When Is My Divorce Official?
Divorce or dissolution of marriage in Colorado can be a long, arduous process. Conversely, in some cases, divorce can be quite simple, particularly when the husband and wife agree upon each and every issue in need of resolution in the case. Generally, for the case to be officially concluded, the court must sign off on a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. However, not all divorce cases are the same.
Leading up to the conclusion of the divorce case, the parties will go through steps or procedures either required by the court or pursuant to statute. Initially, one party, or both, will file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. That will be served upon the other party unless the parties filed jointly. Afterwards, there may be at least one, or multiple, court appearances, including the initial status conference (required by statute), potentially a temporary orders hearing, and potentially a final, “permanent orders,” hearing. Along the way, there could be various status conferences, whether in person or by telephone. The more the spouses are able to agree upon, the lower number of court appearances they may have to attend. In some cases, particularly those with two attorneys onboard or with no children, the parties may be able to avoid court entirely if they submit all documents at the outset. In those instances, the Decree can be entered and the divorce officially done within ninety-one (91) days of the case being jointly filed.
Generally, cases are not resolved right out of the proverbial gate. In those instances, parties will attend one, or more, court events, depending on the facts and circumstances. If the parties are able to ultimately resolve all issues, and either there are no children or there are children, but two attorneys, they can submit all settlement paperwork, all other required paperwork, and an Affidavit for Entry of Decree Without Appearance of the Parties. In those cases, and presuming all is in order, the court will sign off on the Decree and the divorce will be done. If the parties reach and submit agreements prior to their final hearing and have children, but one or both have no divorce attorney, then they will have to show up for an “uncontested permanent orders hearing,” at which time the court will likely enter the Decree. In many cases, the parties may show up for their final, permanent orders, hearing, ready to litigate before the judge, only to settle the matter while at court. In those instances, the court might be willing to sign off on the Decree while they are present. The court might also want the agreements reduced to writing and may hold off on signing off on the Decree until then.
Beyond the Decree indicating that the marriage between husband and wife is officially over, or dissolved, the decree will also indicate that the parties are to follow the final orders in the case, whether those orders were arrived at via a trial or were reached via a Separation Agreement. Additionally, prior to the final stages, both parties will have to submit complete financial disclosures pursuant to Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 16.2. They will also have to submit a Maintenance (alimony) Calculation Worksheet. In cases with children, they will also need to submit a Child Support Worksheet. Finally, in cases in which there is either child support or spousal support, a Support Order will also need to be provided. Again, once all documentary requirements are met, the Decree can be signed off on by the Court.
It should be noted that in some cases in which there is a pressing, or legitimate need, a court may be willing to sign off on the the Decree prior to all issues being resolved. This happens only in rare situations and, in those instances, the divorce is clearly not officially done, thought the parties are no longer married.
Finally, in cases in which there are child custody orders, child support orders, or alimony orders, the case is not really done, as the court maintains jurisdiction and there may be various modifications along the way. This does not mean that the former spouses remain married and, in fact, once Decree enters, either is free to remarry.