Can you do your own divorce in Colorado? Quite possibly - every year, people who are willing to spend the time to educate themselves, and fill out the forms properly, can, and do, successfully obtain their own divorce without the assistance of counsel. But it's not for everyone. Read the D.I.Y. Divorce Guide, particularly the criteria section, to see if it can work in your situation.
The D.I.Y. Divorce Guide assumes that you have researched your situation, and are comfortable with what to expect. You've read the Colorado Divorce & Family Law Guide cover to cover. If you're in the military, you've read the Military Divorce Guide. You've spoken to people who have been through a Colorado divorce. You've gone to the free pro se clinic at the Courthouse. And finally, once you have everything prepared, you should still consult with an attorney to review everything. Most Colorado family law attorneys (including this firm) charge a consultation fee, but a nominal consultation fee is a small price to pay to make sure you know your rights, and things are done properly.
The D.I.Y. Divorce Guide is aimed at people whose case meets these criteria:
Download the forms that you will need in advance. This Guide references the necessary forms for each step in the process in yellow. The forms can be obtained from:
Colorado State Judicial Branch Forms. The Colorado Supreme Court has all of the basic Colorado family law forms available in both MS Word and Adobe PDF formats. This is your best source for the statewide Colorado divorce forms referenced in this Guide.
4th Judicial District Web Site. The El Paso and Teller County District Courts have a few of their own unique forms - they are available on the court web site in both Word and PDF formats.
Each of these sites also has instruction sheets available for download, which explain both the general process, and also give guidance for filling out specific forms.
The Colorado Judicial Branch has an interactive map of Colorado judicial districts. Simply click on your location on the map, and it will take you to a page with information about the district, and, if applicable, a link to that court's web site, where you can you find out about the specific procedures or forms used by that district.
Note: When local practice is referenced, The D.I.Y. Divorce Guide is based upon the 4th Judicial District forms and procedures. Since each of Colorado's judicial districts can set its own procedures, and may have local supplements to the statewide forms referenced in this Guide, check your local judicial district to make sure you comply with their requirements.
Note that these instructions are for the statewide forms. The few 4th Judicial District specific forms have a bit of a simpler caption on the top, which still requires similar information. Starting on the top left of the caption:
Signature. Once you complete the form, there will be a place for your signature on the bottom of the form. Some forms require your signature to be notarized.
Certificate of Service. Most forms contain a Certificate of Service. Fill out your spouse’s name & address, and method of service. Once you mail the form to him/her, sign that line.
Unless you have access to the Colorado Interactive Filing System (ICCES), the initial pleadings must be filed in person (in El Paso County it's in Room 105), as explained on the next page.
Most subsequent pleadings can be filed in person, or by mailing the pleading to the Clerk of Court at the court address. You'll also need to mail a copy of each pleading to your spouse.
JDF 1000 - Case Information Sheet (Word Template | Word | PDF). This form contains personal. information about the couple which is for the Court's information, but not releasable to the public. The form is self-explanatory, and tick the boxes which say each of you are planning on being self-represented (they won't hold you to that if something changes!). You can stop at the end of the first page, unless there has been other relevant litigation (e.g. parenting case, restraining order).
JDF 1101 - Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation (Word | PDF). This document formally asks the Court to grant a dissolution or legal separation. Tick the appropriate boxes, depending upon whether you're seeking a legal separation or a dissolution, and whether there are minor children of the marriage. Assuming you are filing jointly with your spouse, both of you should then sign/notarize the last page.
JDF 1102 - Summons for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation (Word Template | Word | PDF). This form is only needed if you and your spouse did not sign the Petition jointly. Fill out the caption on both pages, and tick the appropriate box for a dissolution or legal separation. Do not sign this form (that's for the clerk of court), nor complete the second page other than the caption.
FCF 900 - Standard Order to Parents - Fourth Judicial District (Word). 4th Judicial District Only. This form is only needed if you and your spouse have minor children. Complete the caption at the top of this form. This document contains default parenting provisions which are binding on both parties until further order of the Court.
FCF 400 - Domestic Relations Case Management Order Pursuant to Rule 16.2 (PDF). 4th Judicial District Only. Complete the caption at the top of the form. This document advises the parties of the rules governing how the case will proceed.
FCF 700 - Notice of Applicability of Court Forms, etc. (Word). 4th Judicial District Only. Complete the caption at the top of the form. This document is somewhat similar to the Domestic Relations Case Management Order, and sets out procedures for the parties to follow.
If both spouses jointly signed the Petition, skip steps 5 & 6, and go to next page.
If your spouse is cooperative, simply give him/her a copy of the initial pleadings, and obtain his/her notarized signature on the Waiver & Acceptance of Service on the second page of the Summons.
If your spouse is not cooperative, but you're still trying to do this yourself, then you can have any adult who is not a party to the case (i.e. anyone but you) serve your spouse with the initial pleadings. You can also use the Civil Section of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office for a modest charge of $35 or so. Whoever serves your spouse will then sign and notarize the Return of Service on the second page of the Summons. (Note that many process servers will have their own form instead - this is perfectly acceptable to the Court).
Jointly filing the Petition, serving your spouse, or your spouse signing a waiver of service all start the 90-day waiting period before the dissolution or legal separation can be final.
Copy the Summons/Return of Service for your records, then file the original with the Clerk of Court.
Between the time you file the initial pleadings and the Initial Status Conference has been scheduled, you will have about 40 days to complete your financial disclosures.
1. Complete the Children & Families in Transition Seminar. At some point between filing the Petition, and attending the Initial Status conference, you should attend this mandatory seminar. Click on the link for the seminar schedule, so you can plan accordingly. If you live out of state, you will need to ask the Court for permission to take an alternative class offered through the court system where you live. If you are in the military and are deployed, the Court will generally accept a memo from a chaplain indicating that you have received 1 1/2 hours of training in issues that parents and children face during dissolution.
2. Consult Form 35.1, Mandatory Disclosures, which is also attached as the last page of the Case Management Order , contains the list of financial documents the spouses are required to exchange with each other in every case, even if the case is uncontested. The list contains such items as tax returns, pay stubs, credit card and bank statements.
3. Complete JDF 1111 - Sworn Financial Statement (Word | PDF), and, if applicable, the JDF 1111ss Supporting Schedules for Assets (Word | PDF). These two forms advise your spouse of your income, expenses, assets, and debts.
4. Complete JDF 1104 - Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Financial Disclosures (Word Template | Word | PDF). Tick the boxes of the applicable financial documents you will be providing to your spouse.
5. Provide spouse with a copy of the Sworn Financial Statement, Certificate of Compliance, and mandatory disclosures.
6. File with the Court the Sworn Financial Statement and the Certificate of Compliance.
Note that your tax return, pay stubs, bank statements, and the other mandatory financial disclosures are NOT filed with the Court. Instead, you provide them to your spouse, and simply certify to the Court that you have done so.
Once you have exchanged your financial disclosures, you should download and fill out the following forms:
2. JDF 1113 Parenting Plan. (Word | PDF). This form is only needed if you have children. This fill-in-the-blank form contains your parenting schedule, decision-making designations, and child support issues.
3. JDF 1820E Child Support Worksheet. (Self-Calculating Excel Spreadsheet). This form is only needed if you have children. If support is payable, you must attach a child support worksheet to the parenting plan. There are also manual worksheets, if you're knowledgeable and brave enough to do the calculations - not for the faint of heart: JDF 1820M Worksheet A (Word | PDF) for sole physical care (one parent has fewer than 93 overnights), and JDF 1821M Worksheet B (Word | PDF) for shared physical care (each parent has at least 93 overnights).
5. JDF 1117 Support Order. (Word Template | Word | PDF). This form is only needed if there are minor children, or one spouse will be paying maintenance to the other. Fill out all required information, including which spouse will be providing the children's health insurance.
6. JDF 1201 Affidavit for Decree Without Appearance of Parties. (Word Template | Word | PDF). This form is only used if there are no minor children, and, strictly speaking, is NOT available for Legal Separation cases. Fill out the form, and sign/notarize it. As with the decree, indicate the service of process method, and other necessary information.
Do not file the documents at court yet. Instead, complete them to the best of your abilities, and bring them to the Initial Status Conference for review by the domestic court facilitator.
Approximately 40-50 days after starting the case, you and your spouse will be scheduled to attend the Initial Status Conference.
Note that this step is almost certainly different depending upon your judicial district. In El Paso County, if there are no attorneys on the case, your Initial Status Conference will be conducted in a room with either Michael Vigil, or Nicolle Rugh, the two domestic court facilitators at the courthouse. In other judicial districts, the Initial Status Conference may be conducted in a courtroom in front of a judge or magistrate.
Bring all of your paperwork to the conference, which should take about 10-15 minutes. The domestic court facilitators cannot give you legal advice, nor enter any orders. If you have completed all of your paperwork and brought it with you, they generally can review your paperwork, and the agreements, to make sure they are filled out properly.
A review of documents to ensure they are filled out properly is NOT legal advice. The domestic court facilitator cannot indicate whether your agreements are advisable, or whether you forgot to divide an asset, or tell you what a judge would do. See Legal Advice vs. Procedural Information, from the Colorado Judicial Branch, for more information on what they can and cannot do.
If, after the Initial Status Conference, you need to modify any forms, you should do so before signing and filing them at court.
If you have no minor children, follow the instructions on the next page to finalize your case. If you have children, skip that step, and instead follow the instructions for setting and attending the final hearing.
This step is only for cases without minor children. If you have minor children, skip this page, and instead follow the instructions for setting and attending the final hearing.
The final step is to obtain the Court approval of your dissolution. If you have no children, it is real easy - wait until the required 90 days has elapsed since service of process, and file the following signed & completed original documents at the clerk's office:
Provide two additional copies of the decree and support order, with self-addressed stamped envelopes for each spouse, so the clerk can mail you each a copy once the decree has been signed.
It is important for you to track when the 90th day is. The court may not track that date, and if you submit the documents early, the magistrate may sign them before 90 days have elapsed, which could cause you problems later.
That's it - assuming you properly filled out all of the forms, you should receive a signed copy of your decree within a week or two, and you'll be divorced.
If you have minor children, unless both spouses have counsel, you cannot simply submit the signed paperwork to the court and wait for the decree. Instead, the spouses in Colorado divorces involving children, or if they're getting a legal separation (don't ask - it's a quirk in the statute) are required to attend an uncontested permanent orders hearing.
In the 4th Judicial District, there is a simplified process to obtain an uncontested hearing date:
The court will set the hearing date, and mail you back a copy of the form with the date, time, and place of the hearing.
In other judicial districts, the procedure will vary (see JDF 1122 - Instructions to Set a Hearing and to Complete a Notice of Hearing or Status Conference Form (Word | PDF) for more information), but will probably include steps similar to the following:
A spouse who is not in the local area can generally participate in the hearing by telephone, using this procedure:
Dress respectably. Don't bring your children to the courtroom (Click for more information on Court Care, a free service at the El Paso County Courthouse to watch your children while at court). Arrive at the courtroom at least 5 minutes early. Be polite to the judge or magistrate. For more guidance on courtroom etiquette, review this guide from the Colorado Judicial Branch: What You Need to Know About Representing Yourself in Court.
Bring a copy of all of your pleadings and financial documents to the hearing with you.
The hearing should take about 10-15 minutes, during which the magistrate will ask you and your spouse questions about the marriage, and about the agreements you have reached. Providing that everything was filled out properly and submitted in advance, the court will grant the dissolution, and give you a copy of the decree of dissolution the same day.