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Divorce & Legal Separation

Experienced Fort Collins Divorce Lawyers

Ending your marriage will likely be one of the most difficult decisions you will make in your life. At the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith, we will help guide you through the Colorado divorce process, making sure your transition to the next chapter of your life goes as smoothly as possible.

Helping You Make A Smooth Transition To The Next Chapter In Your Life

Based in Fort Collins and Greeley, we offer Colorado residents the benefits of over a decade of family law experience. Our legal advice and representation encompass all types of divorces, including:

Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. Unlike fault-based states, which may require a spouse to prove wrongdoing in a marriage in order to obtain a divorce, the only thing a spouse must show in Colorado is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Divorce With Your Long-Term Interests In Mind

For many of our clients at the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith, divorce creates a whirlwind of strong emotions and practical issues to sort out. We recognize the emotional and financial challenges you are facing. Our Larimer County and Weld County divorce attorneys can assist you with:

We understand that every client’s needs are different. When you consult our firm, Sam H. Smith will meet with you during friendly and private consultations to learn about your case and address any concerns you have. He is committed to helping you take legal steps that will serve your best interests now and in the future.

Differences Between Legal Separation And Divorce In Colorado

When couples find themselves at a crossroads in their marriage, they may consider legal separation or divorce as possible paths forward. The state of Colorado recognizes both legal separation and divorce as ways to end a marital relationship. However, each option comes with distinct differences and implications for both parties involved. This is what you should know about the general similarities and differences between legal separation and divorce:

  • Legal separation: Legal separation is a court-recognized status where spouses remain legally married but live apart. Couples may choose this option for various reasons, including religious beliefs, the hope of reconciliation, or financial considerations such as retaining health insurance. In a legal separation, the court will address many of the same issues as in a divorce, including division of property, child custody and visitation, and spousal support. However, because the marriage is not terminated, neither party can remarry without finalizing the separation into a divorce.

The process for legal separation in Colorado involves filing a petition with the court, just like in a divorce. The couple must then wait a mandatory 90-day period before the separation can be finalized. During this time, they can negotiate a separation agreement that outlines the terms of their separation, including the aforementioned issues.

  • Divorce: Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the legal termination of a marital union. Divorce legally ends the marriage, allowing the individuals to remarry if they choose. The process for obtaining a divorce in Colorado begins similarly to legal separation, with one party filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. Like legal separation, there is a 90-day waiting period before the divorce can be finalized.

During the divorce proceedings, the court will make decisions on the division of marital property, child custody and support, and alimony, just as in legal separation. However, once the divorce decree is issued, the marriage is legally ended, and the terms of the divorce are binding.

The key difference between legal separation and divorce lies in the finality of the marriage status. Legal separation allows couples to live apart and divide their assets without ending the marriage, providing an option for those who may want to reconcile.

Differences Between Contested & Uncontested Divorce

Our clients often ask us, “What if my spouse does not agree to the divorce? Can they stop it from going through?” We want to reassure you that you are not trapped in an unhappy marriage.

In the past, obtaining a divorce was much more difficult, since a divorce could only be granted for cause, on very specific grounds – like adultery or abandonment. Today, Colorado is a no-fault state, so the only legal reason to end a marriage is simply that at least one party believes that the marital union is irretrievably broken.

That does not mean that all divorces proceed smoothly, however. Divorces can still be contested or uncontested. Understanding the difference can help you prepare a strategic approach to your Colorado divorce. Here are the basics:

  • Uncontested divorces are those in which the couple can agree on all the issues that have to be settled. This includes the division or the marital assets and debts, any matters related to child custody and visitation and issues of support.
  • A contested divorce is one where the couple cannot agree on one or more major issues, so they ultimately have to go to court and let a judge make the decisions.

Most couples prefer to negotiate their way to an uncontested divorce, even when they have some animosity toward each other. An uncontested divorce allows them greater control over the outcome of their divorce, and it is likely to be much faster and less expensive than litigation. In many cases, the collaborative divorce process can even be used to transform what might otherwise be a contested divorce into an uncontested one.

An agreement that works for you and your spouse may be crafted during mediation. At Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith, our divorce lawyers can provide options that resolve disagreements that you and your spouse may have. We can help you pursue what is important to you.

What is The Waiting Period For A Colorado Divorce?

In Colorado, a divorce takes a minimum of 91 days. This is the statutory waiting period. The actual time it takes for your divorce to be finalized can vary depending on various factors, including:

  • Cooperation by both parties: If you and your spouse can agree on key issues such as asset division, child custody and spousal support amicably, the divorce process can proceed more quickly and easily.
  • Court schedules: If the court is available and able to hear your case promptly, it can expedite the finalization of your divorce. However, court schedules can be influenced by factors such as caseloads, emergencies and administrative procedures, which may affect the timing of hearings and the issuance of final orders.
  • Disclosures and financial documentation: When lawyers are provided with complete and accurate financial information promptly, it facilitates the negotiation process and can lead to quicker resolution of financial matters, reducing delays in finalizing the divorce.
  • Need for expert analysis: If there is a need for expert analysis or evaluation, such as forensic accounting for complex financial situations or psychological evaluations for child custody disputes, the time required for these assessments and the availability of experts can impact the overall duration of the divorce process.

A divorce lawyer can help streamline the process by guiding you through legal requirements and advocating for your interests during negotiations.

Residency Requirements For A Divorce In Colorado

When going through a divorce in Colorado, it’s important to meet the residency requirements. One spouse must have resided in the state for 91 days preceding the filing of the divorce petition. If a minor is involved, they must have lived in Colorado for at least 182 days before the filing of the divorce petition (or since birth, if they are a newborn).

However, if you do not meet residency requirements, there are a few options available. They include:

  • You can wait until you or your spouse meets the residency requirement by living in Colorado for the required period before filing for divorce.
  • If you cannot meet the residency requirements for divorce but still wish to legally separate from your spouse, you may file for legal separation instead.
  • If you or your spouse meet the residency requirements of another state, you may choose to file for divorce in that state instead.

A Colorado divorce attorney can help you gather all the required paperwork for a Colorado divorce as you wait for the three months to elapse, thus making the process less stressful.

How Can You Protect Your Rights During A Divorce In Colorado?

The absolute best way to protect your rights when you are going through a divorce is to seek early legal counsel. Do not make any rash decisions, promises or agreements without speaking to an attorney about your situation first.

A divorce attorney can help you understand your rights regarding property division, who is responsible for marital debts, any spousal support issues, custody of any minor children, insurance issues and child support. A clear understanding of your options will make informed decisions much easier.

How Do You Choose The Right Divorce Attorney?

Every divorce is unique. To choose the right Forth Collins, Colorado, divorce lawyer, consider their experience, special areas of legal focus, overall approach to family law situations, client reviews and communication style.

Most of the time, you can determine whether an attorney is the right fit for your needs during your initial free consultation. At the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith, we take an optimistic approach that prioritizes solutions that are best for our client and their entire family. While we are not averse to litigation, we aim for a negotiated divorce whenever possible.

What Kind Of Support Can You Expect Our Greeley And Fort Collins Law Firm?

We cannot speak for every Fort Collins, Colorado, divorce lawyer, but we believe in taking a tailored approach to each of our clients. Attorney Shawn H. Smith will work hard to understand your fears and concerns. He will then help you define your divorce priorities and work toward your goals.

You can also generally expect your divorce attorney to be a huge source of support as you face the emotional challenges that go along with the end of your marriage. Attorney Smith can offer invaluable, objective guidance and comfort throughout the process.

Contact An Attentive, Well-Prepared Fort Collins Divorce Attorney

We invite you to contact the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith today at 970-387-6858 or through an email inquiry. Our law office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.