How to Divorce in Colorado Without Lawyers
So you are trying to avoid 'lawyering up' but you don't know where to start? You've come to the right place.
Divorce in Colorado has 3 main steps (assuming you and your spouse both want to stay out of court). DIY'ing your divorce does take some work but we make it as easy on you as possible. Regardless of which service you choose, we are always here to help you guide you. Ready for Divorce 101?
Here we go... Step 1: The Petition (and Response)
Step 1: The Petition
Every Colorado divorce (or dissolution of a domestic partnership/civil union) begins with the Petition. If you file first, you are known as the Petitioner and your spouse will be the Respondent. There is no legal advantage to being the Petitioner vs. the Respondent. The 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*
*These forms are not required if you and your spouse jointly file for divorce, meaning you both sign the Petition. In this case, you and your spouse will be known as the Petitioner and the Co-Petitioner, and no Response will need to be filed.
Quick Tip: Every time you file a document in person or by mail, you need an original and at least one copy. Some courts also require a local form. If we are filing and serving (ie. delivering to your spouse) your divorce petition for you, you can skip this tip - we've got you covered.
Service of Process can get complicated. Learn more here.
If your spouse has filed a Petition, you are the Respondent and must file a Response. Once you have been served with the Petition, you have 21 days to file your Response (or 35 days if you do not reside in Colorado).
Quick Tip: Every time you file in person or by mail, you will need the original document and at least one copy. If we are filing and serving (i.e., delivering to your spouse) your response for you, you can skip this tip – we've got you covered. Quick Tip: Every time you file a document in person or by mail, you need an original and two copies. Some courts also require a local form. If we are filing and serving (ie. delivering to your spouse) your divorce petition for you, you can skip this tip - we've got you covered.Related:
The Petition includes an Automatic Temporary Injunction, which has some basic restraining orders that apply to both parties. Among other things, both parties are ordered by the court not to:
- Remove kids from the state
- Cash, borrow against cancel or change beneficiaries of any insurance policy
- Transfer, borrow against, conceal, or dispose of any property (without the written consent of the other party or court order).
Temporary Orders (Optional)
Divorce in Colorado takes at least three months and one day after the Petition is served to be finalized (that's just the way it is). If that feels like too long to go without help from the court, you don't have to wait until your divorce is final. At any time during your divorce, you can request orders from the court to assist with:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Lawyer fees
- Exclusive use of home or financial accounts, payments of debts, and other temporary property orders
The (usual) form:
Tip: It can take four to eight weeks to get a temporary orders hearing on the court's docket.
Depending on how complex or contested your case is, there are other court hearings that might take place in this step.
Related: Preparing for Online Court
Step 2: Financial Disclosures
You are required to exchange court forms that disclose complete information about your income (from all sources), expenses, property, and debts with your spouse. Even if you already have a full agreement with your spouse (good for you!), you still must exchange these documents.
We've got loads of resources to help you with this. We recommend that you start with these to get a sense of what they are and what documents you'll need to gather to complete them:
- JDF 1111SS - Supporting Schedules for Assets (if applicable)
- JDF 1104 - Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Financial Disclosures
Quick Tip: The fancy (legal) term for disclosures in Colorado is Mandatory Financial Disclosures. Disclosures and discovery responses become both negotiation and (if necessary) trial tools.
Step 3: Written Agreement + Divorce Decree
There are different ways the two of you can come to an agreement.
- Start with our Settlement Agreement Checklist to ensure you know all the issues that need to be resolved before you finalize your divorce. Consider speaking with a lawyer to flesh out your various positions or calculate support prior to negotiating with your spouse.
- Get more information. Something missing? Ask your spouse to disclose informally. If that doesn't work, consider a more formal process to obtain the information you need.
- Negotiate, mediate, or litigate. Negotiation can be by email, in person, or with a consulting attorney. Mediation is usually with an experienced, neutral family law mediator who can guide you through the process and help you and your spouse come to an agreement on all the substantive issues (think: kids, support, property, and debt). Litigation is your last resort – if the two of you just can't come to an agreement that feels fair and reasonable.
- JDF 1115 - Separation Agreement
- JDF 1113 - Parenting Plan
- JDF 1116 - Decree of Dissolution of Marriage
- JDF 1117 - Support Order
Tip: Calculate child support here.
Your final divorce documents are a big deal
If there is one part of your divorce to focus on, this is it. No part of your divorce will matter more. Having the best of intentions without educating yourself on your rights is doing yourself a huge disservice. The terms in your divorce judgment can have a profound impact on your future, and if you are anything like us, you want to move past this point in your life with a fresh, strong start and transition to a new, healthier, mindful space. Have we mentioned that it's a really good idea to have us review your agreements and final divorce documents before you submit them to the court?
A few final notes
Your divorce will be complete after your final divorce documents are filed and the court has signed off on them – but there are still a few steps you should take to ensure that you and your family are financially protected.
- Think about your retirement funds. Make sure that the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is entered and implemented (if there is a provision in your Judgment that provides retirement account(s) will be divided by QDRO). Look to our resources, What is a QDRO?, and Understanding QDROs for more.
- Change your beneficiaries. We're talking about life insurance, health insurance, and any other pay-on-death accounts. This is assuming it doesn't conflict with your Separation Agreement.
- Change your title and mortgage information as needed. These documents should reflect the name of the spouse to whom the asset was assigned. If you are deferring the sale of your home (holding off on selling or transferring the home until a date certain), you should consider severing joint tenancy or changing the title to reflect tenants-in-common so you each hold a 50% interest in the home.
- Update your will and other estate planning documents. This includes the power of attorney and/or advanced health care directives.
- Notify your auto insurer of any changes in automobile drivers, ownership, and addresses.
- Remove your name from any debts or loans that are no longer your responsibility (to the extent possible).
- If you change jobs, notify your new employer of any court-ordered support you currently pay through automatic withholding (wage garnishment).
Celebrate how far you have come! Divorce is a marathon – not a sprint. You've worked hard to get here and we wish you the best in your next chapter.
We get it: Easier said than done.
But assuming your divorce is amicable (or heading in that direction), you can do this without full representation by a lawyer. Just remember, this is a process that you can't avoid – but that doesn't mean you need to struggle with it alone or spend $21,700 (the average cost of divorce per person in Colorado).
Take this one step at a time. We've guided and coached thousands of people through the process before you – we like helping (and we're good at it).