In its most simple form, an uncontested divorce is when you are able to reach an agreement on all the issues in your case. A contested divorce is when an agreement has not been reached on all the issues.
When people ask about uncontested divorce, there are usually one of two parts of the divorce process they are referring to:
- Whether you are both in agreement with the divorce itself and whether your spouse can stop the divorce from going through if they don’t agree
- Whether you are both in agreement with the final outcome of the case
For the first question, the short answer is no. If you do both agree to go forward with the divorce and are filing without attorneys, you can both sign the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (available on the Colorado Supreme Court website) as Petitioner and Co-Petitioner. What if your spouse doesn’t agree to the divorce or won’t sign the Petition? Then you can file yourself. Your spouse does not have to be in agreement or sign the Petition. The only difference if you file on your own is that you will need to have your spouse served with the Petition and related paperwork, or they have to sign a Waiver of Service acknowledging they have received the paperwork but are not requiring formal service.
If your spouse opposes the divorce itself, can they slow down or stop the process? Not really. In the past, a person asking for a divorce had to prove that specific grounds for a divorce existed such as adultery, abandonment or cruelty. If the spouse opposing the divorce could prove there was no adultery, abandonment, etc., the divorce would not be granted. While some states still have these grounds for divorce, Colorado does not. In Colorado, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If one party says they believe the marriage is irretrievably broken, the Court will assume it is. Since Colorado is a no-fault state, the actions and conduct of one party during the marriage is irrelevant.
It is possible for a party to deny the marriage is irretrievably broken, and the judge does have the authority to order the parties to complete marriage counseling if they believe the marriage can be saved. However, this is typically not done unless both parties agree.
For the second question, if you are filing the paperwork without an attorney, you will be required to file a proposed Separation Agreement. This should cover how all the marital property should be divided. In Colorado, marital property includes any property acquired from the date of the marriage through the date the divorce decree is entered, regardless of whose name is on the title or account. Even if your name is not on an account or title, it will still need to be accounted for in the Separation Agreement. If you both agree on how all the property should be divided, you can file a proposed Separation Agreement signed by both of you. However, one important thing to keep in mind is that after the paperwork is filed, you will both be required to file a Sworn Financial Statement and exchange financial documents. It is likely a good idea to wait until you have exchanged this financial information to file a Separation Agreement signed by both parties. Even if you believe you may both agree, waiting until the financial information has been exchanged will allow you to make sure you are both on the same page regarding what property needs to be divided and the value of that property.
If there are shared minor children, you will also need to file a proposed Parenting Plan. Like the Separation Agreement, if you both agree, the document you file should be signed by both parties. If not, you can each file a proposed Parenting Plan.
If you are both able to reach an agreement regarding all the issues in the case, you can file the signed Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan and an uncontested Final Orders hearing will be scheduled. In the uncontested hearing, you will both appear and review the agreement with the judge or magistrate judge. If the Separation Agreement is found to be equitable and the Parenting Plan is found to be in the children’s best interests, the Court will approve the agreements.
If you are not able to agree on all the issues in the case, a contested Final Orders hearing will be scheduled. At the contested Final Orders hearing, the judge will decide about how the property will be divided and/or what parenting schedule the children should have. The judge will consider each of your proposals and may adopt one or the other or do something different altogether.
The divorce process can be very overwhelming. If you have any questions about your divorce, please contact us to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation to get the answers you need.