Like those notorious Denver springs, your romance had your heart abloom, only to be dashed by an April snowstorm. While it may be comforting knowing you can get a few more runs out of that yearly ski pass, getting through a divorce can be more dicey than a night out on Colfax Ave. Here are some of the basics of Denver divorce law to help you navigate the process like only a Coloradoan can.
What Does a Divorce Do?
Denver has two ways to end a marriage or domestic partnership: annulment and divorce, also known as “dissolution of marriage.” Each process can also be different if you have children. Although this article focuses mainly on divorce, it is important to know which process, if any, may apply to you before you begin.
A divorce, known in Denver as a "dissolution of marriage" or "dissolution of domestic partnership," legally ends your marriage or civil union. You and your spouse will be legally single following the divorce and will be allowed to re-marry or begin another a domestic partnership. The court can also resolve issues regarding division of your shared property, restraining orders, child custody and visitation orders, child support, or spousal or partner support (also known as alimony) as part of divorce proceedings.
An annulment is when a court rules that your marriage or domestic partnership was never legal in the first place, and therefore was never valid. This could be because either you or your spouse were already married, were too young to consent to the marriage, or were tricked or forced into the marriage. An annulment has the same legal effect as a divorce.
Denver also has a third process called a legal separation. Like a divorce or an annulment, it may allow you to ask a court to decide issues like child custody, child support, and restraining orders. However, a legal separation doesn’t end your marriage or domestic partnership, so you can’t get re-married or enter into a new civil union with someone else.
Do I Need a Reason for Divorce in Denver?
Colorado is what is known as a “no fault” divorce state, meaning the courts don’t consider misconduct by either spouse when deciding a divorce. You may simply tell the court that your marriage has had an “irretrievable breakdown.” You should be aware that you or your spouse can decide to end the marriage, and the other cannot obstruct the process by refusing to participate. Even if your spouse does not participate in the divorce case, you may be able to get a “default” judgment and the divorce will go through.
How Do I File for Divorce?
The Denver District Court has Family Court Facilitators that might be able to assist you with divorce proceedings if you can’t or don’t want to hire an attorney. Be aware that the paperwork you can file will be different for those with children and those without. Generally, the process begins with a Petition filed with the court giving it some basic information about you, your spouse, and your marriage.
If you and your spouse are not filing jointly, Denver requires you to also file a Summons, with important information for you and your spouse about the divorce process. These and additional divorce forms can be found on the Colorado Judicial Branch website. After filing your paperwork, you may have to attend mediation or a trial to settle contested issues if you can’t agree with your spouse on all the issues in your divorce. If you can come to an agreement on your own, the court will generally accept your agreement.
Your divorce paperwork can be filed at the City and County Building on 1437 Bannock Street in Room 256. You can reach the court at (720) 865-8301, and get more Denver courthouse information online.
What Happens After I File For Divorce?
Before a divorce can be granted, all property division issues, child custody and child support issues (if applicable), will be settled either by an agreement between you and your spouse, or by the court. This may require attending mediation or a hearing before a judge. Denver also has a 3-month waiting period required by Colorado law. As a result, the divorce won’t be final until at least three months after divorce it is approved.
Contact a qualified attorney.