What Happens If I Do Not Sign the Divorce Papers in Colorado

What Happens If I Do Not Sign the Divorce Papers in Colorado

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Divorce is rarely easy and amicable, but if one spouse doesn’t want the divorce, it makes the process even more distressing. But can a resistant spouse stop the divorce by refusing to sign the papers? What happens in a Colorado divorce if one spouse refuses to participate in the process? Before you can understand the consequences of failing to sign divorce papers, it’s important to understand how the process of divorce works in Colorado, and what it means to be a petitioner vs a respondent.

Understanding Petitioner, Co-Petioner, and Respondent in Colorado Divorce

If both spouses agree that they want to divorce, they have the option in Colorado to file together as co-petitioners. This begins the divorce process and tells the court that both parties believe the divorce is inevitable and that their marriage is irretrievably broken—the only grounds necessary for a divorce in Colorado. When the spouses file for divorce as co-petitioners, neither spouse is a respondent so the court doesn’t have to officially serve papers to one spouse. In most cases, filing as co-petitioners means the divorce is uncontested and both parties agree to settle all terms, including issues of property division, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance. More commonly, one spouse files for divorce and the other spouse becomes the respondent served with the divorce papers.

How Long Do I Have to Respond to a Petition for Divorce in Colorado?

Once served with divorce papers, the respondent has 21 days from the date they were served to file a response. If the respondent has moved out of the state, the time limit extends to 35 days. During this time, the respondent should seek their own Colorado divorce attorney and discuss the terms indicated on the petition in order to respond in a way that protects their own rights and interests.

Typically, the respondent files a response indicating whether or not they agree to all terms, contend specific terms, or wish to make counter-demands of their own for property division, child custody, or other matters.

Some respondents believe they can avoid or delay the divorce process by failing to respond, but it’s important to understand that it only takes one spouse seeking divorce for the court to complete the process. By failing to respond, you won’t stop the divorce, you’ll only give up your chance to contest any matters of child custody, property division, and spousal maintenance.

Divorce by Default in Colorado

If the respondent in a divorce doesn’t respond to the divorce petition within the 21-day time limit, the divorce becomes a default divorce. In a default divorce in Colorado, the petitioner appears before a judge with their attorney. In most cases, the judge simply signs the final divorce decree without the respondent present and minus their input on any of the petitioner’s requested terms. This means the petitioner obtains what is essentially an uncontested divorce without the other spouse’s say in any of the following critical divorce terms:

  • Division of marital property
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Spousal support (alimony)

In rare instances, the judge may choose to offer an extension to a later hearing date to give the respondent a last chance to file a response or appear in court. More commonly, the judge signs off on the petitioner’s divorce terms.

If you are the respondent who fails to sign the papers or appear at the hearing, your spouse may get everything they ask of the judge in the final decree. This could have a significant impact on your life going forward, including consequences for your finances and your ability to spend time with your children.

Get In Touch With An Experienced Denver Divorce Attorney Today

Get In Touch With An Experienced Denver Divorce Attorney Today

Instead of failing to file a response to a divorce petition, it’s a far wiser choice to speak to a Denver divorce attorney about your rights and your options. Contact us today to get started on your divorce claim.