When a marriage breaks down in Colorado, either spouse can file for divorce. Colorado courts prefer to keep the divorce as amicable as possible for the spouses and children, so a spouse's fault is not generally brought to light. Instead, courts prefer to aid spouses in the division of marital assets, spousal support and child custody and support.
In order to be eligible for a divorce in Colorado, one of the spouses must be a state resident for 90 days prior to filing. Either spouse can begin the proceeding by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the District Court in his county of residence. Colorado has abolished all previously recognized fault grounds for divorce, including abandonment, abuse and adultery, so the filing spouse must simply state that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Colorado is an equitable distribution state. During property division, each spouse is entitled to keep his separate property. Separate property generally includes anything a spouse owned prior to the marriage, anything inherited by one spouse during the marriage or anything excluded from division by pre- or post-nuptial agreement. All other property is generally considered marital property, subject to division between the spouses. The court divides this property fairly, though not necessarily equally, based on factors such as each spouse's income, contribution to marital property, role in the marriage as wage earner or homemaker, and either spouse's desire to maintain possession of the marital residence, especially if there are children involved.
Alimony, called spousal maintenance in Colorado, may be available to a financially weaker spouse for a period of time after the divorce. The court considers several factors when determining the amount and duration of a spousal maintenance award. The most important factor is duration of the marriage. For marriages longer than 20 years, a Colorado court likely will award permanent maintenance. For short marriages, the court will consider the value of the requesting spouse's assets along with her age and any health conditions, the time that spouse needs to complete education or training before re-entering the workforce, and the owing spouse's ability to meet the maintenance obligation while still meeting his own needs.
If the spouses have children, they will need to agree on a parenting plan, designating a custody arrangement for their children. When they are unable to do so, a Colorado court will make the decision for them. Parents are not given preference based on gender. Custody is decided in accordance to what is in the child's best interests. Factors the court must consider include each parent's desire for custody, each parent's relationship and role in the child's life, the child's preference, the distance between the parents' residences, whether either parent will interfere in the child's relationship with the other parent, and any history of spousal or child abuse.
Once custody is determined, the parent with primary custody will be entitled to child support payments from the non-custodial parent. The support amount is set according to the parents' income. The court reviews tax return and other financial documents, and the noncustodial parent's child support obligation is based on his percentage of the parents' total income, as well as the amount of time he has physical custody of the child. In Colorado, child support is generally owed until a child turns 19, though the obligation can be extended if a child is mentally of physically disabled.