Whether you are considering a divorce, or you have already decided that a divorce is inevitable, it is important to understand what the divorce process entails so that you know what to expect. Going through a divorce can be emotionally-draining and scary. However, if you have a basic understanding of how the process works, the system is much less intimidating.
Filing for Divorce and Serving Your Spouse- The first step to obtaining a divorce is to file the appropriate paperwork with the court. You will be required to pay the court a filing fee of approximately $230. The court will then provide you with a case number and assign you to a judicial officer’s division.
After you file the initiating documents with the court, you will need to serve a copy of these documents on your spouse. This is called service of process. Service can be completed in more than one way. You can hire a private process server or sheriff to hand deliver the documents to your spouse. Or, your spouse can elect to sign a waiver of personal service and informally accept the documents from you.
It is important to know that the day your spouse is served starts a 91 day waiting period during which the court cannot grant your divorce. Therefore, at a minimum, the divorce process will approximately three months. Often times, the process takes much longer than three months, and in some situations can take a year or longer.
Filing a Response- If you are the spouse who has been served with divorce documents, it is important to know that you must file a Response with the court within 21 days if you were served in the State of Colorado, or within 35 days if you were served outside the state. If you retain an attorney, your attorney will prepare and file this Response for you.
Financial Disclosures- In every divorce case, spouses are required to exchange certain financial information with each other, usually early on in the divorce process. Each spouse must provide a sworn statement of their income, monthly expenses, assets, and debts, along with supporting documentation to verify what is reported. Therefore, as soon as the divorce process starts, it is wise to begin to collecting and organizing this information.
Initial Status Conference (ISC)- Within 1-2 months after your case is filed, the court will require both parties and their attorneys, if represented, to appear for an Initial Status Conference. This court appearance is primarily a scheduling conference during which the court may inquire into the disputed issues and set deadlines to keep the divorce moving forward.
Mediation- Most courts are now requiring that parties participate in mediation to try to resolve their disputes outside of court. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where the parties work with a neutral mediator to try to reach agreements. The mediator cannot and will not make decisions for the parties, but rather assists the parties to try to come to common ground.
If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement on some or all of the disputed issues, a written document will be drafted outlining all of your agreements. This document will then be filed with the court, and in some situations when a full agreement is reached, may eliminate the need for the parties to appear before the court.
Parenting Class- In most counties, parties who have children of the marriage are required to attend a parenting class and file a certificate of participation with the court. Information about the parenting class is usually contained in the court’s Case Management Order, which is issued after the case is filed.
Temporary Orders Hearing- While not required, a Temporary Orders hearing can be requested at the Initial Status Conference if there are temporary issues that the parties need the court to resolve while the divorce is pending. For example, a Temporary Orders hearing may be requested if one spouse is seeking temporary child support and/or temporary maintenance/alimony. Temporary Orders may also address temporary parenting time, if the parties cannot come to an agreement. It is important to understand that any orders entered at the Temporary Orders hearing are temporary only, and all of the issues raised at Temporary Orders may be re-litigated at the final divorce hearing.
Permanent Orders Hearing- The final divorce hearing is called the Permanent Orders hearing. If the parties are not able to settle all issues pertaining to the divorce, such as parenting issues, division of property and debts, child support, and maintenance, the parties will appear for the Permanent Orders. Each party will have the opportunity to present their case to the court with regard to each disputed issue, after which the court will enter orders pursuant to Colorado law.
Decree of Dissolution- At the completion of your divorce case, the court will grant a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, which is the document that legally divorces you.
This guide is intended to provide a basic overview of the divorce process. However, every case is different. If you have specific questions about your case, it is best to at least consult with an attorney of your choosing.