In order to obtain a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage in Colorado, either the Husband or the Wife must be a resident of the state for 90 days prior to filing for divorce. After the filing of a divorce proceeding, Colorado law requires the parties to wait 90 days before they may obtain a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. Divorce cases are usually classified as either contested or non-contested. A contested divorce means that some or all of the issues, such as custody, parenting time, child support, and property division have not been agreed upon by the parties. A non-contested divorce means that all issues have been agreed upon by the parties.
What is commonly referred to as Custody is now called the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities in Colorado. The Allocation of Parental Responsibilities has two main components: Decision-Making and Parenting Time. Decision-Making refers to how major decisions are made for a child, either jointly by the parents or solely by one parent. Parenting Time refers to the schedule of time that a child spends with each parent.
Parenting Time in Colorado is determined according to the child’s best interests. There are usually three main components to a parenting time schedule: 1) Regular parenting time, which refers to the schedule for days other than holidays and vacations; 2) Holiday parenting time, which refers to the schedule for all holidays during the year; and 3) Vacation parenting time, which refers to when a child will spend vacation time with each parent.
In Colorado, child support is calculated according to a mathematical formula. The formula consists of a number of variables, including both parents’ gross incomes and the number of overnights a child spends with each parent during the year. The formula also includes adjustments for daycare, health insurance, and any other extraordinary expenses incurred on behalf of a child.
Maintenance | Alimony
What is commonly referred to as Alimony is called Maintenance in Colorado. In Colorado, the issue of maintenance both on a temporary basis (while the case is pending before final resolution) and on a permanent basis is now determined according to a formula and consideration of certain other relevant factors. The formula calculates a monthly amount of maintenance and a length of time to pay or receive maintenance. Along with the formula, the court must also consider certain other relevant factors to determine if maintenance is appropriate, and if appropriate, to arrive at the actual amount and duration of maintenance. The other relevant factors which the court must consider generally consist of the parties’ individual incomes and employment, the amount of marital property divided between the parties, the parties’ relative financial resources, the parties’ lifestyle and financial needs as established during the marriage, the age and health of each of the parties’, and the duration of the marriage.
Marital property and debts, which generally consist of all property and debts acquired or incurred during the marriage, are divided between the parties on an equitable basis. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal or 50/50. It means fairly, considering all of the relevant circumstances of both parties at the time of the divorce. Nevertheless, in most cases, marital property and debts are divided equally unless there is some compelling reason not to do so.
After the entry of the initial orders in a divorce, paternity, or allocation of parental responsibilities case, the initial orders may need to be modified as circumstances change. Typically, parenting time and child support need to be modified from time to time after the entry of the initial orders. Less frequently, decision-making and maintenance orders may also need to be modified. Anytime circumstances change, it may be necessary to modify the initial orders or the prior modified orders to address or reflect new circumstances.
Removal of Children from the State
Removing children from the state is one of the most contentious issues that may arise. The law in Colorado has changed over the years. Under the current law, the court must consider a number of specific statutory factors and make a determination if such a move is in the best interests of a child. If the court allows a child to be removed from the state to live in a different state with one of his or her parents, it will then formulate a new parenting time schedule, which typically attempts to maintain as much contact with the parent still in the state as possible.
Colorado Supreme Court:
Relocation of Children
Spahmer v. Gullette, 113 P. 3d 158 (Colo. 2005) see opinion here
For more information, see my website solely devoted to Relocation of Children
When a child is born out of wedlock, the issue of paternity must first be addressed. In many cases, there is a disagreement about the issue of paternity that must be resolved, usually through blood or tissue typing tests. In other cases, paternity is agreed upon, and no such tests are necessary. Once paternity is established, the parents need to address many of the same issues that arise in a divorce proceeding. The parents need to decide how decisions for the child will be made, what the parenting time schedule will be, and which parent will pay the other child support and how much. If the parents cannot agree on how to handle these matters, the court will hold a hearing and enter orders on these issues.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
The allocation of parental responsibilities refers to those situations not arising out of a divorce or paternity proceeding. These are usually situations in which a child is living with a third party, maybe a relative or a friend, and the issues of decision-making, parenting time, and/or child support need to be addressed for that child. Generally, as long as a child has lived with the third party for at least six months, the court may allocate parental responsibilities (decision-making and parenting time) to the third party and may order the parent(s) to pay child support to the third party if appropriate.
Under certain circumstances, grandparents may petition the court for court ordered parenting time with their grandchildren. Not all grandparents may petition the court for parenting time. This action is only available to: 1) Grandparents whose child (parent of the grandchild) was involved in a divorce, legal separation, or invalidity of marriage proceeding; 2) Grandparents whose grandchild is in the custody of a third party who is not one of the child’s parents; or 3) Grandparents whose child (parent of the grandchild) has died.
Mediation is a dispute resolution process whereby a neutral third party helps the parties involved in a dispute resolve their differences and arrive at an agreement. Mediation is non-binding, which means that the Mediator does not have authority to decide upon a resolution, but rather just helps the parties arrive at their own agreement, if possible.