It’s often a long and difficult journey for a couple to get to the point of filing for divorce. In Colorado, some divorcing spouses are startled and dismayed after they file a divorce petition to learn that they now face what feels like an unreasonably lengthy waiting period when they’re suffering through an emotionally turbulent time. So, what is the waiting period in Colorado divorce cases, why is it in place, and what should divorcing spouses do during this time?
How Long is the Waiting Period for a Colorado Divorce?
Once one party files an official divorce petition in Colorado and the other party in the divorce receives the served papers, a 91-day waiting period begins before the divorce proceedings move forward toward a final hearing. This waiting period is mandatory, even when both parties in the divorce are in agreement that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This waiting period is also known as a “cooling off period.”
Why Do Some States Require Waiting Periods Before Divorce?
The language used in the laws of many states with waiting periods describes this cooling-off period as a way to discourage “impetuous divorce.” The belief is that some couples may file for divorce during an upset in their marriage when they might otherwise work out their differences given time. One study based on Korea’s adoption of a cooling-off period as a national law shows a decline in the actual divorce rate while the filing rate remained the same.
In the US, only 8 states have no waiting periods after filing divorce petitions, while the remaining states require waiting periods ranging from 10 days (Oklahoma) to an entire year (Maryland).
What Should Spouses Do During the 91-Day Waiting Period for Divorce in Colorado?
Colorado’s 91-day waiting period may offer couples the time they need to experience life apart from each other and come to the realization that they’d prefer to repair their marriage rather than dissolve it. They could choose to use some of this time to try couples counseling or dating each other again. While this may be a hoped-for outcome and part of the reason for adopting the waiting period in most states, in the majority of cases, couples who get to the point of filing for divorce have already made the decision that divorce is inevitable and they are past the point of reconciliation. In that case, a good divorce attorney should help a client use this time for the following:
- Gathering relevant information and documents for full financial disclosure pursuant to the division of marital assets and debts
- Have Denver divorce attorneys schedule meetings to resolve contentious issues
- Undergo mediation to work toward mutually agreeable decisions on asset division, retention of the family home, and child custody
- Use the Colorado child support calculator to get a good idea of which spouse must pay child support and the general amount
- Review the state’s recommended schedules for sharing parenting time to find one that works best for their needs
- Use the time to slowly transition children to their new family circumstances
- Make decisions and/or changes in healthcare coverage
Is There an Advantage to a Waiting Period?
Not only does Colorado’s mandatory 91-day waiting period help couples to examine any second thoughts they might have about divorce, but it also offers ample time to meet with attorneys and mediators in order to come to equitable agreements on the questions of asset division, child custody, child support, and any needed spousal support. Having a settlement agreement worked out before the final hearing helps the divorce to move quickly and smoothly through the proceedings after the waiting period ends and minimizes or eliminates the need for courtroom litigation.