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Converting a Colorado Decree of Legal Separation
Six months following a Colorado judge's or magistrate's entry of a legal separation (formally referred to by Colorado divorce law as a "Decree of Legal Separation"), either divorced party may follow a relatively simple process to seek a final dissolution of the marriage (commonly referred to as a "divorce" and formally known as a "Decree of Dissolution of Marriage") in Colorado. Although legal advice from a Colorado family law attorney may be helpful, here's the basics, in three steps, of how --- using Colorado court forms and instructions --- to convert a Colorado Decree of Legal Separation into a Decree of Dissolution (Divorce).
Step 1: Prepare Required Colorado Divorce Court Forms
The first step is to prepare three Colorado court divorce forms for the Colorado District Court Judge or Magistrate's review. In completing these divorce forms, be sure to label yourself, and your husband or wife, as Petitioner, Co-Petitioner, or Respondent --- in the same manner that you were labeled in the original Decree of Legal Separation.
Colorado Divorce Form 1 - The MOTION to Convert Decree of Legal Separation to Decree of Dissolution
Complete this Motion
Colorado Divorce Form 2 - The ORDER to Convert Decree of Legal Separation to Decree of Dissolution
Upon review and finding proper notice was provided your spouse, the Judge or Magistrate issues this final Order formally converting the previously issued Decree of Legal Separation to a Decree of Dissolution ("Divorce"). This Order includes ("incorporates" in legal expression) the provisions of your divorce. These are detailed in your Separation Agreement (commonly referred to when formalized after mediation by Colorado divorce mediators as the "Memorandum of Understanding") and include parenting plan, child support and spousal maintenance, and property and debt division arrangements earlier agreed to by you or ordered by the Court. You need only complete the caption (the top area of the form, reflecting your names and case number), to ready it for the Judge's use after review of your case.
Colorado Divorce Form 3 - The DECREE (your new "Divorce" version) --- of Dissolution
Finally, complete a Decree in a manner that is consistent with the previously filed (and approved by a Colorado court) Decree of Legal Separation. This time, of course, be sure to checkmark the box reflecting this is a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (not of Legal Separation). And, once again, enter the name sought to be restored, if appropriate. If you have questions about the best way to complete this form, you may wish to complete just the caption and allowing the Court to complete the rest.
The signed and final version of the Decree is, of course, the court document used to verify you are divorced and, when applicable, have a legally approved change of name. (It may be useful to seek a certified copy of this Decree, by including the additional $10 charge for each such copy.)
Step 2: File Court Divorce Court Forms With Filing Fee & Return Envelope
Once you have prepared the three Colorado divorce forms described above, simply forward them to the court with a filing fee of $95.00 and a return, self-addressed, stamped envelope for yourself and your spouse. To avoid delay or clerical errors, you may prefer to file these documents personally with the Domestic Relations Clerk.
Step 3: Await Colorado Domestic Relations Court Approval & Entry of Decree of Dissolution
You're done! The Colorado Judge or Magistrate reviews these court forms and enters the signed Order officially and finally to convert your earlier granted Decree of Legal Separation to a Decree of Dissolution ("Divorce"). In most counties, the Court Clerk will send this Order to both parties. (Because of budget constraints in some of the metropolitan Denver area courts, you may find you need to follow-up to inquire about the status of your case, if you do not timely receive this signed Order from the Court.)
Your decree is now one of Dissolution of Marriage, commonly known as a "divorce!"
As we've seen, the process in Colorado for conversion of a Decree of Legal Separation to a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage ("Divorce") is simple, especially compared with the challenges often experienced during the initial legal separation process! (As explained in our extensive article on Legal Separation in Colorado, all the substantive choices, planning and agreements between you and your spouse have already been determined by you and concluded by the Court in that earlier process.)
The Colorado court awards alimony based on the spouses' financial situation, earning capacity, income, and the circumstances of the marriage. When one spouse stayed home to care for the children for several years while the other spouse earned the income supporting the family, the court will generally require the working spouse to continue supporting the family.
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