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Divorce – What to Expect

In Colorado, there are multiple steps in the divorce process. While every divorce is different and there is no “one size fits all” approach, there are some general issues and concepts you can expect to encounter as you move though the process. A “no-fault” state, Colorado goes with “no-fault” divorce, meaning you do not have to give a reason, such as adultery, to get a divorce. However, some fault-based arguments could surface when spousal support and property division are considered.

The Residence Requirement

To file in the state of Colorado, either party must have had an established home in Colorado for at least 90 days prior to filing. While this means living in the state for at least three months for most, it doesn’t necessarily have to, as “domicile” means intent rather than a physical address. Intent includes actions such maintaining a voter registration, changing your address or registering a car in the state.

Property Division Basics

During the divorce process, property and debts will be divided between you and your former spouse. Colorado uses “equitable division,” which means the court will divide the property in a way that it deems fair, which may not be equally. Colorado considers many factors when dividing property, including:

  • How much each person contributed toward the marital property, including contributions of a homemaker.
  • The value of property to be given to each spouse.
  • Each spouse’s current financial circumstances.
  • Loss or gain in value of separate property and any deletion of separate property for the purposes of the marriage.

“Marital” property usually means everything you and your spouse acquired while married, except:

  • Gifts given to one spouse.
  • Some items received in exchanged for property owned before the marriage, also known as “separate” property.
  • Property one spouse received after a legal separation.
  • Property both spouses have already decided to exclude, such as items set aside in a prenuptial agreement.

In divorces involving a lot of assets, property division can be a difficult and contentious issue. Having the assistance of an attorney who is experienced in high-asset divorces can help ensure your rights are protected when it comes to the division of property and debts. Contact Burnham Law, our aggressive and strategic attorneys can help.

The Dissolution Petition

A divorce process starts officially with the filing of petition for dissolution of marriage in the Colorado court. If you and your spouse are in agreement on most or all of the issues in your divorce, you can file this petition jointly. If not, you file the petition on your own and deliver a copy to your spouse according to court requirements. He or she then has 21 days to file an answer to the petition with the court.

Initial Status Conference

Within 42 days of the petition being filed, you, your spouse and your attorneys meet with a judge for an “Initial Status Conference.” This informal meeting outside of the courtroom is meant to give both parties the chance to identify the case’s biggest issues. During this conference, the court will also set dates and hear requests from both spouses for temporary spousal or child support orders.

The Financial Disclosure

Both spouses must exchange all their financial information within 42 days of the petition reaching both spouses. This disclosure includes all assets and debts, including retirement accounts. It is important that both sides provide accurate and full information during this exchange so that the property division is properly handled. If one spouse suspects the other spouse is hiding assets, his or her attorney can work to get accurate information using the discovery process. During discovery, one spouse asks the other spouse questions while he or she is under oath.

Hearing for Temporary Orders

After the conference and financial disclosures, either party can request a hearing for temporary orders that will remain in effect until final decisions are made and the divorce is granted. Temporary orders can be for child or spousal support, among other things.

In this stage, both spouses can come to an agreement on their own using mediation or arbitration, or the case will go to a hearing in front of the judge and he or she will make the decisions. Once everything is settled and at least 90 days have passed since the petition was filed, the court will approve the decree of dissolution of marriage, which is legally binding and contains all of the agreements and terms of the divorce. Once approved, both parties are no longer married legally.

Divorce impacts every area of your life, and it’s important that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process. Speak to an aggressive and strategic Colorado divorce attorney about your case as soon as possible, contact Burnham Law today.