorado Child Support Guidelines). Unless someone presents evidence of special circumstances, that amount will stand.
Both mother and father are equally responsible for the support of the minor children, and that often implies some sort of financial help from one parent to another, after considering each parent’s income and the number of days (overnights specifically) that each parent spends with the child/children. In other words, if one parent cares for the children 80% of the time, but his/her spouse has a significantly higher income, then he/she will need to pay support to the parent with the lower income. Both parties will need to provide the Court and one another with pertinent financial documentation (pay stubs, income tax returns, etc.).
Your lawyer can help you take the appropriate legal action if your spouse is delinquent in child support payments. There are a number of ways to enforce child support such as seeking a Support Judgment, filing a Contempt Action, or negotiating with your spouse. These are discussed in the child support enforcement section.
Colorado law does not use the word “custody” in its legal terminology; instead, it refers to parental “responsibility”, which includes decision-making and parenting time (formerly called “visitation”). The law distinguishes the right to make important decisions for the child from the right to actual physical parenting time and may split the responsibilities up differently.
The issue of parenting time is a complicated one. Even if the Court feels that both parties are “fit” as parents, they may still grant the majority of parenting time to one parent, because they are influenced by the facts presented that it is in the “best interest of the child”. The Court considers what schedule is best for the child—so it may attempt to establish a certain level of permanency, in addition to maintaining a bond with both parents.
In Colorado, “decision making” privileges are separated because Courts treat them differently. It is possible, and common depending on the age of the children, to have unequal parenting time but shared decision-making responsibilities.
The Court legally aims to rule in what it thinks is the “best interest of the child”. This can be interpreted in many different ways, but it is important to remember that this is the standard by which the Court will rule.