Divorce is an emotionally charged time for any spouse, but it’s especially painful and distressing when one spouse doesn’t want the divorce or seeks to avoid the process completely by failing to respond to the other spouse’s divorce petition. By refusing to sign papers, respond to a petition, or participate in the divorce hearing, does it mean the divorce doesn’t happen and the spouses remain married?
In Colorado, refusing to sign divorce papers or respond to a spouse’s divorce petition does not stop the divorce. It only takes a single spouse to end a marriage in Colorado. When one spouse doesn’t respond, the process becomes a divorce by default.
Divorce by Default in Colorado
The spouse who files for divorce in Colorado is the petitioner in the process. The other spouse then becomes the respondent who is served with divorce papers. During a Colorado divorce, if the respondent refuses to file a response within the 21-day time period allowed by the court, the divorce enters a default divorce process. During a divorce by default, the judge typically signs off on the petitioner’s requests for all divorce terms including the following:
- Division of marital property
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal maintenance (alimony)
During a default divorce, a judge may order an extension for the respondent’s failure to appear. The extension gives the respondent one last chance to respond to the petitioner’s terms and make requests. If the respondent declines the opportunity to respond, the default hearing moves forward.
A Default Divorce Hearing in Colorado
A default divorce hearing takes place thirty days after the respondent refuses to respond. If a respondent ignores the divorce petition, legal notices, and court date, they give up their right to make requests or contest any of the petitioner’s requests of the court. It’s important to fully understand what rights a respondent gives up by failing to appear in mediation processes and the final divorce hearing:
- The right to request changes to the petitioner’s demands
- The right to make counter-demands or their own requests for the division of marital assets, child custody, and other important divorce terms
In most cases, the judge signs off on the petitioner’s requests in a default divorce, unless they are egregiously unfair or don’t follow the state’s requirements for equitable property division.
Do Some Spouses Choose a Divorce by Default in Colorado?
Most default divorces occur because one spouse refuses to respond to the other’s divorce petition, but some spouses mutually agree to choose a default divorce purposely in order to save on costs for two attorneys, mediation, and a divorce trial. This option only works if both spouses agree to the terms of the divorce agreement requested by the petitioning spouse and the other spouse agrees to not respond to the petition or legal notices. After 30 days, the petitioning spouse can ask for a divorce by default.
Divorce lawyers in Denver warn that choosing a divorce by default requires one spouse to completely trust the petitioning spouse to stick to their pre-agreed-upon terms. Choosing a default divorce is usually only a viable option for spouses who agree to all terms or spouses with few assets and no children.