The division of property is one of the main issues during a divorce case in Colorado. Colorado is an equitable distribution divorce state. It uses a common law doctrine rather than one based on the laws of community property. Instead of dividing property 50/50 in a divorce case, the Colorado courts will divide marital property, assets and debts in a way that is equitable, or fair, based on the factors of the unique case. Understanding what the courts consider marital property versus separate property can help you know what to expect in terms of property division during a divorce in Colorado.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
During a divorce in Colorado, the courts will only have the jurisdiction to divide marital property. The courts cannot touch a spouse’s separate property. The difference between the two is when the spouse acquired the property. Anything you owned before your marriage will remain separate property, unless you commingled the asset during the marriage. If you combined your bank accounts into a joint account with your spouse, for example, you commingled this asset and turned your separate property into marital property. If you do not commingle separate property, your previously owned assets will remain separate property.
Homes or real estate
Stocks and bonds
Art and other valuables
Debts, including student loans
Under Colorado law, gifts and inheritance given specifically to an individual will remain separate property. If a relative of yours died and gave you an inheritance, for instance, this inheritance will remain your separate property. Your spouse will not have a claim to your inheritance or a gift given to you, even if you were married at the time of its receipt.
It can be difficult to draw the line between marital property and separate property during a divorce case, especially if you have been married to your spouse for many years. You may need to hire an attorney, an accountant or another type of professional to analyze your property and organize it into categories during a divorce case.
How Do the Courts Divide Marital Property in Colorado?
You will only need to focus on marital property during a divorce case in Colorado. You do not have to share your separate property with your spouse after a divorce. A divorce lawyer can help you make a list of each type of marital property you and your spouse own together. Then, you can either work together with your spouse to divide the property yourselves (achieve a divorce settlement) or take your case to court.
If you cannot agree with your spouse on how to divide property and handle the rest of your divorce case, including child custody and spousal maintenance, these issues will go before a judge. Under Colorado’s equitable distribution law, a judge will divide property based on what he or she deems fair for the situation rather than splitting it down the middle. In general, the higher-earning spouse in the marriage will receive a larger portion of the marital property than the lower-earning spouse. To make up for the earning disparity, the courts may award the lower-earning spouse child support and/or alimony.
A judge will consider many factors when determining how to divide marital property. These include the length of the marriage, the number of assets owned, how much each spouse brought into the marriage, how much each spouse contributed to the marital assets and debts during the union, the depreciation or appreciation of each spouse’s separately owned assets during the marriage, and the economic circumstances of each spouse after the divorce. If you need assistance creating a property division settlement with your ex-spouse – or going up against your ex at trial – contact a divorce lawyer in Colorado.