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Colorado Divorce Laws Compared to Other States (Part 1)


By Michelle L. Searcy

While browsing the news one morning, I recently came across an article discussing some “surprising” divorce laws throughout the country and wondered how those laws compare to Colorado laws on the same subjects.  This article, which will be posted in two parts, explores those comparisons.

In Arkansas, couples have the option to enter a strict “covenant marriage.”  If that option is chosen, getting a divorce becomes more difficult.  Those in a covenant marriage must attend marriage counseling and separate for a specific time period before a divorce will be granted.  Colorado does not require marriage counseling or any period of separation prior to filing for a divorce.  However, given the cost, stress and impact of divorce on the parties and the children, it may be worthwhile to attend marriage counseling to explore possibilities of reconciliation voluntarily

California law includes a statutory six month waiting period before a divorce will be final.  Colorado has a statutory waiting period too.  However, in Colorado, the court can enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage 91 days after service of the petition.  It is not unusual for divorce cases to take six months to one year to be finalized depending on the circumstances.

The article includes a Colorado law – one that may require parental education.  While the article claims that the court “may” order this, at least in Denver metro area counties, the courts will order both parents to attend a parenting class.  The purpose of the parenting class is to educate the parents not only on the impact of divorce on children, but to offer practical advice on maintaining a low level of conflict after the divorce.  Colorado also offers Level 2 parenting classes for parents who find themselves locked in conflict long after the divorce is final.

Delaware requires the parties to have separated six months prior to filing for divorce as well as requiring a parent education class.  Thus, Delaware is similar to Colorado in requiring parents to take a parenting class, but Colorado does not require separation prior to filing for divorce.  In fact, it is not uncommon for divorcing parties to continue to share a residence to keep costs down while the divorce is processed.  However, parties doing so should consider clear boundaries and rules to maintain to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

Hawaii allows parties married in a different state or country to divorce there.  I am unsure as to why this distinction was chosen for the article?  As long as the other jurisdictional requirements are met, Colorado will allow the divorce to go forward regardless of where you married.  In fact, Colorado recognizes common law marriages although people often believe a common law marriage results solely from a specific period of co-habitation.  In fact, living together will not form a common law marriage in Colorado unless the parties agreed to be married and held themselves out to their community as married people.  Common law marriage thus can be difficult to prove in Colorado when one party disputes the existence of a marriage.

Giving a spouse a sexually transmitted disease is one of 11 grounds in Illinois to get a divorce.  Illinois still requires proof of a wrongful act to obtain a divorce.  Colorado is a “no-fault” state, meaning not only that parties do not need to prove a wrongful act to get a divorce, but that the court will not consider fault in dividing marital property, with the narrow exception of economic fault in extreme cases.  Otherwise, irretrievable breakdown of the marriage forms the only ground for a divorce in Colorado.

Kentucky requires parties to file a divorce education certificate in order to file for divorce.  From the description in the article, this appears to be a class very similar to parenting education courses in Delaware and Colorado.  However, in Colorado, no class is required to file for divorce.

Minnesota offers a streamlined process for a fast divorce where certain conditions are met.  The main conditions are no children, no real estate ownership, and no debt beyond $8,000.  Parties in those circumstances should have a less difficult divorce anyway.  That said, Colorado will still apply the statutory waiting period, regardless of how simple a case may be.  Additionally, parties in Colorado have the option of setting a short non-contested hearing or seeking a decree without their appearance required as quickly as 91 day from the date of service.

Like Illinois, Mississippi still requires fault, such as adultery, desertion, natural impotency, insanity or idiocy or a pregnancy outside the marriage.  Thankfully, Colorado does not require this, although I have had a great many clients who would have been happy to file based on the other party’s natural idiocy.  What is strange about this requirement concerns the lack of concern about the long-term impacts on the children in requiring such fault be established.  Already, it is difficult to co-parent after going through a divorce.  The more negative information the parties introduce in the process, the more difficult the aftermath.

Missouri presumes paternity where a child is born during or shortly after the divorce.  Colorado law includes a similar presumption.  However, the presumption arises in the context of a paternity action.  Thus, if a child is conceived during the marriage, the husband can ask that he be determined to be the legal father of the child, even if he is not the biological child.  Indeed, a non-parent who has held the child out as his own knowing he is not the biological father may be found to be the legal father.

If the time periods and specifics of Colorado law seem burdensome, remember that it could be worse.  Regardless of whether you hire a lawyer to represent you, consider scheduling a consultation with one to be sure you understand the requirements of Colorado law.   The known is a lot less scary than the unknown.


Author Photo

Stephen Plog, co-founder of Plog & Stein, P.C. in 1999, is a dedicated family law attorney with almost two decades of expertise in Denver. Focused exclusively on family law since 2001, he excels in both intricate legal writing and courtroom litigation, having navigated cases in all Denver metropolitan area District Courts. Steve’s comprehensive background, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, underscores his commitment to providing insightful and personalized representation in family law matters.