In Colorado, at least one spouse or partner in a civil union must be domiciled in Colorado for a minimum of 91 days prior to filing for a divorce. In addition, the soonest a divorce decree (the actual order of dissolution of marriage) is 91 additional days. The time requirements are often referred to as a “residency” requirement and a “cooling off” period.
The difference between “domicile” and “residence” is not just semantic. Think of domicile as your home, the place you call home or intend to reside on a more permanent basis. A residence, on the other hand, is simply a place where one may reside, live at or occupy even in the short term. Many factors are analyzed in determining whether a party has been domiciled in Colorado for the requisite period of whether the individual is merely residing in Colorado on a more temporary basis. It’s easy to imagine the difficulty of analyzing the distinction between domicile and residency in military divorces. Most military divorces involve PCS or permanent change in station moves across country or even internationally. A military station assignment in itself does not establish residency or domicile in a particular state. An attorney experienced in handing military divorces is a key component in an effective legal strategy and the attorney will be able to navigate litigation in the appropriate state.
Rest assured that the overall timeline for obtaining a divorce in Colorado is quite favorable when compared to other states. Imagine being saddled with the time periods under Arkansas law … 540 days of minimum processing time for a divorce. If that weren’t enough of an obstacle from dissolving a dysfunctional marriage, that same state requires the parties to be physically separated for 18 months. Parties in Arkansas ought to think twice before reuniting or cohabitating because any period of cohabitation will require the 18 month separation time requirement to begin again.
The State of Nevada has a rich history of divorce laws and residency requirements. It turns out that Nevada saw the financial potential in reducing the residency requirement to six weeks (yep, weeks). The “quickie divorce” was a reality and “divorce ranches” popped up to allow travelers to establish a six-week residence in order to file a petition for dissolution. The economic benefit came in the form of court and legal fees not to mention the ranch fees, casino income and tourism in general.
Colorado appears to be just slightly better than average in terms of waiting periods and residency or domicile requirements for divorce.
Still, when a divorce involves children, the provisions of the UCCJEA or Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act must be analyzed. It is entirely possible for a divorcing couple to face litigation in the family courts of two separate states. The UCCJEA governs the appropriate state in which to litigation child custody disputes. In those cases in where one party can meet the domicile or residency requirements of one state (e.g. one party has been domiciled in Colorado for at least 91 days) but the requirements of the UCCJEA cannot be established (e.g. the minor children have not been present in Colorado for the last six months – 182 days by statute), the divorcing couple could find themselves at the jurisdictional mercy of two states. In some cases, it’s good strategy to separate the child custody and divorce-related issues; however, in most cases, the jurisdictional battle could just mean additional legal fees, that could have been avoided by consulting an experience attorney earlier in the process.
If you are facing a time-sensitive divorce issue or find yourself facing a jurisdictional issue in your divorce or child custody case, contact an experienced Colorado Family Law Attorney for straightforward and honest legal advice.
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