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Can I Really Be Divorced 91 Days After I File?

One of the most common questions people might ask when dealing with a Colorado divorce is how long their case will take to be done. Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes, C.R.S. 14-10-106 (1)(a)(III), there is a mandatory waiting period of 91 (ninety-one) days from the date of either a joint filing or service on the responding party before a divorce can be completed. As such, the minimum amount of time a divorce case can take is 91 days. A waiting period is common in most states and is often designed to give people enough time to truly ponder whether they really want to go through with the divorce. Oftentimes, people presume that because the 91 day waiting period is prescribed by statute that their divorce will take 91 days. Generally, this is just not the case.

Any Denver divorce lawyer knows that a divorce case will take only 91 days under two scenarios. The first scenario would be one in which the parties complete all paperwork necessary to get the divorce done prior to filing the case. This would include the petition, case information sheet, mandatory financial disclosures, a separation agreement, a parenting plan (if applicable), a support order (if applicable), and a proposed decree of dissolution of marriage. Presuming there are not technical deficiencies in the filing the parties should be able to be done in approximately that 91 day time frame, or shortly thereafter depending on how quickly the court addresses things after day 91. The other instance in which parties might be done at the 91 day mark would be when the case gets filed by one, or the other, or both, and they are able to come to terms very quickly and get all paperwork done and filed before day 91. In essence, a divorce is going to be done in, or around, that 91 day mark only if there is complete agreement between the parties.

The reality is that most divorce cases take somewhere between 5 to 8 months to finish and closer to the 8 months if there are contested issues requiring a hearing in from of a Denver family law judge. Each family and each divorce is going to be different. How long a case takes will generally hinge upon each spouse’s level of willingness to come to agreements on the relevant issues. It can also hinge on the complexity of those issues.

Though the average family might have marital assets which are readily valued and easy to allocate or divide, others may not. Parties with no real estate have less work to do than those who own a home. As marital property generally needs to be assigned a value, it’s quite common for parties to need to coordinate an appraisal of the marital home. This takes time. Some families with complex marital estates might have multiple real estate holdings, in multiple locations. Some property might be residential, some might be commercial.

In addition to property valuation issues, time may be need for other experts to assess and weigh in. Perhaps there is a need for an occupational evaluation to assess one of the spouse’s earning potential tied into a child support or alimony argument. There might also be child custody or visitation issues necessitating a child and family investigator or a parental responsibilities evaluation. The process tied into a child custody expert will often entail extensive paperwork, multiple meetings, a home visit, and a great deal of schedule juggling and coordination. Most experts of this nature are going to need to need 90 days, at a minimum, to complete their investigations and issue reports. Furthermore, rules require reports to be issued 21 days prior to any final hearing.

Procedurally, absent agreement, experts are generally not going to be appointed until some time after the mandatory initial status conference, which will generally take place 40 days after filing. When adding up all these time frames for the various contingencies, it’s easy to see how a Colorado divorce case can take well over the 91 days. The more people agree on, the quicker their cases will be done. When meeting with your divorce attorney you should inquire about estimated time for conclusion of your case. When doing so, keep in mind that many variables can throw off that estimate and some of those are out of the attorney’s control.