Every divorce proceeds at its own pace, reflecting the parties involved, their approach, their personality, the complexity of the estate and other unique factors. It is the attorney’s job to keep clients informed about the process and what they can expect as they move forward, but there can still be unpleasant surprises and exasperating delays. Nevertheless, there is still a general (if complicated) legal process that takes place.
- Writing a petition: This legal document (also known as a complaint) starts the legal process and says why the spouse wishes to divorce and provides information regarding support, custody and other issues.
- Filing and serving the complaint: The attorney then files the petition with the District Court, and the lawyer or court informs the other spouse that it has occurred. The court issues a summons that requires a response to the petition from the served spouse.
- The response: The served spouse must answer within 35 days, acknowledging that they understand the petition. The response will indicate how they wish to handle decisions.
- Property division and exchanging documents: By sharing this information, the two sides and the court can determine how to divide assets and how to address child support and marital support.
- Mediation or settlement: Ideally, the couples can resolve matters amicably in a timely fashion. The judge can review this at an informal hearing.
- Court approval or settlement agreement: The court issues a divorce decree if it approves the agreement. If there are still issues in dispute, the case will then go to trial.
- Trial: The judge listens to arguments and evidence from each side regarding areas in dispute and then issue a ruling.
- Appealing the ruling: Either or both spouses can appeal the ruling, but this is rarely successful. Rather than retry the case, the higher court examines the details of the trial to ensure that it followed legal protocol.
- Both parties sign the document: The two sides can continue to negotiate details up until they sign. They must then seek post-divorce modifications if they wish to make additional changes.
Length of timeline depends on the couple
It is generally best for the couple to engage in mediation if they have a dispute over custody, dividing assets or other vital details. While a divorce cannot take less than 91 days in Colorado, a trial extends the process, can heighten tensions among family members and is more costly. However, court may be necessary to ensure a fair and equitable settlement.