In Colorado, there are three ways that you can end your marriage – you can get a divorce (known as dissolution of marriage), become legally separated, or you can request an annulment of your marriage. Only one party needs to want the divorce and you do not need to have an agreement with your spouse to end your marriage. Colorado is a ‘no-fault’ state, which means that the party who is requesting a divorce does not have to prove that their spouse is at fault (i.e. adultery, abuse, fraud or abandonment) in order to have their divorce granted. In Colorado, only one party must state that the marriage is ‘irretrievably broken’ in order to request a divorce or legal separation.
A divorce in Colorado is granted on the basis that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means that at least one party believes the marriage cannot be saved. Since Colorado is a ‘no-fault’ state, the party requesting the divorce does not need to show any wrongdoing in the marriage in order to get divorced; however, it is important to note that the behavior of a party can have an effect on other aspects of your case such as parenting time and decision-making (custody), particularly if there are allegations of abuse. If you have questions about the specific facts and circumstances of your case, a competent, licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction will be able to advise you as to how the facts of your case could affect the outcome of your matter.
Parties to a divorce or legal separation in Colorado are subject to certain residency requirements – at least one party must have resided in Colorado for the 91 days immediately preceding the commencement of divorce proceedings.
In Colorado, you have the option to ask the court for a legal separation instead of a divorce. A legal separation is a process by which you and your spouse live separately and divide your assets but remain married. Legally separating from your spouse does not mean that you are free to remarry because the legal marital relationship will not be dissolved. The same residency requirements exist for a legal separation as they do for a divorce in Colorado.
Many people choose a legal separation over divorce because they no longer want to be in a relationship with their spouse, but for certain reasons (religious, financial, insurance, etc.) divorce is not the best option for them. Other people may view a legal separation as a ‘test run’ before getting officially divorced. It should be noted that going through a legal separation is not the same as simply physically separating and dividing your assets on your own because you will be asking the court to enter Orders and Agreements by which both parties must abide.
Legal separations also differ from divorces in that the parties may decide to rescind their separation and live together again as a married couple without having to get remarried. Additionally, if either party decides that they no longer want to be legally separated they may request that the court convert their Decree of Legal Separation to a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage without having to go through the entire divorce process again.
In very rare instances, a party may wish to annul their marriage by asking the court to declare their marriage invalid. Some reasons the court may annul a marriage in Colorado include:
- A party lacked capacity or competence to consent to the marriage at the time of the marriage;
- A party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage at the time of the marriage and the other party was not aware;
- One party was a minor at the time of the marriage and did not have the consent of their parent or legal guardian to enter into a marriage;
- A party entered into the marriage based on the fraudulent act or representation of the other party, and that act or representation goes to the essence of the marriage;
- One or both of the parties entered into the marriage by jest or dare; or
- The marriage is prohibited by law (incest, bigomy, etc.).
The process to obtain an annulment can be very difficult as the party requesting an annulment must prove at least one of the above scenarios has occurred, and the rules of evidence can be complex and confusing. A competent, licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction will be able to help if you want to end your marriage by annulment or discuss the most appropriate way to end your relationship.