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The unique language of divorce in Colorado

If you're considering divorce in Colorado and doing some research into the laws and process, you're likely going to come upon some terms that may seem odd or at least new. Family law statutes vary among states, as does the language around divorce and co-parenting.

Here in Colorado, some of the terms we've grown up hearing like divorce, alimony and custody aren't used in legal documents or in court. That's why it's essential to understand the terminology that you will be dealing with as you end your marriage.

Marital dissolution

That's the legal term for divorce in Colorado. When you initiate a divorce, you file what's called a petition for dissolution of marriage. One spouse may file this on their own. However, if both spouses agree to end the marriage, they may file a co-petition.

Spousal maintenance

This is the same thing as alimony or spousal support.

Parental responsibility

Colorado law doesn't use the term "custody" in issues involving care and decision-making for kids. Legal agreements involving how kids will divide their time between parents and what rights and responsibilities each parent will have for deciding important matters in their children's lives will refer to "allocation of parenting time" and "parental decision-making." These items and more are detailed by parents in a parenting plan that's submitted to the court.

Separation agreement

This is the document detailing the terms of the marriage dissolution. It includes the disposition of debt and assets, spousal maintenance and how taxes will be filed in the future. Notice that it's not called a divorce agreement.

Permanent orders hearing

This is the final stage where the divorcing spouses appear in court. They may have already settled their issues regarding the division of their assets, spousal maintenance and parental responsibility. There may be issues that a judge needs to rule on after testimony and evidence are presented. At the end of the process, the court enters the "decree of dissolution of marriage."

Your Colorado family law attorney may choose to use more generic terms like "divorce" as you go through the process. However, it's important to understand the terms discussed here because you'll see them on the documents you'll be dealing with and hearing from judges and others who may be involved in your case.

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