Area of Law:
The legal term for divorce in Colorado is “dissolution of marriage.” Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states commonly grant divorces because forcing a couple to stay married would go against public policy. In Colorado, the legal divorce process begins when one spouse files dissolution of marriage paperwork in the county where the other spouse lives, or in the county where the filing spouse resides if the other spouse has been served in the same county or is not a resident of Colorado.
”No-fault” and “fault” are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, like Colorado, no-fault is the only acceptable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds exist within the marriage. The other states allow the parties to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce.
The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all states currently allow for some variation of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, one another for the divorce. Some examples of grounds for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” In Colorado, the justification for a no-fault divorce is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, which means that there is no realistic chance that either of the spouses wishes to continue the marriage. Colorado divorce laws may be viewed at divorce-laws.us.
Many states require a “cooling-off” period of separation for a specific length of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can commence. During this time, the couple is required to live separate and apart with the intent that the separation will become permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. Colorado does not have this requirement, although to file for divorce in Colorado, the petitioner or their spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least 90 days.
Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. Common fault grounds include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. The state of Colorado does not provide for fault divorces, and courts do not typically allow a spouse to present evidence of the wrongdoing of the other spouse with only very limited exceptions, such as domestic abuse.
Under Colorado law, a divorce by affidavit of either of the spouses may also be obtained. Divorce by affidavit requires the following circumstances: there are no minor children and the wife is not pregnant, or both spouses are represented by counsel and have entered into a separation agreement which sets forth custody and child support arrangements; there are no disputes; there is no marital property, or if there is, the spouses have agreed on how it will be divided; and the non-filing spouse has been served with marriage dissolution papers.
Divorce laws in general, as well as the specific grounds required for divorce vary widely across the United States. Comprehensive information regarding residency requirements and grounds for divorce in Colorado is provided at lawyers.com. The American Bar Association provides a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states can be found at abanet.org.
*An example of a Colorado Divorce Settlement Agreement can be seen on Free Legal Aid.