Colorado Divorce: Equitable Distribution and The Division of Property and Debts

Colorado is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that in a divorce action, marital property is not necessarily divided equally. Unlike some community property states, where there is an automatic fifty-fifty split, Colorado courts have a certain degree of discretion when it comes to property allocation. In this instance, ‘equitable’ should not be confused with ‘equal.’ A more appropriate interpretation would be ‘fair.’

What is Marital Property?

Before a Colorado judge can divide a divorcing couple’s assets, he or she must determine what constitutes marital property. Whatever each spouse brought into the marriage is his or hers to keep after it ends, but any property acquired during the course of the relationship is subject to division. The law also provides for the division of any increased value to separate property: for example, if one spouse owns a cottage that was worth $200,000 when the marriage took place and the same property is worth $350,000 when the couple divorces, the $150,000 increase would be considered marital property and subject to division.

Factors in Equitable Property Division

When determining the most equitable way to divide and allocate marital property, the courts typically consider more than just the monetary value of everything. They also take factors like the following into account:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each party’s income and current economic circumstances
  • What each spouse contributed toward acquiring the property
  • The age and health of each party
  • Any support obligations from an earlier marriage
  • Any contributions made by one spouse to advance the career or education of the other
  • Tax consequences

Co-mingling Separate Assets

Under Colorado law, when separate property is blended together or ‘co-mingled’, it essentially becomes marital property and therefore subject to equitable distribution. This happens frequently with bank accounts. If one spouse comes into the marriage with (for example) a $200,000 award from a personal injury case and puts it in a joint bank account with the other spouse, he or she has titled the money jointly and made it marital property. Although the court will closely review how all marital assets were acquired, in all likelihood that $200,000 will end up divided.

A divorcing couple may opt to create their own agreement as to how marital assets will be divided. This is the preferable alternative to a court-ordered distribution, but not all cases are amicable enough to make such an agreement possible. To minimize the financial risk when you make the decision to divorce in Colorado, you need to contact an experienced family law attorney. Call the law office of Hulbert & Associates today to learn how we can help you receive the property and resources you need to enjoy a financially independent future.

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Written by Lori Hulbert

Together the attorneys of the firm have nearly 30 years of experience in the fields of estate planning, estate and trust administration, estate and trust litigation, guardianships and conservatorships and civil litigation.