DIY divorce in Colorado may involve unexpected financial risks

Colorado, like many other U.S. states, uses a system called "equitable distribution" to divide a couple's property during divorce. This means that courts try do divide a divorcing couple's property fairly. In many cases, however, fairly does not always mean equally.

Classifying shared property

Before a couple's property can be divided in a Colorado divorce, all of their debts and assets must first be inventoried and classified as either "marital" or "separate."

Marital property generally includes all income, property and other assets accumulated by the couple during the marriage, regardless of which spouse earned or acquired it. In the event of divorce, the court will divide a couple's marital property according to the principle of equitable distribution.

Separate assets are those that were acquired by either spouse prior to marriage, or, under certain specific circumstances, acquired independently by a spouse during the marriage. As a general rule of thumb, separate assets are not subject to division during divorce in Colorado and will typically remain with the spouse who owned them originally. However, depending on the couple's individual circumstances, certain exceptions may apply.

Financial factors affecting property settlement

In some situations, the process of dividing property during divorce in Colorado may be relatively straightforward. For instance, if both spouses made roughly equal contributions to the household during the marriage, both in financial and non-financial terms, it may make sense to divide the assets equally.

However, the division of property in a Colorado divorce quickly becomes more complicated if either spouse owns a business or had significant assets prior to marriage. Other factors such as gifts or inheritance received during the marriage can further complicate matters, making it difficult to classify property and determine how to divide it equitably.

Similarly, if either spouse has taken out significant educational loans or other debts, or if one spouse supported the other while he or she was in school, these issues are likely to affect the divorce settlement.

For couples with children, the process of dividing property can be even more complex - especially if one spouse was the primary breadwinner while the other left the job market to care for the children. In these cases, child support and spousal support may also need to be addressed during the divorce process.

Divorce help in Colorado

Because many Colorado divorce cases are more complicated than they seem, spouses who hope to save money with a do-it-yourself divorce may end up spending more in the long run by inadvertently settling for less than they are entitled to. If you are considering divorce in Colorado and have questions about the division of property or other divorce-related issues, contact an experienced attorney in your area.