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Divorce: Different States Offer Different Benefits

I recently wrote about how living in a no-fault divorce state can affect the outcome of your hearing (in sum, the fact that Colorado is a no-fault divorce state essentially means that the Court will not punish or blame one spouse for causing the termination of the relationship).

So this brings up another question: if you believe your spouse is at fault, does it make sense to file for divorce in a state that isn’t a no-fault divorce state?

This is where divorce can get rather ugly.

Filing for Divorce in Two Different States

I have seen this in my career, and it has happened again recently. A couple lived in Boulder, Colorado for most of their marriage, but once it started to fall apart, the husband moved to Texas to be closer to his family.

Now, while he is in Texas, they are formally separated for a period of time. He decides to file for divorce in Texas—a state that is not nearly as liberal as Colorado with regards to spousal maintenance, i.e., he anticipates that she will request maintenance in their divorce agreement, and he doesn’t want to pay it.

Naturally, she wants the divorce to occur in Colorado, where the Court will be much more sympathetic to her situation.

In this case, both spouses filed for divorce in their respective states. Where will the divorce actually take place?

Fortunately, this is not a situation where it’s “first come, first served;” and although the whole thing is essentially a major mess, ultimately it will come down to the judges. The Texas judge and the Colorado judge will schedule a phone call to discuss the case and decide where it seems most reasonable to hold the hearing.

Divorce Forum Shopping

There are other reasons, besides maintenance, that someone may attempt to file for divorce in a state other than where the couple mostly lived when they were married. Community property is one of those reasons.

Colorado is not a community property state, meaning that the assets are not considered to be strictly owned 50/50 by the spouses if one spouse has significant more assets than the other. So, if a couple lives in California (which is a community property state) but one of them has ties to Colorado, that person may attempt to file for divorce in Colorado to get the advantage.

I’ve even seen people look into the towns surrounding them to see which community will better suit their needs. I’ve had people come to me and say, “I want my divorce in Boulder County, not Adams County, because Boulder is much more liberal and I have a better chance of getting 50/50 time with my kids.”

People are generally greedy and selfish and always looking to gain an advantage, whether it’s financial, time with the kids, or finding a way to walk away from the marriage with the most assets.

In sum, if you have a spouse who is forum shopping or trying to file for divorce in a county other than where you lived, we strongly advise that you hire an attorney to guide you as you go through the divorce process. In divorce, spouses generally feel no loyalty or obligation to their former spouse and will frequently take steps to ensure they come out on top.

Call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.