Annulment, Divorce or Separation: Helping Clients Understand Their Options
Colorado has enacted no-fault dissolution. There are no grounds other than the marriage is irretrievably broken for the dissolution of a marriage. C.R.S. §14-10-102(2)(c). In like manner, there are no defenses to an action for dissolution of marriage. C.R.S. §14-10-107(5). A respondent may still raise jurisdictional requirements, such as the existence of a pending action in another jurisdiction or perhaps the parties were never married. However, once the court has decided these issues, there are no grounds to prevent the court from entering a decree of dissolution.
(2) Legal Separation.
A legal separation keeps the marriage legally intact but defines the parties' obligations toward one another, C.R.S. §14-10-106(2). A legal separation may be appropriate when the parties desire to attempt a reconciliation but need some time apart, for religious reasons or to preserve certain benefits that would be lost if there was a dissolution. Very often the responding spouse will seek dissolution of the marriage in their response. The court then is obligated to treat the proceeding as a dissolution of marriage action and not as an action for decree of legal separation.
The jurisdictional requirements for a decree of legal separation are the same as a decree of dissolution of marriage, and the parties' rights as to property and spousal maintenance are also the same. Once a decree of legal separation has been granted and one-hundred eighty-two days has elapsed, upon motion of either party, the court is required to convert the decree of legal separation into a decree of dissolution of marriage.
(3) Declaration of Invalidity (annulment).
A declaration of invalidity (sometimes referred to as an annulment) may be entered by the court if the grounds set forth in C.R.S. § 14-10-111are met. These grounds may include a lack of capacity to consent to the marriage, a lack of physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse, one party was underage and did not have consent of the parents, there was a fraudulent act to induce one party to enter into the marriage, there was duress, a jest or dare to marry, the marriage is prohibited by law or is entered into before an existing marriage is dissolved. A decree of invalidity means that the marriage never took place. If, however, there are children of such a marriage the children are considered legitimate. The division of marital property, child support and custody and spousal support are resolved the under the same provisions of law as in a dissolution proceeding.
By Rich Arnold, Esq.