While many people understand the concept that if you get married and things don’t work out with your spouse, it will require a divorce to legally end the relationship. All states are able to determine their own divorce laws and manage marriage and divorce at their own discretion. This means that as you cross state lines the laws may change. Most states follow similar laws, with some adjustments here and there, and there are some federal laws that are non-negotiable — first-line blood relatives may not marry and civil unions must be honored. However, in regard to almost everything else, states are free to write their own laws.
Colorado marriage and divorce laws err on the side of equality and “fairness” to all parties involved. Colorado also has some of the more liberal laws in place to allow couples to make decisions regarding their own relationships.
Join us in today’s post as we discuss some of Colorado’s unique divorce laws and considerations. If you are considering divorce, consult a family attorney near you that has the experience necessary to make your divorce as smooth as possible. At Petrelli Previtra, we have been helping couples and families navigate their divorce for more than 20 years. We are familiar with Colorado law and the divorce process in Denver.
Colorado Divorce Statistics
- 41% of marriages end in divorce
- Colorado has a divorce rate of 11.89%
- The national divorce rate is 10.9%
- Aspen has the highest rate of divorce in Colorado at 22.9%
- 34.8% of Coloradans are married
General Information About Colorado Divorces
Colorado Divorce Facts
- Either spouse must reside in Colorado for 90 days
- There is a 90-day wait period after filing
- Colorado is a “no-fault” state
- Colorado is an “equitable distribution” state
- Colorado encourages co-parenting and joint custody
Colorado is only one of 18 states that do not consider the reason for divorce, nor give credit or weight to either party based on the cited reason for divorce. Most of the other 32 states offer the ability to file for a no-fault divorce, but put weight on cases of divorce that are a result of infidelity, abuse, or abandonment. In Colorado, however, no blame can be placed on either party, and despite the reason of divorce, “equitable distribution” practices will be followed. Equitable distribution is the concept that under Colorado marriage laws, both parties enter into the marriage and come out of the divorce as equal members of the relationship. And, therefore, assets will be distributed equitably (not necessarily fairly), to prevent either spouse from taking advantage of the other or leaving the other spouse in a worse situation. Additionally, Colorado family law does not side with one spouse or the other in terms of child custody and support and instead views each parent as equal. Colorado family courts encourage both parents to have as much parenting time as possible with children and sole custody is almost never granted.
- The process is the same as traditional divorce
- The marriage legally never happened once annulment is finalized
- The marriage must meet qualifying factors to be annulled
An annulment is similar to a divorce in the sense that it ends a marriage, legally. However, when an annulment is granted, it is as though the marriage never existed to begin with. Under Colorado law, the judge may grant a “declaration of invalidity. To be granted an annulment, the marriage must warrant it. Some of the factors that may be used as a valid reason for annulment include:
- The inability of either spouse to consent — age, mental problem, or intoxication
- Either spouse is unable or unwilling to consummate the marriage
- A spouse is underage and does not have parental consent
- If a spouse was tricked, forced, or married under fraudulent terms
- Either spouse is under duress at the time of the wedding
- Either spouse is married to someone else
During the annulment process, the separation and division of assets is the same as in a normal divorce. Unless the parties did not live together and the annulment is awarded shortly after the marriage, in which case, it will be treated more as a legal “breakup” — each party will remain with their own assets.
Dissolution of Civil Union
- Treated the same as divorce
- Annulment, alimony, child custody, and allocation of parental responsibilities apply
- Same-sex couples can be common law married and follow same dissolution process
The dissolution of a civil union (same-sex marriage) in Colorado is, as of 2013, the same as a traditional divorce. This change was considered, by some, to be just as important as the marriage equality act. Prior to 2013, under Colorado family law, dissolution of civil union would not be granted to those who were not married in Colorado. And, may couples faced challenges in regard to the division of assets, debts, and children. As the laws continue to catch up with society, there is room for negotiation when it comes to challenging common law marriage considerations prior to the legalizations of same-sex marriage in 2013. When the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the same fundamental rights as heterosexual couples and denying the right to marry and divorce was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, in 2015, this meant that the denial of rights prior to that was void. If you and your spouse, or ex-spouse, declared common law marriage before the civil union was legal or separated and unable to contest division of assets or child custody because your relationship was not yet legally recognized, contact us to see what we can do for you.
Common Law Marriage
Common Law Marriage
- No time requirements, but must cohabitate
- Declaration of marriage and recognition of spouses as married
- Same-sex couples eligible
- Must follow tradition divorce process to end common law marriage
Colorado is one of 15 states that recognizes common law marriages. Per Colorado law, there is no minimum time stipulation that is required to establish a common law marriage, rather the introduction of each other as a spouse. For instance, introducing each other as “my husband” or putting “Mr. and Mrs.” on Christmas cards. However, just as an actual legal marriage, in the separation of common law couples, the same legal process must be followed. This means that equitable division of assets, alimony, child support, and allocation of parental responsibility (child custody) will all be subject to the same guidelines as divorce.
Although Colorado family law acknowledges special considerations for some marriage situations, the union and dissolution of spousal relationships are treated equally. Regardless of your circumstances, the legal team at Petrelli Previtra can help. For all of your family law needs in the Denver area, contact us to schedule your consultation today!