Yes, Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. This means that you are not required to prove your spouse is at fault or guilty of bad behavior to get a divorce in Colorado. While in the past a person had to show that his or her spouse cheated or was otherwise to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, today the petitioner only needs to cite that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” to get a divorce under Colorado’s no-fault law. Here’s what this could mean for your divorce case.
What Does “Irretrievably Broken” Mean?
Today, all 50 states permit no-fault divorce. There was a time not long ago, however, when fault had to be proven for the courts in most states to dissolve a marriage. In the past, the petitioning party had to prove that his or her spouse committed some type of wrongdoing that gave the petitioner grounds to file for divorce, such as:
Abandoned the family
Engaged in domestic violence or abuse
Committed a serious crime
Lied about his or her identity
Proving fault is no longer a requirement in Colorado or in any state. Instead, the grounds used for getting divorced in Colorado is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” According to Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-106(1)(a)(II), the courts will grant a dissolution of marriage or legal separation when at least one of the parties has resided in the state for 91 days prior to filing and the courts find that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Irretrievably broken means that a marriage has come to an end and that nothing can be done to repair the relationship, including counseling. Other states refer to this as having “irreconcilable differences.” Unlike fault-based grounds for divorce, the filing party does not have to prove that the relationship is irretrievably broken. It is enough to simply state this as grounds for requesting a divorce on the petition in Colorado.
Fault Will Not Affect Financial Decisions Made by the Courts
Colorado’s no-fault law means that the courts will not use the bad behavior of one spouse against him or her to make financial decisions during a divorce. A judge will not give one spouse a larger share of marital property to punish the other for adultery, for example.
Instead, Colorado’s equitable distribution law looks at factors such as the incomes of both parties and which parent has primary custody to determine property division. Other financial decisions made by a judge in a divorce case (e.g., spousal maintenance and child support) will also be based on relevant facts and numbers, not fault for the divorce.
Fault May Affect Parental Rights, Depending on the Case
While the Colorado courts will not use one parent’s fault to determine child custody in the sense of punishing that party, it may take a parent’s wrongful acts into account in terms of child safety. If allegations have been made during your divorce case of domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, family abandonment, substance abuse or any other activities that could risk a child’s health and safety, the courts will consider this when determining child custody and visitation.
Can You File a Fault-Based Divorce if You Want to in Colorado?
No. Colorado is one of 19 “true” no-fault states, where the only available option is a no-fault divorce, even if you have proof that your spouse caused your marriage to end. You can, however, submit evidence regarding fault for the divorce if it is relevant to other aspects of your case, such as child custody. An experienced divorce lawyer in Fort Collins can help you build a strong divorce case based on all of the relevant facts to pursue the results that you want.