When contemplating or facing divorce or legal separation in Colorado, it helps to understand the overall process involved. Because legal proceedings are foreign to most people and can cause a lot of stress, understanding the discrete phases of the divorce or legal separation process in Colorado can not only reduce such stress, but help you to prepare for the steps involved.
Initial Paperwork: Filing and Service
The divorce or legal separation process in Colorado begins when one or both spouses (jointly) complete and file the initial paperwork, which primarily consists of: (1) a Petition (or a Co-Petition) for Dissolution of Marriage, Civil Union, or Legal Separation and (2) the Domestic Relations Case Information Sheet. There may also be additional documents to be submitted along with these two documents. The spouse or spouses completing this documentation will submit it to the district court in the county where they live. When documents are submitted to the court, it is referred to as “filing” with the court. There is a filing fee to submit along with the Petition.
If the two spouses are NOT filing the initial paperwork jointly, i.e., a Co-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Civil Union, or Legal Separation, then the filing spouse must also serve his or her spouse with the initial paperwork. Service ensures that the other spouse becomes aware that divorce or legal separation has been initiated, and that they can also respond to the Petition. If the filing spouse is represented by an attorney, the attorney will arrange for service of the initial paperwork on the responding spouse.
Once the initial paperwork has been completed, filed, and served on the responding spouse, the divorce process is formally initiated.
Financial Disclosures and the Initial Status Conference
Every court is required to schedule an Initial Status Conference (ISC) to occur within 42 days after the Petition or Co-Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage, Civil Union, or Legal Separation is filed. Often, the court will inform the Petitioner of the date of the ISC at the time of filing the Petition. If spouses are not Co-Petitioners, then the attorney handling the filing of the Petition will usually include a notice of the date of the ISC along with the other initial paperwork when serving the other spouse.
During the ISC, both spouses will be present, and the Court will explore any issues that are disputed among the spouses and explain next steps in the divorce or legal separation process in Colorado. We’ve written more extensively about the ISC in our post, What to Expect for Your Initial Status Conference.
Also prior to the ISC, the parties will need to complete their mandatory financial disclosures, which include information about employment, assets, debts, income, and expenses. Certain additional financial information or documentation may also be required to be provided to your spouse as part of this process. Finally, if minor children are involved, you should have your required parenting class completed prior to the ISC.
Establishing the Terms of the Divorce or Legal Separation
Following the Initial Status Conference, the parties are required to determine the terms of their divorce or legal separation. This phase involves coming to agreement on all outstanding issues relating to finances, housing, and parenting, if applicable. If both spouses are represented by attorneys, the attorneys can facilitate this process.
However, if the parties aren’t able to agree on the terms of their divorce or legal separation with the help of their lawyers, the Court will order the spouses to participate in mediation. Mediation involves a neutral, third-party mediator who helps the spouses explore options for resolving any outstanding issues. If mediation doesn’t resolve the outstanding issues involved in the parties’ divorce or legal separation case, then the parties must go to trial, which is held at a Permanent Orders Hearing.
When both parties agree on the resolution of issues in their divorce or legal separation, the ISC and remaining hearings may be simplified, and to some extent, even eliminated. To learn more, see our prior blog post here about the divorce process when both parties agree.
If you are contemplating or facing divorce or legal separation in Colorado, speaking with an experienced divorce attorney can help you further understand and prepare for the divorce or legal separation process in Colorado. Nicol Gersch Petterson is ready to assist you with your divorce needs.
Need More Help?
If you are in need of legal help with a divorce, consider reaching out to Nicol Gersch Petterson for a free 30-minute consultation or by looking into our Hello Divorce packages! Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.
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