Divorces are often difficult and fraught with emotion. When one party doesn’t want the divorce the process becomes even more distressing. However, it only takes one spouse to seek a divorce for the process to begin, and a divorce can go all the way to finalization even if one spouse refuses to respond. The spouse who believes the marriage is irretrievably broken can file a petition for divorce in Colorado even when the other spouse wishes to reconcile or resists the divorce for other reasons. Once one spouse files for divorce, the other becomes the respondent in the legal process and cannot refuse the divorce; however, if the spouse is contentious, they can certainly make the divorce process longer and more complicated to complete.
Colorado’s Waiting Period for Divorce
Even in the most amicable divorce situations, when both spouses agree to the divorce, it takes a minimum of 91 days after the filing of the initial divorce petition before the process moves forward. This waiting period not only allows for the possibility of reconciliations, but also gives those intent on completing the divorce time to meet with attorneys, negotiate agreements on the division of their marital assets, and resolve custody and parenting time disputes. The court in Colorado cannot finalize a divorce before the end of this 91-day waiting period.
What If One Party Intentionally Delays the Divorce?
Once the respondent to the divorce receives the petition, they have 21 days to respond. During that time, a respondent should hire their own Denver divorce attorney and begin working on their response to their spouse’s demands listed in the petition. Demands can include those for the following:
- Child custody
- Division of marital assets
- Child support
- Spousal maintenance (alimony)
If the respondent agrees to all terms, the divorce proceeds quickly after the end of the 91-day waiting period. However, in most cases, the respondent contests one or more of the petitioner’s demands. During the waiting period, both sides meet with their attorneys to attempt negotiations to resolve their contentious issues and form a settlement agreement. If one spouse doesn’t wish to divorce, they may become contentious on multiple issues in order to prolong the process.
The court requires divorcing spouses with contentious issues to attend mediation sessions to attempt to resolve their dissension with professional help. If one spouse doesn’t agree on one or more issues after mediation, the court must hear both sides at a divorce trial so a judge can decide.
What Happens if a Spouse Doesn’t Agree to Divorce and Fails to Respond?
Sometimes, a spouse fails to respond to the divorce petition and chooses not to attend the scheduled hearing. But does this mean they succeed in stopping the divorce? Fortunately, no. In Colorado, it only takes one spouse to get a divorce.
A default divorce occurs when one spouse fails to respond to the other spouse’s petition and doesn’t attend mediation or the final hearing. In a default divorce, the respondent gives up their right to contest the other spouse’s demands. Instead, a divorce judgment is entered against them.
A default divorce may take place 30 days after the spouse refuses to respond to the divorce petition. In some cases, a judge may extend the proceeding to give the resistant spouse a final chance to respond. Typically, the petitioner and their attorney inform the judge of their attempts to engage the spouse in the process. If the judge believes that fair attempts were made to reach out to the resisting spouse, in most cases, they simply sign off on the divorce decree.