Roadmap to Colorado Divorce & Child Custody Procedures
Experts in Advocacy: Denver Family Lawyers
Divorce is never a simple process and every case is unique. There is no cookie-cutter means of approaching the divorce process in Colorado—however, there are key aspects of each divorce that remain the same. Denver Family Lawyers is here to help guide you through your divorce, starting with a roadmap to help you get started.
Read below to get started in your understanding of Colorado divorce and then give us a call at (303) 225-3343 for your free divorce consultation!
1. File the Petition for Dissolution (or Legal Separation)
The process of a divorce or legal separation in Colorado commences with filing a petition in the District Court of the county in which either or both the Petitioner and the Respondent lives. The Petitioner—being the one who files the petition— must have resided in Colorado for at least 91 days before submitting the petition.
2. Serve the Petition to the Other Party
When a divorce petition is filed, the Respondent must be formally served those papers or sign a waiver of service. Once the divorce papers have been served, the Respondent has 21 days (35 days if he or she lives in another state) to file a response.
Once the service is complete or the waiver of service is signed, a temporary protection order (TPO) goes into effect. This ensures that the parties cannot harass one another, that children are not relocated to another state or country, and that no joint assets are hidden or disposed of.
At this time, a 91-day “cooling off” period also starts. The Court cannot finalize a divorce until this period has elapsed.
3. Case Management Order
After the divorce petition is filed, the clerk of court will issue a case management order (CMO) outlining the basic requirements and deadlines for the divorce. The CMO usually states the date and time of the initial status conference (see next point) and is often issued before the Respondent is even served the divorce papers.
4. Initial Status Conference
The initial status conference (ISC) is a brief meeting in court or before a family court facilitator at the courthouse. At this meeting, deadlines are established for exchanging financial information and records, any mediation, and parenting classes. At this time, either party may request emergency or temporary orders for custody or financial issues.
5. Exchange of Financial Documents
Within 42 days of the date the Respondent is served the divorce papers or signs a waiver of service, the parties must exchange financial information and documents. These documents include:
- State and federal tax forms for the past 3 years
- Bank statements
- Paycheck stubs
Both parties must also sign a Sworn Financial Statement, swearing under perjury of law that all statements made and information provided is true and that all mandatory disclosures are made.
6. Parenting Classes
In divorce cases where the parties have children under the age of 17, both parties are required to attend court-approved parenting classes. Upon completion of these classes, both parents must file a copy of a certificate of completion.
7. Hearing for Temporary Orders
Due to the mandatory 91-day waiting period and a number of other factors, no divorce decree can be issued immediately. In the meantime, emergency and temporary orders can be obtained for financial support, such as child support and spousal maintenance, or custody and parenting time. These requests can be made during a temporary orders hearing.
8. Settlement / Mediation
Not all divorce matters require heated courtroom battles. Mediation is non-binding dispute resolution and is often court-ordered prior to setting a permanent orders hearing (see next point). Mediation can also be voluntarily entered into by the parties in a divorce. This process helps avoid the stress and extra expenses of courtroom litigation or a permanent orders hearing.
9. Permanent Orders Hearing
The final step in the Colorado divorce or child custody process is the permanent orders hearing (POH). These hearings are usually scheduled for a half day, but can take up to multiple days if complications arise. Essentially, the POH is a mini trial where witnesses can be called to testify under oaths and exhibits can be presented for admission into evidence. Attorneys generally make opening and closing arguments to highlight the facts and laws that support their clients’ positions. In the end, the court will finalize the divorce decree—however, property division and custody issues are not always finalized at this time.