Dissolution vs. Divorce Colorado — What Is the Difference?

April 17, 2022

Dissolution vs. Divorce Colorado — What Is the Difference?

The main difference between a dissolution and a divorce is that a dissolution is an agreement between you and your spouse without a judge intervening, whereas a divorce enlists the court’s help in ending your marriage. Although both terms are used interchangeably when discussing the lawful ending of a marriage, they are quite different. They not only have different paperwork, but they have different processes, costs, and timelines as well.

Most couples, upon deciding to end their marriage, start with the hope of a dissolution, but some have to move to a divorce if they realize they will not be able to come to agreeable terms.


A dissolution is the easiest and least expensive way to dissolve a marriage. Both spouses must be able to agree on everything in the elements of the dissolution, like property and asset division, parenting time, custody payments, spousal support, and more. If you and your spouse have agreed on most things except a few items, a mediation lawyer may be able to help you come to an agreement on the remaining components. This can help you and your spouse keep a dissolution of marriage rather than moving to a divorce. Although an attorney is not needed for a dissolution, it is recommended that you talk to one to make sure you are filing and getting exactly what you are hoping for.


Divorces involve the courts and the state’s legal system in helping you end your marriage. With a divorce, one spouse files a complaint against the other spouse, which sparks the beginning of the divorce case. These cases can be long, expensive, and very emotional. Divorces are legal terminations of marriage contracts, so it isn’t just about an inability to get along. It’s a change from how the state designates a relationship, and that can come with many complex issues.

Most divorces do end with an agreement recommended by the judge. Some cases do have to go as far as a judge hearing evidence of claims presented by both parties. After hearing both sides, a judge will make a decision and put an order on how things need to be split and handled. Upon filing for divorce, it’s important to talk to an attorney to help you through the process.

Starting the Process for Dissolution or Divorce

Whether you plan to dissolve or divorce your marriage, to start the process in Colorado, you will need to file a petition for the dissolution of marriage along with a few other documents. These documents will need to be filed with the clerk of court in the county in which you and your spouse reside. You will need to meet Colorado’s requirements of residency, which is living in the state with your spouse for at least 90 days. If there are any child-related issues that need to be decided on, you will need to prove the child has lived with you for at least 182 days or since birth for children younger than 182 days old.

You will also need to provide legal ground for your filing. Since Colorado is a no-fault state, the legal ground is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you are planning to get a dissolution rather than a divorce, you and your spouse must agree on this. You will have to wait at least 30 days but no more than 90 days after filing for the court to hear your case.

If you submit an affidavit, a judge may agree to grant the dissolution without a hearing. However, in most cases, a judge will want to hear and review the case before granting the legal decision.


Q: Is a dissolution faster than a divorce?

A: Yes, a dissolution can be much faster than a divorce. With a dissolution, there is no disagreement or arguments over property, assets, child custody, or spousal support that need to be resolved by a judge. Instead, the two spouses have come to an agreement on their own terms and are ready to move forward without any legal interference.

Q: What does dissolution of marriage mean in Colorado?

A: A dissolution of marriage in Colorado is when two spouses have come up with an agreement on their own terms on how to handle child custody, property division, and other items without a judge having to intervene. The result of a dissolution of marriage is signing a divorce decree and legally ending the marriage.

Q: Is summary dissolution the same as divorce?

A: Although both summary dissolution and divorce will legally end a marriage, they are a bit different when it comes to legal terms. A summary dissolution is often quicker and simpler than a divorce because it has fewer court filings, less paperwork, and fewer court appearances. Summary dissolutions have different requirements than a regular dissolution or a divorce. These are often for people who have been married a shorter amount of time and own less property and assets.

Q: What is the difference between divorce and legal separation in Colorado?

A: In Colorado, a legal separation is when a couple lives separately and divides assets but are technically still married. If someone is legally separated, they cannot remarry as they can if they are divorced. A divorce breaks off all ties to a person if desired, whereas a legal separation leaves links between the spouses. With a legal separation, you and your spouse have rights and obligations by law. Reasons couples choose this route include religious beliefs, cultural beliefs,

personal reasons, financial reasons, to retain spousal health insurance, or reasons pertaining to children. A legal separation can lead to a reunion between a couple, or it can lead to a divorce.

When trying to decide if you and your spouse want a divorce, dissolution, or legal separation, the decision can be confusing and complicated. Although they are similar, each one is different and unique when it comes to the process of filing and what you will have to go through to reach the outcome you want. At Johnson Law Group, we understand this and know how important this decision is. Contact us today so we can discuss the different ways to end a marriage and help you determine the best route to take.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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