Property Division in Colorado

By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.

There are many urban legends out there about divorce in Colorado.  One of those is that Colorado requires an equal division of the marital estate.  It simply is not true.  Instead, Colorado is an equitable division state.   So, of course, the next question is, “What does that mean?”

The Court must divide the marital estate “in such proportions as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors including:

  1. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  2. The value of the property set apart to each spouse;
  3. 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
  4. 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.”

One example of real life application of these factors is one spouse expending substantial premarital funds to help remodel the marital home, resulting in an increased value of that asset.  Based upon the amount, this could result in a greater share of the marital estate being awarded to that spouse.  This seems equitable.

Another example is if it is a short term marriage, one spouse has been the breadwinner whose funds acquired the marital assets and the other spouse has not done much to contribute to the estate, the household, or otherwise.  An argument can be made that the hardworking spouse should receive a greater share of the fruits of his/her labor.  This seems equitable.

Let’s say that one spouse has received substantial inheritance, which is all separate property, whereas the other spouse, who will receive none of the separate property in the divorce, worked throughout the marriage to contribute to creating the marital state as it exists at the time of the divorce.  It could be equitable to award more of the marital estate to that spouse, recognizing that the separate property will be enjoyed by the other.  This seems equitable.

Finally, it would seem equitable for parties to a long term marriage, who have both contributed to the marriage in various forms, who have no separate property and what estate exists was due as a result of their partnership, to each receive half.

The key, as reflected within these examples, is the specific facts of the particular couple.  What is equitable depends on “all relevant factors,” with some factors being more relevant than others depending on the path the relationship has taken.  While some fact patterns do result in an equal division, others do not.   Don’t fall for the urban legend.



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