Colorado Divorce: Basics and Overview
This is a quick and easy guide to the basics of the uncontested divorce process in Colorado.
- Colorado’s residency requirement for divorce: In order to get a divorce in Colorado, you or your spouse must have had your main, permanent home in the state for at least 91 days just before you file your initial divorce papers. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106(1)(a)(i) (2022).)
- No-fault grounds for divorce in Colorado: Colorado is a purely “no-fault” divorce state. That means that the only legally recognized reason (or “ground”) for divorce is that your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” with no reasonable chance that you can repair the relationship. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-110 (2022).)
- Requirements for uncontested divorce: Your divorce will be uncontested if you and your spouse have agreed on all the issues involved in ending your marriage, including the division of your property, alimony, and the custody and support for any minor or dependent children you have with your spouse. You’ll need to have a written marital settlement agreement (known in Colorado as a “separation agreement”), signed by both you and your spouse, that covers these issues. You and your spouse also need to agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken.
- Timeline for uncontested divorce in Colorado: Colorado has a 91-day waiting period before you can get your final divorce. The waiting period starts when you and or spouse filed a joint petition, or—if you filed a petition on your own—when you served the divorce papers on your spouse (more on that below). (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-106(1)(a)(iii) (2022).) In practice, it might take a little more than three months to finalize your uncontested divorce in Colorado, depending largely on whether you have to attend a court hearing (more on that below) and how soon a hearing can be scheduled. If you don’t have a settlement agreement, a contested divorce can take much longer to complete, up to a year or more.
- Separation requirements for divorce in Colorado? No. Colorado does not require you to be separated from your spouse before you can get a divorce.
- Legal terms used in Colorado divorce cases: In Colorado, the legal term for divorce is a “dissolution of marriage.” When the spouses file a joint dissolution petition, one of them is the “petitioner,” and the other is the “co-petitioner.” Otherwise, the spouse who doesn’t sign and file the petition is referred to as the “respondent.”
- Where to file for divorce in Colorado: File your petition for dissolution and accompanying documents with the court clerk’s office in the county where you or your spouse lives. You may file the paperwork at the courthouse or electronically. (Learn more about the process of filing for divorce in Colorado.)
- Main divorce papers to file: The main forms you’ll file to start the divorce process are the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation (JDF 1101) and the Case Information Sheet (JDF 1000). There are separate versions of the petition form, depending on whether you and your spouse have minor or dependent children. With an uncontested divorce, you’ll also file your separation agreement. There are additional forms if you have children.
- Requirements for serving a spouse with divorce papers: When you and your spouse have filed your dissolution petition jointly, there’s no need to go through a formal process for delivering the paperwork to your spouse. Just make sure that you both have copies of all the documents. If you filed the petition by yourself, you’ll need to serve your spouse with the divorce papers. The easiest way to do this is to hand over the documents and have your spouse give you a signed, notarized Waiver and Acceptance of Service. Otherwise, you’ll have to arrange to have a process server (a sheriff or anyone over age 18 who isn’t involved in the divorce) hand-deliver the divorce papers to your spouse (or your spouse's attorney). If you can't find your spouse, ask the court clerk how to request an alternate method of service, like publishing a notice in a newspaper.
- Colorado Child Support Guidelines: Colorado (like all other states) has child support guidelines for determining how much support parents should pay for their children. The guidelines are complicated, but they’re mostly based on the parents’ incomes and parenting time with the kids. Judges may order support amounts that differ from the guideline amount, but only if they find that adhering strictly to the guidelines would be “inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate” under the circumstances. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-115 (2022).)
When you use 3StepDivorce™, you’ll be able to easily calculate the correct amount of support with the Colorado Child Support Guideline Worksheets. You and your spouse may agree to an amount of child support that differs from the guideline amount, but the judge will review your agreement to determine if the amount of support is adequate. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-115(d) (2022).)
- Colorado rules on child custody: Whether parents agree on custody-related issues for their children or a judge has to decide for them, Colorado child custody laws require that both the allocation of decision-making responsibilities (sometimes called legal custody) and the arrangements for parenting time (sometimes called physical custody) serve the children’s best interests. The law spells out the circumstances that judges must consider when they’re deciding what would be in the kids’ best interests. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-124 (2022).)
- Colorado rules on property division: Like most states, Colorado uses the “equitable distribution” rule for dividing marital property and allocating marital debts between the spouses in a divorce. Judges will base their decisions on what’s fair under the circumstances of each case. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-113 (2020).) This won’t necessarily result in a 50-50 split between the spouses (as in “community property” states such as California and Texas). As with other issues in a divorce, couples may agree on how they choose to divide their property and debts, but the judge will review the agreement to make sure that it’s fair to both spouses.
- Parenting class requirements: Colorado law allows judges to order divorcing parents to attend a parenting education class that deals with the effects of divorce on children. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-123.7 (2022).) In many counties, the courts require all couples with minor children to complete the course before they may get their final divorce. The costs vary depending on the approved provider, but they’re typically between $50 and $100.
- Financial disclosure requirements in Colorado: Within 42 days after the spouses file a joint dissolution petition (or after the respondent was served with the divorce papers), they must exchange financial information with each other about their income, debts, and assets. They don’t have to file the schedules and supporting documents with the court, but each must file their Sworn Financial Statement. (Colo. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 16.2(e)(2), (6) (2022).)
- Hearing requirements to finalize divorce in Colorado: Generally, you will have to attend a court hearing before a judge will sign your final dissolution decree, even when you have an uncontested divorce. However, if you and your spouse don’t have any minor children together (or if you both have attorneys and a settlement agreement that deals with all child-related issues), you might be able to skip the hearing. You’ll need to file an Affidavit for Decree Without Appearance of Parties. A judge will then decide whether or not you need to attend a hearing. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-120.3 (2022).)
- Default divorce in Colorado: If your spouse hasn’t responded to your dissolution petition or appeared at any court conferences, you may request a default divorce based on what you requested in the petition. You’ll need to serve your spouse with a copy of the default application or motion. But be aware that the judge could set aside your dissolution if your spouse requests it and has a good reason for not responding or appearing before. (Colo. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 55 (2022).)
- Colorado laws and rules on divorce: Colorado Revised Statutes, §§ 14-10-101 through 14-10-133. Some rules in the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure apply to dissolution cases.
- Divorce records: You may request your Colorado divorce records from the court clerk’s office in the county where you were divorced. Generally, you’ll have to request the records in person or by mail. Learn more about how to find and obtain Colorado divorce records.