Colorado Divorce Laws

When making the decision to divorce there are many facts that any couple must consider before proceeding and Colorado divorce laws are one of them.  Once the decision has been made there is terminology to be understood and choices to be consider about child custody and property distribution.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds

  • A person may file for dissolution of marriage in the state of Colorado provided that at least one party to the marriage has been living in Colorado for 90 days prior to filing.
  • Filings should be made in the county of residence.
  • Colorado is a no-fault state, either party can file for divorce on the grounds that the union is irretrievably broken, there may be exception to this is in cases of abuse.
  • There are limitations to the reach of Colorado court, including but not limited to determination and enforcement of child/spousal support and distribution of property located outside the state of Colorado.

If either the Petitioner, the person filing, or the Respondent, that is the non-filing spouse, is a member of the Military, they will have to abide by Military family law.  Among the special circumstances surrounding dissolution of a Military marriage is confirming that Colorado has jurisdiction to preside over the divorce and then additional factors such as division of Military pay, retirement benefits and child custody.  In cases of dissolution of Marriage involving members of the military it may be best to employ an attorney familiar with Military family law issues.

Division of Property

Colorado is an “equitable distribution” state which means that property shall be divided in an equitable fashion, this may not always mean “equal” but instead fair.  There are several factors that will weigh in to how the property is ultimately divided.

  • Courts will encourage the parties to come up with an equitable division of “marital property” which includes assets and debt incurred during the marriage or brought into the marriage.
  • Exclusions to property distribution can include separate property, which indicates specific property brought into the marriage by one spouse and/or property received by one spouse during the marriage by inheritance or gift.
  • If one spouse can prove the debt was incurred improperly by the other spouse, they may achieve dissipation of marital assets, where that debt can be assigned to one spouse.  This does not include a purchase by one spouse that they simply did not agree on such as a couch, but if a spouse spent money on a mistress, that money could be recaptured by the other spouse.
  • Debt is also dispensed with in an equitable fashion which may mean that the spouse with the higher earnings takes on the large share of the debt, or the spouse who incurred the larger part of the debt.
  • Items that the spouses cannot decide on the value of may need to be appraised in order to be valued by the court.
  • Pension and retirement funds are also subject to division during divorce proceedings.  The method of division can vary, and if the account itself is divided then legal documents need to be presented to the financial management company in order to have the account divided without penalty for early withdrawal.

Child Custody

Child custody can be the most difficult part of divorce.  Colorado courts consider the best interests of the child as the most important factor when deciding custody.   Joint custody is the preferred ruling of most Colorado Family judges, when deciding joint custody they will take into account the ability of the parents to make joint parenting decisions and how each parent will handle the child’s contact with the other parent.  The parent with primary custodial rights must allow visitation (called parenting time) with the other parent.  If joint custody is not an option, then the decision will favor the situation that is safest and most supportive for the child.


Child support will be decided in conjunction with the custody agreement.  In most cases of joint custody no support is awarded but parents are expected to share the child’s expenses.  Spousal support, called maintenance, is not an automatic right in Colorado.  If maintenance is ordered it will be decided upon based on several factors:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The overall length of the marriage.
  • The ability of the spouse expected to pay maintenance to meet his/her own needs while also meeting the needs of the spouse.