How long does it take to get divorced in Colorado?
Updated: Mar 29
A divorce in Colorado takes at least 91 days. There is a statutory waiting period of 91 days before a divorce can be finalized. In Colorado, most divorce cases take six to nine months.
It is important to note that the waiting period does not mean that the divorce will be finalized exactly 91 days after the petition is filed. The actual length of time it takes to finalize a divorce can vary depending on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the willingness of both parties to come to an agreement, and court availability. In this article, we will take a closer look at the divorce process in Colorado and provide some insight into how long it can take.
· The shortest time period before the court can finalize a divorce is 91 days in Colorado.
· Most Colorado divorce cases take six to nine months to finalize because of complexity,
disagreement, and court availability for a hearing.
· A divorce in Colorado is settled by the parties completing, signing, and filing a Separation Agreement (also called a Property and Financial Agreement), a Parenting Plan (if there are minor children), an Affidavit for Decree without Appearance of Parties, and a proposed Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
· There are financial disclosures required by both parties before the court will finalize a case.
· If the parties reach full agreement, it is filed with the court to approve after 91 days.
· If the parties do not reach full agreement, a permanent orders hearing is required to have the Judge make decisions.
· Delays can be caused by disagreement, lack of information about assets or debts, complex assets or parenting issues, and the availability of the court.
The statutory 91 day waiting period
By law, the Court cannot issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage dissolving the marriage until the case has been open and served on the responding party for 91 days. The court must wait 91 days from the date either a joint petition is signed by both parties and filed, or the date divorce paperwork is served on the responding party or the responding party signs a Waiver and Acceptance of Service. This 91 day time period is often called a cooling-off period. There is no requirement to attempt to reconcile, you must simply wait out the time period and follow the other requirements of the case. You may be able to reach agreement much sooner and start carrying out the terms, but the official marital status cannot be dissolved until 91 days pass.
The parties may reach an agreement to settle the divorce well prior to this time and file it with the court. Parties can even reach a full agreement prior to filing the case and file all settlement documents at the same time they initiate the case. This simplifies the process and the parties wait for the time period to run and the court to issue the final decree.
However, the duration of each divorce depends on how quickly you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all terms of your divorce, which includes the division of marital property and debts and maintenance and, if there are children, parenting time, decision making, and child support.
If you and your spouse agree on all terms, then you could finalize your divorce in 91 days. If you and your spouse disagree on terms, then your case may take longer as information is gathered and experts are consulted. If your case is not settled by a certain time, the court will require you attend mediation to negotiate with the assistance of a mediator.
If you still cannot agree on all terms, then a Permanent Orders Hearing is necessary for the judge to make a decision. If your case needs experts and a final hearing, then the timeline is likely closer to 6 months to 1 year. The availability of the court for hearings varies by judicial district. In some districts, the court can schedule a hearing in two to three months. In other districts, the court does not have availability for a permanent orders hearing for seven to nine months.
Standard Timeline for a Divorce Case in Colorado
Below are the steps in a typical dissolution case and discussion of the time involved with each.
1. Residency Requirement
Before filing for divorce in Colorado, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state by making Colorado your primary residence for at least 91 days. If neither you nor your spouse has met the residency requirement, you will not be able to file for divorce in Colorado.
2. Filing the Petition
To start the divorce process in Colorado, one party must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. This document is primarily biographical and provides the identifying information about each party, the children, and the date of marriage and separation (if physically separated). outlines Once the petition has been filed, the other party will be served with a copy of the document if they have not signed as a Co-Petitioner. They will then have 21 days to respond. This initial filing stage takes as long as it takes to serve the Respondent and their response period.
3. Financial Disclosure Requirement
Even if you and your spouse agree on all terms of the divorce, you still must complete and file Sworn Financial Statements (a sworn statement that lists your income, expenses, assets, and debts) and exchange supporting financial documentation. The documents you must exchange include your most recent paystubs, bank statements, credit card statements, last 3 years’ tax returns, real estate titling documents, financial and investment account statements, profit and loss statements if either party owns a business, life insurance policy statement, health insurance policy statement, and retirement statements. The deadline to file your Sworn Financial Statement and exchange financial documents is 42 days from either the date that the Co-Petition is filed, the other party is served, or the other party signs a Waiver and Acceptance of Service. This time period runs concurrently with other events in the case, but may delay scheduling of mediation or hearings if further information is needed. Additional relevant financial information may be requested by either party depending on the unique situation of each case.
4. Initial Status Conference
An Initial Status Conference is the first hearing held by the court after the case is filed and is usually a fairly informal scheduling hearing. The initial status conference is usually takes only about 5-15 minutes. The just does not usually make any legal determinations at the hearing, other than looking at whether the paperwork was served and setting deadlines for financial disclosure, mediation, and hearing scheduling. The Initial Status Conference is usually a precursor to getting other hearings scheduled, so getting it completed promptly can help get other hearings and deadlines scheduled. In most districts, the court will automatically schedule an Initial Status Conference and issue a Case Management Order with the date and time. In some districts, the court will issue a Case Management Order with instructions on contacting the court to set the Initial Status Conference. During the Initial Status Conference the court will usually set further appearances or hearings and address whether there are any immediate issues that need to be addressed at a Temporary Orders Hearing and whether that should be set or a motion requesting that hearing filed.
5. Temporary Orders
A temporary orders hearing is a hearing held to address what orders the Judge should enter to apply while the case is pending. These are not final orders, but only apply for the duration of the case until settlement is reached or a Permanent Orders Hearing is held. Typical issues addressed in Temporary Orders are parenting time, decision-making authority, child support, maintenance, payment of expenses, exclusive possession of the house, and payment of attorney fees. Temporary Orders hearings are generally very short in length compared to Permanent Orders Hearings. Some districts schedule Temporary Orders Hearings for only an hour. Each party has half of the time allotted to present their case. So, you may only have thirty minutes to present your case. Therefore, you may only be able to address very limited issues and present very limited supporting evidence. Temporary Orders hearings do not usually affect the rest of the scheduling of the case. However, they are usually undertaken where it is uncertain how long it will take to collect all necessary information and attend a final hearing. It is often not cost efficient to schedule a Temporary Orders hearing in a case that is likely to otherwise settle.
6. Mediation and Negotiation
Mediation is an out-of-court negotiation conference between the parties conducted by a professional mediator that generally lasts a minimum of two hours. The mediator is a professional negotiator who assists the parties in negotiating the various issues in their case. Statements made in mediation may not be used later in court and the mediator generally cannot testify as to any discussions that occur. Most Northern Colorado judicial districts require mediation in all cases. The parties and their attorneys may also negotiate just via discussions between them prior to or after mediation. Mediation is usually a requirement before the Permanent Orders Hearing may occur in most judicial districts. In some districts, the Judge will not even schedule a Permanent Orders Hearing until mediation has been attempted.
7. Permanent Orders Hearing
A Permanent Orders Hearing is the final hearing in a Colorado divorce case to determine the issues disputed by the parties. If the parties do not reach full agreement prior to a certain point determined by the court, then a Permanent Orders Hearing is scheduled and held. In most districts, Permanent Orders hearings are scheduled three to seven months in advance. Parties may agree on portions of the issues and take other disputed issues to hearing. The judge can hear as much or as little as the parties dispute, so long as it is an issue the judge may decide in the dissolution case. Be aware that you will rarely get a full decision from a Judge on the day of your Permanent Orders Hearing. If your case is complex enough to necessitate a Permanent Orders Hearing, the judge will usually take at least a month to issue a written order. Sometimes judges may take up to six months or longer to issue orders. Be prepared for an uncertain timeline on receiving a decision after your hearing occurs.
Finalizing the Divorce
Once full agreement is reached or a permanent orders hearing is held, the court may issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. The Decree of Dissolution of Marriage is the legal document that ends your status as a married couple. If your case required a hearing, the Judge will issue Permanent Orders. Unlike the Permanent Orders themselves, the Decree is usually issued within a few days of the hearing. You may wait many months for the actual decision though.
Factors Causing Delay in Colorado Divorce
Lack of cooperation by either party in negotiations. This is obvious, but most delays are caused because the parties do not agree on terms. Sometimes the other party’s request is simply unreasonable and you cannot agree to it. Your attorney can help you determine the reasonability of terms as adjudged against their experience with the likely outcome if the disputed issue were argued at hearing.
Lack of prompt disclosure or availability of financial documentation. Attorneys need documentation of asset and debt values before we can knowledgably advise you on their division. To do this, we need statements showing values of all assets and debts possessed by both parties.
Need for Expert Analysis. Experts in divorce cases may be necessary to value real estate, businesses, pensions, or other assets. Experts are also commonly utilized to assess parenting responsibilities. Their work in preparing reports usually takes a couple months.
Availability of the Court to Schedule Hearing. Other than cooperation between the parties, the availability of the court is the number one determinant of the length of your hearing. After all, you cannot be divorced until 91 days pass and the judge has time to review and approve your agreement. Sometimes your assigned judge may be overseeing a two week-long criminal trial and not have time to review your agreement until after that. More commonly, the judge’s individual procedure will determine the length of your case. Read more in our article about who decides your divorce case. If you cannot get your spouse to understand the mediation requirement, you may be waiting until the judge’s next Status Conference on your case for them to tell your spouse to cooperate in scheduling. These scheduling issues commonly add months to cases.
There are many valid reasons to not rush your case. For example, it is better to have full knowledge rather than to make a hasty decision on a mistaken value of real estate or business. Also, it seems time may simply be a factor in both parties processing the changes in their lives and reaching a position to make agreement. It can be hard to make decisions when you’re trying figure out a new living situation.
Ways to Expedite the Divorce Process
Negotiate in good faith to get resolution. The quickest divorces are those where the parties have already discussed agreement between each other and whittled down clear areas of disagreement. It’s also much less expensive for you to speak to your spouse than for attorneys to speak to each other. To the extent you can do this, you can save yourself both time and money.
Gather and exchange financial documentation promptly when that stage of the case begins. Review and identify missing information to request from the other party quickly.
Hire an attorney to help you navigate the court process to efficiently conduct the case. Even if you believe you have full agreement, an attorney can help shepherd the case promptly through the system. Attorneys who understand each district's procedures can help expedite a case.
Do you need help with a divorce in Colorado?
If your case faces complexities, you may need an attorney experienced in divorce law to assist you through the process. An attorney can tell you how your unique situation may impact the timeline of your divorce case. Contact a divorce attorney at Ellison Law by submitting a contact form or calling (720) 340-1162.
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No Legal Advice Intended: This information is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.