Learn the divorce process in Colorado so you can be prepared for the next step.
The divorce process can be complicated and overwhelming. However, it can be broken down in to several, manageable steps.
The Petition and Summons
The first step in filing for a divorce in Colorado is to file with the court (among other documents), a petition for the “dissolution of marriage” and a “summons.” To petition for a divorce in Colorado, one of the parties must have resided within the state for at least 91 days immediately prior the filing. You can either file for divorce alone or jointly with your spouse. With some exceptions, the petition must be filed in the county where the “respondent” (the person whom must respond to the petition) lives. In order to file the petition, you must pay a filing fee, which is currently $230. If you were served with a divorce petition, there is also a fee to respond, which is currently $116. If you want a temporary injunction that prevents both parties from doing certain acts, then that request must be included in both the petition and summons. Once the petition, summons, and other necessary documents have been filed with the court, the respondent must be served the documents filed and you must file a “proof of service” with the court.
Mandatory Disclosures and the Initial Status Conference (ISC)
After filing the petition, the next step is to exchange “mandatory disclosures.” Mandatory disclosures include a sworn financial statement, other financial documents, and child support worksheets. These documents must be exchanged within 42 days of the filing of the petition, and preferably before the ISC. Additionally, the sworn financial statements and the child support worksheets must be filed with the court in the same period.
Like the exchange of documents, the ISC must also take place within 42 days of the filing of the petition. The ISC is an informal meeting that is handled either by a Family Court Facilitator or a Family Law Magistrate. “At each conference the parties shall be prepared to discuss what needs to be done and determine a timeline for completion [of the divorce]. The parties shall confer in advance on any unresolved issues.” Additionally, if a case management order has not been agreed to by the parties, one is usually issued at the initial status conference. A case management order is simply a schedule showing the dates by which certain things must happen. If requested, this will include a date for a temporary orders hearing.
Temporary Orders Hearings
A temporary orders hearing is a hearing where the court temporarily orders certain obligations of the parties until the conclusion of the divorce. Among other things, temporary orders can be requested for “temporary payment of debts, use of property, maintenance [i.e., alimony], parental responsibilities, support of a child of the marriage entitled to support, or payment of attorney fees.” However, prior to a temporary orders hearing, a settlement conference is required. This conference is intended to be a “good faith [effort] to resolve temporary orders issues.” If the parties cannot agree on the issues, then the temporary orders hearing is held and evidence can be presented by both sides.
In Colorado, settlement of issues among the parties without the court’s involvement is strongly encouraged. To than end, virtually every county in Colorado requires mediation as part of the divorce process. This includes the 4th Judicial District, which encompasses El Paso and Teller Counties. Dealing with family law cases every day, the 4th Judicial District believes that “that the parties involved in the dispute are best suited to resolve their own differences, and are in the best position to arrive at solutions that may address the needs of all parties involved.” Because of this, final orders will generally not be issued without mediation.
Final Orders Hearing
As the name indicates, the Final Orders hearing is the last step in the divorce process. Under certain circumstances, if the parties can reach an agreement on all issues, the hearing can be avoided. If not, the hearing is held to resolve the remaining disputed matters. During the hearing, which is essentially a trial, both parties can present evidence. The hearing generally takes a half day to a day to complete. Thereafter, the Family Law Judge issues an order settling the outstanding issues.
If you are considering a divorce (or a petition has already been filed), please give me a call to see how I can help. All initial consultations are free of charge and all matters at the Saroyan Law Firm are charged on a flat-fee basis so there are never any surprises.