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Understanding a “No-Fault Divorce” State

As you go through the divorce process, you may hear the term “no-fault divorce state”, especially if you’re pursuing a divorce in the State of Colorado (which happens to be a no-fault divorce state).

To fully understand what a “no-fault” divorce state is, let’s look at a “fault divorce” state. In a fault divorce state, in order to get a divorce, you have to prove that your spouse committed one of the specified actions that would justify a divorce.

The specified conducts and their exact terminology varies from state to state, but to give you an idea of what these might be, look at this list:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Bigamy
  • Emotional or physical abuse
  • Impotence

If you’re getting divorced in the State of Colorado, you will not be required to demonstrate that your spouse took any of the actions listed above.

Colorado is a No-Fault Divorce State

In a no-fault divorce state like Colorado, the Court does not require you to point the blame on anyone. Colorado law generally says, “If you want a divorce, you get a divorce.”

Rather than demonstrating that your soon-to-be-former spouse committed harmful acts, you only have to demonstrate that the marriage is irretrievably broken, i.e., there is no chance of reconciliation.

In general, if one spouse says the marriage is broken, the marriage is broken.

However, there is a provision in the law that states that, if the other side claims that the marriage isn’t irretrievably broken, a hearing must be scheduled. In my many years of practice, I have had only one hearing where the other party claimed the marriage wasn’t irretrievably broken. About 20 minutes into the hearing, the judge stopped her testimony and commented, “I have never heard of a marriage more irretrievably broken.” And that was the end of that.

Fortunately, the no-fault divorce process takes much of the litigiousness out of having to prove why you’re getting a divorce, so the parties can instead focus on exactly how the divorce will work, who gets what, etc. In my opinion, it’s a much cleaner process this way. However, many people have difficulty understanding that the other party’s conduct is irrelevant.  This is especially true with infidelity.

Colorado Law Requires a “Cooling Off” Period

While the no-fault divorce state certainly makes divorce cleaner, Colorado still wants to make sure that divorce doesn’t become an easy and quick solution for relationship disputes.

In most states, you cannot get divorced right away. In Colorado, a couple who wants to divorce is required to wait 91 days after the filing/service of the case before the divorce can be finalized. 

Many clients come to me saying, “Look, we want a divorce, we’ve already figured everything out. Why do we have to wait?” In my opinion, the waiting period is meant to discourage people from getting in a fight, getting a divorce, making up and re-marrying over and over again. So even though Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, it still wants the entire process to feel more permanent than that.

If you’re considering a legal separation or divorce, call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.