What is a marriage?

In Colorado you can be married two ways:

1) Through a ceremony that follows the procedure directed in the Colorado statutes or;

2) Enter into a common law marriage.


Marriage by ceremony is what people traditionally think of as a marriage. However, remember that a marriage does not need to be performed in a church, courthouse, or in any particular type of ceremony. Colorado has adopted the Uniform Marriage Act and under Colorado law these are the requirements for a ceremonial marriage:

  1. Marriage License.  You must get a marriage license from your local county clerk and recorder, and provide some basic demographic information.  If you are previously divorced, you must furnish proof of your divorce.  C.R.S. §14-2-105.  Though you and your husband/wife must sign the license, only one of you needs to appear in person to obtain the license.  C.R.S. §14-2-106.
  2. Solemnize the Marriage.  The license must then be solemnized within 30 days, pursuant to C.R.S. §14-2-107.  Though parties typically have a judge or a minister perform the ceremony, Colorado allows the marriage to be solemnized by a judge, magistrate, minister, or even one of the parties to the marriage.  C.R.S. §14-2-109.
  3. Register the Marriage.  The person who solemnized the marriage must complete the marriage certificate form, which then has to be forwarded to the county clerk & recorder within 60 days of the ceremony.

Also remember that in Colorado you must be at least 18 years-old to get married or have permission from a parent or guardian. C.R.S. 14-2-106.  Children under 16 years-old may marry with both parental consent, and permission

How does the Court determine who gets what?

The court will attempt to reach a “fair and equitable” distribution of property and a custody determination that is in the best interests of the children. Since family law is essentially about what is fair to all parties; even if one party is a wrongdoer in some way, the family courts are not a forum for punishment. The system is intended to allow parties to separate their finances and property and arrange for them to continue raising their children with the least conflict possible. As a result, people rarely get everything they want in a divorce or legal separation.

Thus, it is often in your best interest to reach an agreement with your spouse on any issues you can. Not only does this save you time and money, but it also allows you to make the determinations rather than a judge, allowing you to know with certainty what you will receive. Colorado law encourages parties to reach agreement on all possible issues. Thus, the court will mandate some form of mediation or settlement discussion. The county in which you are seeking your divorce and your judge will dictate when and how such mediation takes place. An attorney can be very helpful in this process. Not only can an attorney advocate for you and your interests during the mediation process, making the mediator aware of applicable law, but an attorney can also discuss with you reasonable likely outcomes of a trial.

If you have questions about how the court might resolve a specific issue in your case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of the experienced attorneys at Smith, Shellenberger and Salazar, LLC.

What experts are involved in custody cases in Colorado?

Often in high conflict parental responsibilities cases the parties will choose to engage an expert or will ask the court to appoint one to provide a neutral insight into the behaviors of the parties and their interpersonal relationships with their children, in order to make recommendations to the court about what is in the child’s best interest. This is especially true in cases with allegations of abuse or neglect, substance abuse by a parent, or domestic violence.

The Court can unilaterally appoint an expert. However, the usual course of action is for the parties to agree on an expert, or one party will make the request to the court. There are essentially two types of experts Colorado courts appoint in custody cases, they are: Child and Family Investigators (CFIs) and Parental Responsibilities Evaluators (PREs). Both types of experts will meet with the parties, children, and will generally visit the homes of the parties for an evaluation. A Parental Responsibilities Evaluator completes mental health testing on the parties and conducts a complete evaluation of the mental health and relationships of all parties. Thus, there is no monetary cap on the amount a PRE investigation might cost. CFI’s are generally capped at $2000 and typically only investigate specific allegations raised in the case.


If you are a party to a contested custody case, which raises issues that you believe might require the use of an expert, please contact our office for a consultation to discuss your options and the legal and financial implications.

How can I protect myself from domestic violence during my divorce?

You can request a civil protection order. Colorado law provides for issuance of temporary protection orders upon an allegation of physical or emotional abuse. The court must then hold a hearing on the protection order within seven (7) days. At that hearing the court will determine whether the protection order will become permanent based on the testimony and evidence provided at the hearing. Protection orders can have varying terms, but often they require the restrained party to keep a certain physical distance from the other party and avoid certain locations the protected party is likely to be, like their home or work.

Note, if you have children and there are no allegations of abuse toward the children the court should not issue a protection order against the restrained party as it relates to the children. However, a protection order can still impact a number of issues related to co-parenting so it is important to consult an attorney if this is the case.

Civil protection orders can have important implications for your health and safety as well as the relationship with your spouse and children, thus it is always a good idea to consult an attorney before seeking a civil protection order during divorce. As with all issues in divorce people sometimes use allegations of domestic violence as a tool to hurt or cast their other spouse in a poor light. However, remember that if the other party can show that the allegations are fabricated or exaggerated, that will only cast the accusing party in a bad light with the court. This is another reason to contact the attorneys at Smith, Shellenberger and Salazar, LLC before taking action regarding domestic violence or trying to defend against such actions.