Here are seven answers to complex yet important questions related to Colorado divorce law. If you are someone going through a divorce, you may have many additional questions, our divorce attorneys can offer decades of experience and guidance.
Q: How do I get a divorce in Colorado if my spouse won't sign the papers?
Unfortunately, it is quite common for spouses to reach a point where they cannot be in the same room, let alone work out a separation agreement where both spouses sign the necessary legal documents. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to understand that you can still obtain a divorce in Colorado. Your spouse’s reluctance or downright refusal to work with you on finalizing a divorce should not be viewed as a deterrent to filing the necessary legal paperwork with the right office.
To move forward with the divorce, you need to visit your local district courthouse and obtain the documents needed to file for divorce (these documents can be downloaded online as well). After you file the necessary paperwork, your spouse will be served with those legal documents. Under Colorado law, you can have the County Sheriff’s Department, a private service company, or essentially anyone over the age of 18 serve your spouse with the divorce papers. Once your spouse receives the notice and documents, they have approximately 30 days to file a response. Here is the key point - if your spouse refuses, or fails to respond to the notice, it does not stop the divorce process. After a period of time, a district court judge will move forward with signing off on the divorce decree and your divorce will be official, even if your spouse decides not to participate in the process.
Q: Can you divorce your spouse in Colorado without their consent?
Generally, the answer is yes. You do not need the permission or participation of your spouse to file for divorce and ultimately achieve an official legal separation. Obviously, if your spouse is cooperative, the divorce process will be much easier, take less time, and save money. Nevertheless, there are instances where a spouse simply refuses to participate in a divorce.
If you are seeking to get divorced in Colorado, you can take the first step by completing and filing a petition and divorce summons in your local district court. Once this first step is complete, your spouse will need to be served with these documents. However, the consent of your spouse is not needed. Once the divorce petition and summons have been properly filed, you will be on your way to securing a divorce.
Q: How does a Colorado district court determine equitable distribution of assets and liabilities in a divorce settlement?
As the question implies, Colorado adheres to the "equitable distribution" doctrine for divorce cases. Basically, “equitable distribution” is a fancy term meaning that marital property will be divided in an equitable, or fair, fashion according to the court. It is important to note that a court does not have to apply this doctrine if the divorcing spouses are able to collaborate and reach an agreement through mediation or other avenues. Nevertheless, if you cannot reach an agreement and a court applies equitable distribution, it is important to understand that equitable distribution does not mean a straight 50/50 split. The district court is empowered to divide marital property “fairly” after considering a multitude of factors such as:
- Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of marital property;
- The value of the marital property; and
- The economic circumstances for both spouses at the time the division of marital property becomes official.
Q: Are there consequences for hiding assets in a divorce settlement?
Yes, potentially severe consequences. Pursuant to Colorado law, when spouses are going through the divorce process, both parties are legally obligated to disclose all of their assets, debts, expenses and income to the court. If you are caught hiding assets, the penalties can be quite harsh. For example, the court could enter a property settlement that allocates a larger percentage of the marital assets to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. This would be on top of the court potentially holding you in contempt of court and potentially recommending the filing of criminal charges for fraud or perjury.
Q: Can I retain my health insurance after divorce?
Generally, yes. According to Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-107 (4)(b)(I)(D), a spouse is prohibited from cancelling health insurance that provides coverage for spouses and dependent children. Furthermore, a spouse is prohibited from allowing the health insurance coverage to lapse by not paying the premiums.
The only way a spouse can legally modify or cancel health insurance coverage during a divorce is if both parties are given at least 14 days of advance notice. In addition, both spouses must agree to the change and that agreement must be in writing.
Q: What happens to our life insurance policy after we get divorced?
Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute Section 15-11-804, if you have your spouse as the designated beneficiary for a life insurance policy, a divorce will effectively revoke that beneficiary designation. This means the life insurance policy is treated as if your former spouse died before the spouse who purchased the life insurance policy.
Q: Do grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren after a divorce?
It depends. Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute Section 19-1-117, grandparents have the right to request visitation rights with their grandchildren if:
- The grandchild’s parents have divorced, have had their marriage annulled or have legally separated;
- Someone other than a parent of the child was awarded custody of the child, or children; and/or
- One parent of the child passed away.
If a court determines that it is in the best interests of the child to have regular visits with their grandparents, then visitation may be ordered. So, basically, grandparents have the right to request visitation with a grandchild. They do not necessarily always have the legal right to be granted visitation.
More information about this topic can be found on our grandparents' rights page.
Be Prepared and Protect Yourself
It is critical to ask questions and do you best to protect yourself when going through a divorce. The more you are prepared the more you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets.