Colorado is a no-fault divorce state and divorce can be a complex process
- Either party may request the court to issue a divorce decree
- One party must claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken
- The marital property is divided equitably, not necessarily equally, and without consideration of marital misconduct
Legal separation may be preferable to divorce for religious or health considerations. It is important to understand the legal issues surrounding legal separation. You and your attorney will determine the best resolution—legal separation or divorce.
Legal separation can be converted to a divorce, upon request of either party, six months after finalization of legal separation.
Maintenance, commonly known as alimony, is spousal support. Maintenance aims to provide the lower-earning spouse sufficient income to support herself or himself during the divorce process and following the dissolution of the marriage.
Common Law Marriage
Colorado law allows a couple to enter a common law marriage, which can be established when there is no license or formal ceremony. The requirements for a common law marriage are that the couple must: (1) cohabitate, (2) mutually agree to be married, and (3) hold themselves out as married.
Child Custody/Parental Responsibility
The term “parental responsibility” includes decision-making responsibility and parenting time. Decision-making responsibility is the authority to make legal decisions about the children’s health, education, religion, and general welfare.
This area covers the amount of time each parent is scheduled to have the children. Divorce cases include the allocation of parental responsibility. The allocation of parental responsibility cases also includes situations where parties are not married but have children. These cases used to be known as “custody cases.”
In Colorado, child support is based upon:
- The parties’ gross incomes
- The number of overnights the children spend with each party
- Certain extraordinary expenses, such as:
- work or education-related daycare
- health insurance premiums
- extraordinary medical expenses
- other child-related costs
The court will follow the recommended amount of support set forth by the child support guidelines unless there is good reason to deviate from those guidelines. Once a child support order is entered, it can only be modified by a court order. The court may modify the support order when there is a 10% or greater ongoing change in the required amount of child support.
Post-Decree Modifications: Making changes after the court’s order
Orders affecting parenting time, decision-making responsibility, child support, and maintenance can be the subject of a post-decree action. However, the process can be time-consuming and costly. It is critical to understand the cost/benefit analysis and the burden of proof required to achieve a modification of an existing order.
The legal requirements must be fulfilled in advance to convince the court to modify its prior orders. A successful determination is founded on the strength of documentation provided by you and your legal counsel.
Paternity and Juvenile Law
Paternity and juvenile law covers:
Child support: A paternity action typically begins with filing of a case by the county child support enforcement agency. A positive outcome requires that you negotiate intelligently and with a full understanding of the process. It is important to know your rights and understand the law before meeting with anyone from the child support enforcement unit.
Paternity: A paternity case may establish certainty of paternity through genetic testing. The juvenile court can enter orders concerning parental responsibility (decision-making authority and parenting time) and child support.
Dependency and neglect: A dependency and neglect case is filed by a county department of social services when they believe a child is at risk. As soon as you are notified that you will be the respondent in a dependency and neglect case, it is essential to consult an attorney, so you know your rights and responsibilities.
PRE- AND POST-MARITAL AGREEMENTS
Upholding agreements through times of transition
Pre- and post-marital agreements require that the parties have entered into the agreement voluntarily and that there has been a disclosure of each party’s assets and liabilities. An experienced family attorney is essential to negotiate or review your marital agreement before you sign it.
ENFORCEMENT OF COURT ORDERS
Preserving the rule of law
If your ex-spouse or co-parent is not following the judge’s orders, it may be necessary to file a contempt-of-court case. The request must be specific, whether it is to require the other party to pay maintenance, child support, or other financial obligations, or to comply with a parenting-time order. Many times there are better alternatives than filing a contempt-of-court case.
You should obtain experienced legal counsel if a contempt case is filed against you. Depending on the type of contempt filed and the relief requested, courts can enter remedial or punitive sanctions, both of which may result in sentencing to jail time.