Is Colorado a 50/50 State for Divorce?
August 06, 2023
Will Each Spouse Get Half of the Marital Assets Following a Colorado Divorce?
Dividing property can be a complicated and painful part of dissolving your marriage after your finances and lives have been entwined. Assets often represent more than just money. There are frequently emotional attachments to particular objects, such as homes and heirlooms. So how does the court determine which spouse gets to keep certain property after a Colorado divorce?
Many people assume that marital property will be split 50/50 as part of the divorce proceedings.
However, Colorado’s property distribution laws are more complex than that. A skilled Colorado Springs divorce attorney can explain what you need to know about how the court divides marital assets and what you can do to protect your fair share of the property you worked so hard to obtain.
What is Marital Property?
When a Colorado couple gets divorced, only their marital property will be subject to division. Marital property refers to anything acquired while the couple was married. If one spouse had property or debts prior to the marriage which did not become commingled during the duration of the partnership, then those assets or debts are considered separate property. Some inheritances and gifts given to one spouse may also be counted as separate property, although this will depend on the details of the situation.
Common examples of marital property include:
- Real estate and homes
- Shares in business ventures
- Personal property, including clothes, jewelry, furniture, art, appliances, and other items
- Cars, trucks, RVs, ATVs, and other vehicles
- Bank accounts
- Investments, bonds, and stocks
- Retirement accounts and pensions
- Intellectual property, trademarks, and copyrights
How is Equitable Distribution Different From Equal Distribution?
Some states are community property states when it comes to dividing marital assets. Community property is distributed equally between spouses during a divorce, regardless of financial circumstances or who purchased the property. This system results in a 50/50 split of assets and debts between former spouses.
In contrast, Colorado is an equitable distribution state. Equitable distribution aims to ensure that the assets are divided fairly between the couple following their divorce. Usually, one spouse will receive a larger share of the assets than the other, based on the criteria set forth in the state’s divorce laws.
However, it is essential to remember that equitable distribution only applies if the couple cannot come to a mutual agreement on the division of assets and the case goes to court.
What Factors Does the Court Consider When Determining an Equitable Distribution of Assets?
Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-113 outlines four relevant factors the court must take into account when distributing property as part of divorce proceedings:
- How much each spouse contributed to the acquisition of the marital property: If one spouse had a larger income and contributed more money to the purchase of items, they may be entitled to a larger share. However, contributions don’t necessarily have to be monetary. Some spouses sacrifice their education or career to raise children or care for the home while the other spouse continues to work. The court must also consider these efforts and contributions of a spouse as a homemaker.
- The value of the property distributed to each spouse: For the division of property to be fair, it is key to calculate each asset’s value correctly. Some items, such as a home, will be much more valuable than others and may be more complex to split.
- The economic and personal circumstances of each spouse following the divorce: The income and earning potential of the individuals involved will be considered when determining what type of distribution is fairest. This includes taking into account the couple’s child custody arrangement, if applicable. To provide the most stable environment possible, the court will usually favor awarding the ownership or long-term use of the family home to the spouse who has physical custody of the children for the majority of the time.
- Increases or decreases to the value of separate property: Although pre-marital property is not included in divorce proceedings, the court may look at whether that property changed in value over the course of the marriage. For example, suppose one spouse owned a business before the marriage, but the other spouse provided unpaid labor or assistance over the years, which helped the business thrive. In this case, the increased value of the business may impact how the court distributes other assets because both spouses contributed to its success, but only one is currently benefiting.
Does Marital Misconduct Change the Distribution of Assets?
Divorce proceedings can become very tense and challenging if one spouse has engaged in an extramarital affair or subjected the other to abuse or neglect. While the circumstances of the divorce may affect alimony or child custody arrangements, state law instructs the court to divide property without regard to marital misconduct.
However, a spouse’s misconduct may indirectly affect the distribution of assets. For instance, if one spouse spent large sums of money due to issues with drug or alcohol abuse, the court may deem it fair to assign them a more significant portion of the marital debts. Each divorce case is unique, and it is recommended that you consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to ensure that the court properly considers all aspects of your situation.
How Can an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Assist You?
Colorado’s equitable distribution laws are meant to ensure that marital property is divided fairly during the dissolution of a marriage. However, despite their best efforts, it may be difficult for the court to make a genuinely fair and equitable decision based on available information. Furthermore, the court’s ruling often does not consider the sentimental attachments you may have to items. Having strong legal counsel on your side is vital to protecting your rights and safeguarding your financial future.
Negotiating a property division agreement without involving the court is the ideal way to split assets fairly, but it may not be possible in every situation. A compassionate, dedicated divorce lawyer from Brighter Day Law can help you navigate the negotiation process and will pursue your best interests in court if necessary. Contact us today to schedule a case evaluation with our client care team: (719) 733-9129.