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What Happens If I Do Not Sign The Divorce Papers in Colorado?

It’s easy to think since a marriage license requires signatures of both parties –divorce paperwork would be the same. This is incorrect. In Colorado, our Courts only require one party to sign and file a divorce petition to begin the divorce process.

Co-Petitioners vs Petitioner and Respondent

In Colorado, if two parties sign the initial pleadings – they are known as “co-petitioners.” All this does is signal to the Court that both parties agree the marriage is irretrievably broken and they would like the Court to begin the divorce process. This makes the irretrievable factor “undisputed.” This also means that neither co-petitioner needs to file a response. Ultimately, without having to wait on a response, this can speed up the process of finalizing a dissolution quicker.

There are some personal reasons why people will not sign divorce papers and become co-petitioners. Sometimes it has to do with religious values or wanting to save the marriage. Ultimately, this will not prevent your spouse from filing. If you do not agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken, or you do not agree with something that is said on the divorce papers – your spouse has options on how to move the case forward. One is by simply filing independently and arranging for personal service.

This means that one party (the filing party) is named as Petitioner and the other is named Respondent. This signals to the Court that, for whatever reason, you did not sign the divorce papers. The Courts do not care “why” you didn’t sign the original paperwork, and so it may never be asked. You may have not even been given an option to sign the original paperwork.

There are many reasons why a Petitioner does not inform the Respondent about divorce. Safety reasons, fear of conflict, input from friends and family about their own divorces, the children, holidays—the list can go on and on. Here at Modern Family Law, if you are considering filing for divorce and you’re unsure if you should approach the subject with your spouse ahead of time, we will address your concerns and come to a decision that works best for you.

Is It Better to Be a Co-Petitioner than a Respondent?

Not every divorce will end in high conflict. Sometimes people just need help figuring out the divorce process. Signing the paperwork as “co-petitioners” can often signal to the Court that you both, for the most part, are trying to work together. If you are named the “Respondent,” that doesn’t mean the Court believes you are somehow the wrongdoer or trying to be difficult. Again, there are many reasons why someone would want to file without the other party’s signature to get the process started. Ultimately, these titles do not impact the Court and its decisions on the division of property or the allocation of parental responsibilities. So to answer the question – there really is no true advantage to being a Co-Petitioner over a Respondent.

If you are named Respondent, Colorado is a no-fault state. It doesn’t matter what you did or did not do during your marriage. Colorado only cares that someone believes the marriage is over. Even if you testify you do not agree to the divorce – Colorado will still allow the divorce to become final if at least one party does not want to reconcile. Ultimately being called “Co-Petitioner” or “Respondent” has no impact on your case when it comes to the facts of the case or its outcome. That does not mean there isn’t a minor difference in procedure.

Being Co-Petitioners Can Impact Court Procedure

Procedurally, if you do not sign the divorce papers, or you were never given the option to – you will have 21 days to file your response. This signals to the Court that you have been given proper notice and that you are going to participate in the process. If testimony is ever needed in your case and you are the “Respondent,” you will go second when putting on your case in chief.

Sometimes being the Respondent and going second has benefits – such as knowing what testimony the Petitioner said and now you and your attorney can work more efficiently to address it instead of having to guess what may be testified to.

For “Co-petitioners,” a response to the petition for dissolution is unnecessary. Both parties have already agreed a divorce needs to occur and neither party needs to be personally served or waive service. This means Co-Petitioners do not have to wait the additional 21 days for response time if both parties live in Colorado. If someone lives outside of Colorado, the response time is extended to 35 days. If there is a Petitioner and Respondent, and Respondent is out of state, that is 35 days extra to consider when looking at the whole divorce process. Filing as Co-Petitioners can help expedite the process and get both parties to the next step—the initial status conference, which ultimately gets them a step closer to final dissolution.

If testimony needs to occur in a case with Co-Petitioners, then the Court will simply select someone or pick who signed first. It can be more flexible when it comes to testimony. This can sometimes have a drawback as neither party knows who will go first. When you are a Co-Petitioner, we at Modern Family Law will work with you and go over what is the most important evidence to show or testify to the Court about—regardless of who goes first or second.

What If I Won’t Sign and I Refuse To Participate After Getting Served?

So, if you don’t sign the divorce papers and you don’t agree the marriage is broken – well what about just not participating? This may seem like a way to slow down or even stop the process, but we at Modern Family Law are here to tell you that all this does is leave you open to vulnerability. If you do not participate in the divorce – and you are served with divorce paperwork – your spouse may become entitled to an uncontested divorce. The same can be said for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities claims. This means that your spouse (or the parent of your child) can request anything they would like from the Court. This can impact your finances, property, and child custody. You should consult with an attorney about the divorce or the custody process and its impacts on you.

What If I Avoid Getting Personally Served, Will That Stop the Divorce?

The answer is no. Your spouse can have their attorney file what is called a Motion for Publication. This can also occur in child custody cases, so it is important you speak to an attorney about your options when you feel inclined to avoid service. Motions for Publication are requests to the Court to show that the filing party has done everything to locate and secure personal service on you, but they cannot find you. Reasons for when Motions for Publication service is appropriate:

1. You have moved to another state and didn’t tell your spouse your address.

2. There is a Protection Order prohibiting your spouse from locating your address.

3. Your spouse has tried to locate you through professionals or the last known mailing address to unsuccessful results.

4. You intentionally refuse to open the door even when you hear the process server or law enforcement agent knock.

5. You tell the process server you are not who they are searching for (but they did correctly identify you).

6. You refuse to answer calls from friends or family trying to tell you that the divorce is happening.

7. You refuse to respond to e-mails or calls from your spouse’s attorney.

If you are a person who is trying to serve someone who is “dodging” or avoiding service, contact us and we will help you through the process so that you may petition the Court for service by publication. Service by publication means that instead of a process server or a law enforcement agent handing you the initial divorce documents, the case is mentioned in a local newspaper and tells you that you have a certain amount of time to respond before the case just simply moves on without you. This can also lead to uncontested divorces where the filing party may ask the Court for anything they want and can have ramifications on finances, property, and child custody. While there may be many reasons you want to stop the divorce—such as you still care for the person – know that avoiding does not end the process. Here at Modern Family Law, we have a team of empathetic attorneys who can help you move on with your life, even if it wasn’t the choice you would have made. Let us handle the process and that way you can focus on your emotional well-being.

So Does It Really Matter What I’m Called in the Divorce?

Respondent, Petitioner, Co-Petitioner. All these are when boiled down are titles to help the Court keep organized. While there are small mechanical differences, it will not impact anything regarding property or custody allocation. If you’ve been served papers or know service is coming – contact us at Modern Family Law and we can go over strategies to ensure your voice is heard during this complicated and stressful process. Divorce is emotional and not easy. Let an experienced attorney help you through the process.

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced family law attorneys takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. Our attorneys currently practice in Colorado, California, and Texas. Click the following link to view all of our family law locations. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us make a positive difference in your life.

By Chelsea Hillman, Esq.

Posted January 10, 2022

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