Colorado Divorce Law provides specific principles and rules that provide the legal framework for the dissolution of marriages. It is important that divorcing couples are knowledgeable of these laws.
What follows is a highly condensed summary of some of those rules applicable to the most common areas needing to be addressed in divorce mediation.
The following links will take you to various Instructions and Flow Charts outlining how to process your own divorce:
Filing for Divorce
A divorce may be obtained in Colorado Springs if the parties have been domiciled in El Paso County for a period of 90 days immediately preceding the date of filing for a divorce.
The divorce process in Colorado Springs begins with the preparation and filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Summons, and either the Return or Waiver of Service (i.e., if the parties are not filing jointly as Petitioner and Co-Petitioner), and the Case Information Sheet, These forms are filed at the El Paso County District Court, 270 South Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, and must be accompanied by payment of the required filing fees.
You can download, view, and print the forms here: Divorce Forms
After filing of the Petition, Summons and Proof of Service or Waiver, and paying of the Court filing fees, the Court will have jurisdiction (power and authority) to enter temporary and final orders with respect to your divorce.
Upon Service and filing of the Petition, an automatic injunction (court order) goes into effect prohibiting either party from transferring assets, harassing or molesting the other party, or removing the children from the County.
One of the most urgent needs of divorcing couples is to figure out temporary arrangements that specify who will have temporary use of the marital home, other property, parenting time for the children, and handling of debts, etc. for the time period prior to the entry of a final divorce decree.
This is where mediation is particularly effective. Emotions typically run high at this time of change and the calming presence and knowledgeable of a skilled mediator can help you and your spouse overcome these difficult challenges in a timely manner.
When couples are unable to agree, a court hearing will be set and the court will decide. This is why meditation can help by encouraging an agreement for these kinds of temporary and immediate issues.
When you file the petition, the Court will set a date for an Initial Scheduling Conference at which time the court will advise of your other responsibilities which include completing other paperwork, (Sworn Financial Affidavits, etc.) attending a Parenting Class and possibly Court Ordered Mediation.
At the Scheduling Conference, you will be advised in greater details on what you must do to complete your divorce and obtain the decree.
Common Divorce Issues
The typical issues in a divorce include the following:
- Property Distribution;
- Arrangements regarding handling and paying of debt;
- Custody and Parenting Time of Children
- Child Support; and
- Spousal Support.
To promote the amicable settlement of disputes between the parties to a marriage upon their separation or the dissolution of their marriage, Colorado law allows the parties to enter into a written separation agreement containing provisions for the maintenance of either of them, the disposition of any property owned by either of them, and the allocation of parental responsibilities, support, and parenting time of their children.
If the court finds the separation agreement unconscionable, the court may request the parties to submit a revised separation agreement, or the court may make orders for the disposition of property, support, and maintenance.
This is where mediation is highly effective. By jointly exploring these issues in the presence of an experienced mediator, couples can create timely and jointly beneficial agreements, as opposed to litigious meetings with lawyers on both sides and court imposed solutions when agreement is not forthcoming.
CRS 14-10-113 outlines certain rules regarding the Disposition of Property in a divorce.
Under this statute, the court, shall set apart to each spouse his or her property and shall divide the marital property, without regard to marital misconduct, in such proportions as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors including:
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
- The value of the property set apart to each spouse;
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse with whom any children reside the majority of the time; and
- Any increases or decreases in the value of the separate property of the spouse during the marriage or the depletion of the separate property for marital purposes.
Marital Property means all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage except:
(a) Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
(b) Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
(c) Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation; and
(d) Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties.
All property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage and prior to a decree of legal separation is presumed to be marital property, regardless of whether title is held individually or by the spouses in some form of coownership such as joint tenancy, tenancy in common, tenancy by the entirety, and community property. The presumption of marital property is overcome by a showing that the property was acquired by a method listed above.
An asset of a spouse acquired prior to the marriage or in accordance with the provisions as described above, shall be considered as marital property, to the extent that its present value exceeds its value at the time of the marriage or at the time of acquisition if acquired after the marriage.
Property shall be valued as of the date of the decree or as of the date of the hearing on disposition of property if such hearing precedes the date of the decree.
During the mediation process, the mediator will guide you through a process that will allow you and your spouse to jointly identify and characterize the nature of your property and possible ways of dividing your wealth.
Spousal Support / Maintenance
CRS 14-10-114 outlines the rules regarding Spousal Support.
At the time of permanent orders upon the request of either party, the court may order the payment of maintenance from one spouse to the other. An award of maintenance shall be in an amount and for a term that is fair and equitable to both parties and shall be made without regard to marital misconduct.
Colorado law outlines specific guidelines for an award of maintenance. These rules are a bit complex to apply and are dependent upon each divorcing couple’s unique financial condition, but the general legal principles behind the specific application of the rules of calculation is that in any proceeding for maintenance, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to:
- The financial resources of the recipient spouse, including the actual or potential income from separate or marital property or any other source and the ability of the recipient spouse to meet his or her needs independently;
- The financial resources of the payor spouse, including the actual or potential income from separate or marital property or any other source and the ability of the payor spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs while paying maintenance;
- The lifestyle during the marriage;
- The distribution of marital property, including whether additional marital property may be awarded to reduce or alleviate the need for maintenance;
- Both parties’ income, employment, and employability, obtainable through reasonable diligence and additional training or education, if necessary, and any necessary reduction in employment due to the needs of an un-emancipated child of the marriage or the circumstances of the parties;
- Whether one party has historically earned higher or lower income than the income reflected at the time of permanent orders and the duration and consistency of income from overtime or secondary employment;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The amount of temporary maintenance and the number of months that temporary maintenance was paid to the recipient spouse;
- The age and health of the parties, including consideration of significant health care needs or uninsured or unreimbursed health care expenses;
- Significant economic or noneconomic contribution to the marriage or to the economic, educational, or occupational advancement of a party, including but not limited to completing an education or job training, payment by one spouse of the other spouse’s separate debts, or enhancement of the other spouse’s personal or real property;
- Whether the circumstances of the parties at the time of permanent orders warrant the award of a nominal amount of maintenance in order to preserve a claim of maintenance in the future;
- Whether the maintenance is deductible for federal income tax purposes by the payor and taxable income to the recipient, and any adjustments to the amount of maintenance to equitably allocate the tax burden between the parties; and
- Any other factor that the court deems relevant.
After considering the provisions of this section and making the required findings of fact, the court shall award maintenance only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him or her, to provide for his or her reasonable needs and is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it inappropriate for the spouse to be required to seek employment outside the home.
The maintenance guidelines do not create a presumptive amount or term of maintenance. The court has discretion to determine the award of maintenance that is fair and equitable to both parties based upon the totality of the circumstances. The court shall make specific written or oral findings in support of the amount and term of maintenance awarded pursuant to this section or an order denying maintenance.
The court may award additional marital property to the recipient spouse or otherwise adjust the distribution of marital property or debt to alleviate the need for maintenance or to reduce the amount or term of maintenance awarded.
The court may reserve jurisdiction to establish, review, or modify an award of maintenance at a later date pursuant to the provisions of this section by setting forth:
- The reasons for reserving jurisdiction;
- The ascertainable future event that forms the basis for reserving jurisdiction; and
- A reasonably specific time within which maintenance may be considered pursuant to this section.
The court may award maintenance in short-term marriages, including marriages of less than three years in duration, when, given the circumstances of the parties, the distribution of marital property is insufficient to achieve an equitable result. In determining the award of maintenance, the court may consider the maintenance guidelines and the relevant factors affecting the amount and term of maintenance set forth in this subsection.
In every proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity where temporary maintenance is requested by a party, the court may award a monthly amount of temporary maintenance. The guideline term of maintenance does not apply to temporary maintenance orders. The court shall determine the term for payment of temporary maintenance.
In addition to the relevant factors set forth above, the court shall consider any additional factors specific to the determination of temporary maintenance, including the payment of family expenses and debts.
After determining the amount of temporary maintenance and the amount of temporary child support, the court shall consider the respective financial resources of each party and determine the temporary payment of marital debt and the temporary allocation of marital property.
The Court may require the payor spouse to provide reasonable security for the payment of maintenance in the event of the payor spouse’s death prior to the end of the maintenance term. Reasonable security may include, but need not be limited to, maintenance of life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse.
Again, mediation of this issue with a trained mediator can save divorcing couples time, energy, and money.
CRS 14-10-115 outlines child support guidelines which do the following:
- Calculate child support based upon the parents’ combined adjusted gross income estimated to have been allocated to the child if the parents and children were living in an intact household;
- Adjust the child support based upon the needs of the children for extraordinary medical expenses and work-related child care costs; and
- Allocate the amount of child support to be paid by each parent based upon physical care arrangements.
In determining the amount of child support, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:
- The financial resources of the child;
- The financial resources of the custodial parent;
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
- The physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs; and
The determination of child support occurs primarily from application of the guidelines by utilizing software provided by the State of Colorado. This software program produces a child support amount based upon information provided by the divorcing couple.
This is where mediation helps divorcing couples since the specific definition and determination of what is and is not gross income can be in dispute and it helps to be able to discuss and resolve this matter when sitting side by side with someone who can guide the discussion.
Best Interests of the Children / Custody and Allocation of Parenting Time
One of the most difficult issues faced by divorcing couples is that of with whom the children will live, who will make decisions for the children, and how much time each parent will have to parent the child(ren).
At times, this issue consumes divorcing parties in protracted litigation, requiring multiple child and home evaluations by third party professionals, and a court hearing.
Mediation is a preferred way of mutually addressing and resolving this issue. It can work, but it requires the parties to be knowledgeable of the following principles.
CRS 14-10-124 sets for the guiding principle that decisions regarding where the children live, how much parenting time is allocated to each parent, and who has decision-making authority for the children will be based on a determination of what is in the best interests of the child(ren).
This statute emphatically states:
“While co-parenting is not appropriate in all circumstances following dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the general assembly finds and declares that, in most circumstances, it is in the best interest of all parties to encourage frequent and continuing contact between each parent and the minor children of the marriage after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. In order to effectuate this goal when appropriate, the general assembly urges parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing and to encourage the love, affection, and contact between the children and the parents.”
It also provides that:
The court shall determine the allocation of parental responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making responsibilities, in accordance with the best interests of the child giving paramount consideration to the child’s safety and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child as follows:
(a) Determination of parenting time. The court, upon the motion of either party or upon its own motion, may make provisions for parenting time that the court finds are in the child’s best interests unless the court finds, after a hearing, that parenting time by the party would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development. In addition to a finding that parenting time would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development, in any order imposing or continuing a parenting time restriction, the court shall enumerate the specific factual findings supporting the restriction and may enumerate the conditions that the restricted party could fulfill in order to seek modification in the parenting plan. When a claim of child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault where there is also a claim that the child was conceived as a result of the sexual assault has been made to the court, or the court has reason to believe that a party has committed child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault where there is also a claim that the child was conceived as a result of the sexual assault, prior to determining parenting time, the court shall follow the provisions of subsection (4) of this section. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of parenting time, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:
(I) The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;
(II) The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;
(III) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
(IV) The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
(V) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
(VI) The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor;
(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
(VIII) The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;
(XI) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.
(b) Allocation of decision-making responsibility. The court, upon the motion of either party or its own motion, shall allocate the decision-making responsibilities between the parties based upon the best interests of the child. In determining decision-making responsibility, the court may allocate the decision-making responsibility with respect to each issue affecting the child mutually between both parties or individually to one or the other party or any combination thereof. When a claim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence has been made to the court, or the court has reason to believe that a party has committed child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault where there is also a claim that the child in question was conceived as a result of the sexual assault, prior to allocating decision-making responsibility, the court shall follow the provisions of subsection (4) of this section. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of allocating decision-making responsibilities, the court shall consider, in addition to the factors set forth in paragraph (a) of this subsection (1.5), all relevant factors including:
(I) Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;
(II) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;
(III) Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties.
(1.7) Pursuant to section 14-10-123.4, children have the right to have the determination of matters relating to parental responsibilities based upon the best interests of the child. In contested hearings on final orders regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court shall make findings on the record concerning the factors the court considered and the reasons why the allocation of parental responsibilities is in the best interests of the child.
(2) The court shall not consider conduct of a party that does not affect that party’s relationship to the child.
(3) In determining parenting time or decision-making responsibilities, the court shall not presume that any person is better able to serve the best interests of the child because of that person’s sex.
(3.5) A request by either party for genetic testing shall not prejudice the requesting party in the allocation of parental responsibilities pursuant to subsection (1.5) of this section.
(4) (a) When a claim of child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault where there is also a claim that the child was conceived as a result of the sexual assault has been made to the court, or the court has reason to believe that a party has committed child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault that resulted in the conception of the child, prior to allocating parental responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making responsibility, and prior to considering the factors set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1.5) of this section, the court shall consider the following factors:
(I) Whether one of the parties has committed an act of child abuse or neglect as defined in section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or as defined under the law of any state, which factor must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds that one of the parties has committed child abuse or neglect, then it shall not be in the best interests of the child to allocate mutual decision-making with respect to any issue over the objection of the other party or the legal representative of the child.
(II) Whether one of the parties has committed an act of domestic violence, has engaged in a pattern of domestic violence, or has a history of domestic violence, which factor must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed domestic violence:
(A) It shall not be in the best interests of the child to allocate mutual decision-making responsibility over the objection of the other party or the legal representative of the child, unless the court finds that there is credible evidence of the ability of the parties to make decisions cooperatively in the best interest of the child in a manner that is safe for the abused party and the child; and
(B) The court shall not appoint a parenting coordinator solely to ensure that mutual decision-making can be accomplished.
(III) Whether one of the parties has committed an act of sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child, which factor must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed sexual assault and the child was conceived as a result of the sexual assault, there is a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child to allocate sole or split decision-making authority to the party found to have committed sexual assault or to allocate mutual decision-making between a party found to have committed sexual assault and the party who was sexually assaulted with respect to any issue.
(IV) If one of the parties is found by a preponderance of the evidence to have committed sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child, whether it is in the best interests of the child to prohibit or limit the parenting time of that party with the child.
(c) The court shall consider the additional factors set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1.5) of this section in light of any finding of child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault resulting in the conception of a child pursuant to this subsection (4).
(d) If a party is absent or leaves home because of an act or threatened act of domestic violence committed by the other party, such absence or leaving shall not be a factor in determining the best interests of the child.
(e) When the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child, the court shall consider, as the primary concern, the safety and well-being of the child and the abused party.
(f) When the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child, in formulating or approving a parenting plan, the court shall consider conditions on parenting time that ensure the safety of the child and of the abused party. In addition to any provisions set forth in subsection (7) of this section that are appropriate, the parenting plan in these cases may include, but is not limited to, the following provisions:
(I) An order limiting contact between the parties to contact that the court deems is safe and that minimizes unnecessary communication between the parties;
(II) An order that requires the exchange of the child for parenting time to occur in a protected setting determined by the court;
(III) An order for supervised parenting time;
(IV) An order restricting overnight parenting time;
(V) An order that restricts the party who has committed domestic violence, sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child, or child abuse or neglect from possessing or consuming alcohol or controlled substances during parenting time or for twenty-four hours prior to the commencement of parenting time;
(VI) An order directing that the address of the child or of any party remains confidential;
(VII) An order that imposes any other condition on one or more parties that the court determines is necessary to protect the child, another party, or any other family or household member of a party; and
(VIII) An order that requires child support payments to be made through the child support registry to avoid the need for any related contact between the parties and an order that the payments be treated as a nondisclosure of information case.
(g) When the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed domestic violence, the court may order the party to submit to a domestic violence evaluation. If the court determines, based upon the results of the evaluation, that treatment is appropriate, the court may order the party to participate in domestic violence treatment. At any time, the court may require a subsequent evaluation to determine whether additional treatment is necessary. If the court awards parenting time to a party who has been ordered to participate in domestic violence treatment, the court may order the party to obtain a report from the treatment provider concerning the party’s progress in treatment and addressing any ongoing safety concerns regarding the party’s parenting time. The court may order the party who has committed domestic violence to pay the costs of the domestic violence evaluations and treatment.
(6) In the event of a medical emergency, either party shall be allowed to obtain necessary medical treatment for the minor child or children without being in violation of the order allocating decision-making responsibility or in contempt of court.
(7) In order to implement an order allocating parental responsibilities, both parties may submit a parenting plan or plans for the court’s approval that shall address both parenting time and the allocation of decision-making responsibilities. If no parenting plan is submitted or if the court does not approve a submitted parenting plan, the court, on its own motion, shall formulate a parenting plan that shall address parenting time and the allocation of decision-making responsibilities. When issues relating to parenting time are contested, and in other cases where appropriate, the parenting plan must be as specific as possible to clearly address the needs of the family as well as the current and future needs of the aging child. In general, the parenting plan may include, but is not limited to, the following provisions:
(a) A designation of the type of decision-making awarded;
(b) A practical schedule of parenting time for the child, including holidays and school vacations;
(c) A procedure for the exchanges of the child for parenting time, including the location of the
(d) A procedure for communicating with each other about the child, including methods for communicating and frequency of communication;
(e) A procedure for communication between a parent and the child outside of that parent’s parenting time, including methods for communicating and frequency of communication; and
(f) Any other orders in the best interests of the child.
(8) The court may order mediation, pursuant to section 13-22-311, C.R.S., to assist the parties in formulating or modifying a parenting plan or in implementing a parenting plan specified in subsection (7) of this section and may allocate the cost of said mediation between the parties.