The following is a summary of Colorado divorce laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Colorado Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.
Colorado Divorce Grounds
Colorado is a “no fault” divorce state. “Irretrievable breakdown of marriage” is the only ground for divorce under Colorado laws.
Colorado Residency Laws
Colorado laws require at least one spouse to be a resident of the state of Colorado for at least ninety (90) days before filing the divorce papers.
How to file for divorce in Colorado
The divorce papers may be filed in the county where the respondent resides or in the county where the petitioner resides if the respondent has been served in the same county or if the respondent is not a resident of Colorado.
Colorado Final Divorce Hearing
Final orders in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage may be entered upon the affidavit of either or both parties when:
- There are no minor children of the husband and wife and the wife is not pregnant; or the husband and wife are both represented by counsel and have entered into a separation agreement that provides for the allocation of parental responsibilities and child support for the children;
- The adverse party is served with the Colorado divorce papers;
- There is no genuine issue as to any material fact; and
- There is no marital property to be divided or the parties have entered into an agreement for the division of their marital property.
Learn more about the divorce procedure.
Colorado uses a specific formula in order to determine an award of maintenance (alimony). When alimony is requested in a temporary order, there is a refutable presumption that it is appropriate from the spouse with the higher income to the spouse with a lower income. When the combined income of the spouses is less than $75,000.00 the court shall use the following formula:
The amount shall be equal to forty percent of the higher income party’s monthly adjusted gross income less fifty percent of the lower income party’s monthly adjusted gross income. If the remainder of such calculation is the number zero or a negative number, the presumption shall be that temporary maintenance shall not be awarded. If the remainder of such calculation is more than zero, that amount shall be the amount of the monthly temporary maintenance.
The court may grant a temporary maintenance order when the parties’ combined annual gross income is more than seventy-five thousand dollars only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him or her, to provide for his or her reasonable needs and is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment; or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.
-From 14-10-114 of the Colorado Statutes.
A temporary maintenance order in those circumstances in which the parties’ combined annual gross income is more than seventy-five thousand dollars shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors including:
1. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to such party, and the party’s ability to meet his or her needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;
2. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and that party’s future earning capacity;
3. The standard of living established during the marriage;
4. The duration of the marriage;
5. The age and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; and
6. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
Learn more about general alimony laws.
Intent of Colorado Legislatures
Colorado divorce laws state that it is in the best interest of all parties to encourage frequent and continuing contact between each parent and the minor children of the marriage after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. In order to effectuate this goal, Colorado laws and lawmakers urge parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing and to encourage the love, affection, and contact between the children and the parents.
In cases involving child custody (whether contested or uncontested), both parties must submit a parenting plan or plans for the court’s approval that shall address both physical custody and visitation, and the allocation of decision-making responsibilities. If no parenting plan is submitted or if the court does not approve a submitted parenting plan, the court, on its own motion, shall formulate a parenting plan that shall address physical custody and visitation and the allocation of decision-making responsibilities.
Colorado Laws on Best Interest of the Child
The court shall determine the allocation of parental responsibilities, including physical custody and visitation, and decision-making responsibilities, in accordance with the best interests of the child giving paramount consideration to the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of custody, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including the following guidelines under Colorado laws:
1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody;
2. The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the custody and visitation schedule;
3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
4. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
6. The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;
7. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
8. The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;
9. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, which shall be supported by credible evidence;
10. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of spouse abuse, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence; and
11. The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.
Colorado Legal Custody Laws
The court, upon the motion of either party or its own motion, shall allocate the decision-making responsibilities between the parties based upon the best interests of the child. The court may award decision-making responsibilities (legal custody) solely to one parent or jointly between the two parents. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of allocating decision-making responsibilities, the court shall consider, in addition to the factors listed above, the following:
1. Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;
2. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;
3. Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties;
4. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect that is supported by credible evidence. If the court makes a finding of fact that one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, then it shall not be in the best interests of the child to allocate mutual decision-making with respect to any issue over the objection of the other party or the representative of the child;
5. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of spouse abuse that is supported by credible evidence. If the court makes a finding of fact that one of the parties has been a perpetrator of spouse abuse, then joint custody over the objection of the other party shall not be in the best interests of the child, unless the court finds that the parties are able to make shared decisions about their children without physical confrontation and in a place and manner that is not a danger to the abused party or the child.
The court shall not consider conduct of a party that does not affect that party’s relationship to the child, and shall not presume that any person is better able to serve the best interests of the child because of that person’s sex. If a party is absent or leaves home because of spouse abuse by the other party, such absence or leaving shall not be a factor in determining the best interests of the child.
In the event of a medical emergency, either party shall be allowed to obtain necessary medical treatment for the minor child or children without being in violation of the order allocating decision-making responsibility or in contempt of court.
Learn more about general child custody laws.
Child Support Guidelines
The court may order either or both parents to pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the child’s support, without regard to marital misconduct, after considering all relevant factors including:
(a) The financial resources of the child;
(b) The financial resources of the custodial parent;
(c) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
(d) The physical and emotional condition of the child and his educational needs; and
(e) The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.
The basic child support obligation is determined using a schedule. The basic child support obligation is then divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes.
Expenses in Addition to Basic Child Support Obligation
By agreement of the parties or by order of court, the following reasonable and necessary expenses incurred on behalf of the child shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross income:
(I) Any expenses for attending any special or private elementary or secondary schools to meet the particular educational needs of the child;
(II) Any expenses for transportation of the child, or the child and an accompanying parent if the child is less than twelve years of age, between the homes of the parents.
The court shall also order either or both parents to provide medical and/or dental insurance coverage for the children through currently effective policies held by the parent(s), to purchase such insurance for the children, or to provide the children with current and future medical needs through some other manner. The payment of a premium to provide health insurance coverage on behalf of the children shall be added to the basic child support obligation and divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross income.
Any extraordinary medical expenses incurred on behalf of the children shall be added to the basic child support obligation and shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes. Extraordinary medical expenses are uninsured expenses, including co-payments and deductible amounts, in excess of $250 per child per year. At the discretion of the court, professional counseling or psychiatric therapy for diagnosed mental disorders may also be considered as an extraordinary medical expense.
Adjusted Gross Income Determination
Child support is based on a schedule, by determining each parent’s adjusted gross income. “Gross income” includes income from any source, including alimony received. However, gross income does not include child support payments received or benefits from public assistance programs.
If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income; except that a determination of potential income shall not be made for a parent who is physically or mentally incapacitated or is caring for a child under the age of 30 months for whom the parents owe a joint legal responsibility.
For the purposes of this section, a parent shall not be deemed “underemployed” if:
(A) The employment is temporary and is reasonably intended to result in higher income within the foreseeable future; or
(B) The employment is a good faith career choice which is not intended to deprive a child of support and does not unreasonably reduce the support available to a child; or
(C) The parent is enrolled in an educational program which is reasonably intended to result in a degree or certification within a reasonable period of time and which will result in a higher income, so long as the educational program is a good faith career choice which is not intended to deprive the child of support and which does not unreasonably reduce the support available to a child.
To determine adjusted gross income, the amount of child support actually paid by a parent with an order for support of other children, as well as alimony actually paid by a parent, shall be deducted from that parent’s gross income.
Adjustments to Child Support Guidelines Due to Shared or Split Physical Care
The basic child support obligation can be adjusted under the guidelines when the parents have shared or split physical custody of the child(ren).
“Shared physical care” means that each parent keeps the children overnight for more than 92 overnights each year and that both parents contribute to the expenses of the children in addition to the payment of child support.
“Split physical care” means that each parent has physical care of at least one of the children by means of that child or children residing with that parent the majority of the time.
Minimum Child Support Obligation
The minimum amount of child support per month is $50, unless each parent keeps the children more than 92 overnights each year.
Deviation from Child Support Guidelines
The child support guideline shall be used as a rebuttable presumption for the establishment or modification of the amount of child support. Courts may deviate from the guideline where its application would be inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate. These reasons may include, but are not limited to, the following:
(1) Extraordinary medical expenses incurred for treatment of either parent or a current spouse,
(2) Extraordinary costs associated with parenting time,
(3) The gross disparity in income between the parents,
(4) The ownership by a parent of a substantial nonincome producing asset,
(5) Consistent overtime not considered in gross income under the guidelines, or
(6) Income from employment that is in addition to a full-time job or that results in the employment of the obligor more than 40 hours per week or more than what would otherwise be considered to be full-time employment.
Termination of Child Support
For child support orders entered on or after July 1, 1997, unless a court finds that a child is otherwise emancipated, emancipation occurs and child support terminates when the child attains 19 years old, unless one or more of the following conditions exist:
(a) The parties agree otherwise in a written stipulation after July 1, 1997.
(b) If the child is mentally or physically disabled, the court or the delegate child support enforcement unit may order child support, including payments for medical expenses or insurance or both, to continue beyond the age of 19.
(c) If the child is still in high school or an equivalent program, support continues until the end of the month following graduation. A child who ceases to attend high school prior to graduation and later reenrolls is entitled to support upon reenrollment and until the end of the month following graduation, but not beyond age 21.
Parties can agree to continue child support beyond the age of 19, or to provide for postsecondary education expenses for a child.
Immediate Income Withholding
The court shall issue an immediate order for income withholding when ordering child support in all cases except any case in which:
(A) One of the parties demonstrates, and the court or the delegate child support enforcement unit finds in writing, that there is good cause not to require immediate activation of an income assignment. “Good cause” means the following: There is a written determination and explanation by the court or delegate child support enforcement unit stating why implementing immediate activation of an income assignment would not be in the best interests of the child; and the obligor has signed a written agreement to keep the delegate child support enforcement unit, the obligee, or the obligee’s representative informed of the obligor’s current employer and information on any health insurance coverage to which the obligor has access; and proof is provided that the obligor made timely payments without the necessity of income assignment in previously ordered child support obligations.
(B) A written agreement is reached between both parties that provides for an alternative arrangement. The delegate child support enforcement unit shall be considered a party in all cases in which the custodian of a child is receiving support enforcement services from a delegate child support enforcement unit, and as such is required to consent to the alternative written agreement.
-From 14-10-115 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.
Property Division Guidelines
The court shall set apart to each spouse his or her separate property and shall divide the marital property, without regard to marital misconduct as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors including:
1. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
2. The value of the property set apart to each spouse;
3. The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the property division is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse with whom any children reside the majority of the time; and
4. Any increase or decrease in the value of the separate property of the spouse during the marriage or the depletion of the separate property for marital purposes.
Definition of Marital Property
“Marital property” means all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage except:
1. Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
2. Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
3. Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation; and
4. Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties.
All property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage and prior to a decree of legal separation is presumed to be marital property, regardless of whether title is held individually or jointly by the spouses. This is overcome by a showing that the property was acquired by a method listed above.
Learn more about general property division in divorce or common ways to divide your property.