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Colorado Divorce Process
Preparing the Divorce Papers
The forms required to be filed are determined by whether the spouses file jointly or one files as an individual. The documents used to start a divorce in Colorado are:
The forms also differ depending on whether the couple has children, or whether the spouse completing the form is the petitioner or the respondent.
In any cases, either with or without children, the petitioner files the Case Information Sheet (JDF 1000), Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation (Form JDF 1101), Summons for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation (Form JDF 1102), a Sworn Financial Statement (Form JDF 1111), and if necessary, Sworn Financial Statement, Supporting Schedules (JDF 1111SS). The respondent should complete the Response (Form JDF 1103), the Sworn Financial Statement and if necessary, the Supporting Schedules.
The respondent completes the Response (Form JDF 1103), the Sworn Financial Statement and if necessary, the Supporting Schedules.
No one should sign any affidavit or sworn statement on his or her own. Many forms need to be signed in the presence of either the court clerk or notary public.
The parties should read all notices and correspondence from the Court. The Court sends notice if any additional paperwork is required, or if anything needs to be corrected, or when a hearing is scheduled.
Filing the Paperwork with the Court
In Colorado, a divorce should be filed in the county where either party lives. Before filing, the petitioner should know the number of copies of each form needed, what the filing fee is, and if the Court prefers cash or a money order.
The petitioner should make two copies of all documents and hold onto the original. Eventually, the originals will go to the court and one copy will go to the respondent, while the petitioner keeps the last one. At a minimum, the petitioner files the case information sheet, summons, and petition.
If a party cannot afford the court's filing fee, he or she can ask the clerk for a Motion to File without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit (Form JDF 205). A judge reviews your affidavit and decides whether to waive the filing fees.
The clerk gives the petitioner a case management order, which outlines additional requirements.
Once forms have been filed, the petitioner should immediately serve the respondent with the documents.
Serving the Documents
Service of process is very important in the American legal system because it ensures that everyone has an opportunity to “appear,” or argue, his or her point of view.
If a spouse is filing alone, he or she must make sure that the other spouse receives a copy of the Case Information, Petition, and Summons. Service of process may be done by a friend or family member who is over the age of 18, the County Sheriff’s Department, or a private party. The petitioner cannot serve his or her spouse. Whoever provides service must complete the Return of Service located on the Summons and file it with the Court as proof of service.
If the respondent is an adult who is pro se (meaning, has not hired a lawyer), then the petitioner should serve the respondent directly at his or her home address. If the respondent spouse has retained a lawyer, the petitioner should serve the lawyer at the lawyer’s office and not send copies directly to the spouse.
The petitioner can also obtain a signed Waiver and Acceptance of Service form from the respondent. The respondent has to accept the documents and sign this form in front of a notary, and the petitioner needs to file it with the court.
Most other documents can be served by first class mail or hand delivery. Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone who is hard to locate, in the military, out-of-state, or in jail.
Disclosing Financial Information
Colorado law requires divorcing spouses to disclose certain financial information to one another. This information includes the following:
Both spouses have to complete a Sworn Financial Statement and, if necessary, the Sworn Financial Statement with Supporting Schedules. These are statements sworn in front of a notary public that detail each spouse’s financial picture, from employment to assets to liabilities and monthly expenses. This helps everyone to understand more about, for example, how much child support should be paid, or whether one spouse should receive alimony.
Depending on your situation, the Court may order a party to complete additional financial works.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
If the spouses do not agree on all issues and file a Pre-trial Statement, the spouses will be required to attend a status conference. If a status conference is scheduled, the parties receive a notice from the Court, which may request that you bring particular documents to the conference.
The Court may order spouses who cannot reach an agreement on all issues to attend mediation. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process wherein the parties work with a neutral third party facilitator in order to reach an agreement on outstanding issues.
When spouses cannot reach an agreement after mediation, they attend a hearing where the Judge decides all outstanding issues. To set a hearing, you will need to follow the procedure outlined in the Case Management Order (“CMO”).
Finalizing the Divorce
Colorado does not automatically award custody of the minor children to the mother, and the court does not consider fault. The court considers what is in the best interests of the child. Colorado divorce law allows for two different kinds of child custody: primary residential and legal custody. Primary residential custody means the parent the child lives with; legal custody means the rights that a parent has to make important decision for the child. Usually, the judge will give joint legal custody to both parents and primary residential custody to only one of the parents.
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