How to Divorce in Colorado Without Lawyers
Divorce can be a daunting and emotionally charged process, but it doesn’t have to be a grueling legal battle. If you and your spouse both want to avoid going to court and are willing to work together, a DIY divorce might be the right path for you. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through the three main stages of divorce in Colorado and provide you with valuable insights to help you navigate this challenging journey successfully.
The Petition (and Response)
The divorce process in Colorado kicks off with the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If you are the one initiating the divorce, you will be known as the Petitioner, while your spouse will be the Respondent. Keep in mind that there is no legal advantage to being either the Petitioner or the Respondent.
To start the divorce process, you will need to file the following forms:
- JDF 1101 – Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- JDF 1000 – Case Information Sheet
- JDF 1102 – Summons for Dissolution of Marriage
- JDF 1102(a) – Waiver and Acceptance of Service
- JDF 1102(b) – Return (Proof) of Service
However, if you and your spouse jointly file for divorce, meaning you both sign the Petition, you will be known as the Petitioner and the Co-Petitioner, and no Response will be necessary.
If your spouse has filed the Petition, you will be the Respondent and must file a Response within 21 days (or 35 days if you do not reside in Colorado) after being served with the Petition. The Response form is JDF 1103 – Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
In this step, both parties are required to exchange court forms that disclose complete information about their income, expenses, property, and debts. Even if you and your spouse have already reached a full agreement, you still must exchange these documents.
The necessary forms for financial disclosures include:
- JDF 1111SS – Supporting Schedules for Assets (if applicable)
- JDF 1104 – Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Financial Disclosures
Written Agreement + Divorce Decree
Once you have completed the financial disclosures and resolved any outstanding issues, you can proceed to create a written agreement that encompasses the terms of your divorce. There are various ways to reach an agreement:
- Settlement Agreement Worksheet: Start by using a Settlement Agreement Worksheet to ensure you address all relevant issues.
- Consult with a Lawyer: Consider speaking with a lawyer to discuss your positions and calculate support before negotiating with your spouse.
- Negotiation, Mediation, or Litigation: Negotiate with your spouse directly or with the help of a consulting attorney. Alternatively, you can opt for mediation with a neutral family law mediator to guide you through the process. Litigation should be the last resort if an agreement cannot be reached.
The basic forms needed for the written agreement and divorce decree are:
- JDF 1115 – Separation Agreement
- JDF 1113 – Parenting Plan
- JDF 1116 – Decree of Dissolution of Marriage
- JDF 1117 – Support Order
Finalizing Your Divorce
After filing the final divorce documents and obtaining the court’s approval, your divorce will be complete. However, there are essential post-divorce steps you should take to protect your financial interests and secure your future.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
If your divorce involves retirement accounts, ensure that the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is implemented according to your divorce judgment.
Update Beneficiaries and Titles
Review and update your beneficiaries for life insurance policies and pay-on-death accounts. Also, consider changing titles and mortgage information for properties as necessary.
Estate Planning and Auto Insurance
Update your will and other estate planning documents, including power of attorney and advanced health care directives. Notify your auto insurer of any changes in automobile drivers, ownership, and addresses.
Divorce can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but a DIY approach can make it more manageable and cost-effective. By following these steps and seeking the necessary guidance and resources, you can navigate through the divorce process with confidence and move towards a brighter future.
- Can I file for divorce in Colorado without a lawyer? Yes, you can file for divorce without a lawyer if your divorce is amicable and both parties are willing to cooperate. However, seeking legal advice is always recommended to ensure your rights and interests are protected.
- How long does it take to finalize a divorce in Colorado? A divorce in Colorado typically takes at least 3 months and 1 day after the Petition is served to be finalized.
- Do I need to attend court hearings during the divorce process? Not necessarily. If you and your spouse can reach a written agreement, you may be able to avoid court hearings. However, contested divorces may require court appearances.
- What is the average cost of divorce in Colorado? The average cost of divorce in Colorado is around $21,700 per person. A DIY divorce can be a more affordable alternative.
- Can I modify the divorce decree in the future? Yes, certain aspects of the divorce decree, such as child custody and support, can be modified in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances.