Serving the other party in the right county make for the first step in your case
A court must have jurisdiction over the legal issue and over the parties to hear a case. This means that you must choose the right court in which to file your case. These are the two types of jurisdiction – jurisdiction over the parties’ legal issue and jurisdiction over the parties themselves. Jurisdiction gives a Court the authority to make a decision in a case. The first type of jurisdiction concerns location.
In order to obtain a Colorado dissolution there is a domicile requirement and a waiting period. The domicile requirement is fulfilled if at least one of the parties to the divorce has lived in Colorado with the intent to remain for at least 90 days prior to filing. This “abode” requirement can be tricky. Does residing at a hotel for three months count as an abode? What about staying for three months at your aunt’s house while your new house is being built? What if those two structures are in different counties? This is why it’s important to have a lawyer who can fight to make sure your divorce or custody case is in the best court for you.
The second type of jurisdiction the court must have is personal jurisdiction, which is required in order for a Colorado court to dissolve a marriage, order a party to pay spousal support or maintenance, or divide marital property. A court must also have personal jurisdiction to award attorney’s fees to a requesting party. Jurisdiction is straightforward when both parties are domiciled in the state. However, jurisdiction can become more complicated if one of the parties does not live in the state. If one party does not reside in the state of Colorado that party can still consent to jurisdiction here. Even when one party does not live in the state and does not consent to jurisdiction here, jurisdiction can still be found if that party is served in the state or if the marriage occurred in the state.
Colorado, like many other states, has a “no-fault” dissolution legal standard. The “no-fault” standard for Colorado divorce is “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Only one party need assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken to initiate divorce proceedings. Colorado’s residency requirement is pretty short. Most states are six months to a year.
Also, Colorado is a signatory to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, which was enacted to stop “forum shopping,” which is when one parent who doesn’t like the Denver judge’s decision moves to Cheyenne and files a case there. UCCJEA jurisdiction resolves around where the child has resided for the last six months. I’ve had circumstances where one court in Colorado had jurisdiction over the spouses for their divorce based on their move four months ago, but not over kids because another state had jurisdiction over the kids because they had not resided in Colorado for six months.
I’ll address the UCCJEA and all its complex rules in a future blog.