Colorado: A “No Fault State”

In Colorado, there is only one “reason” that the Court will grant a divorce: a finding that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”  This means, in Court, that the Judge needs to hear you, your spouse, or both of you answer “yes” to the following question: do you believe your marriage is irretrievably broken?

Colorado is labeled as a no-fault state, meaning that the faults of each spouse are not to be brought up in pleadings filed by either spouse and are not to be mentioned in any trials before a Judge.  This also means that the Judge will not punish a party for his or her faults that have ultimately led to the demise of a marriage.  Specifically, the Court will not listen to any comments or remarks that one spouse cheated on another.

This concept can be very difficult for clients who have been cheated on by his or her spouse.  There are many reasons why a person wants the Judge to know the truth of what happened in his or her marriage: he or she wants the Court to understand why they are getting a divorce; he or she wants the Court to receive more property, or avoid paying maintenance;  or he or she wants to get more parenting time as a result the other spouse’s bad behavior.

Given this, I have on more than one occasion, been asked by my client to find a way to get the truth out during his or her testimony, or “slip it in” to my opening statement or questions of the other party.   This is not advisable: when this occurs, the Judge  usually gets angry (or, at the very least, annoyed) if one party attempts to talk about “faults” of his or her spouse, as they are completely irrelevant to how the Judge is to divide property, enter maintenance awards, and enter parenting time orders.  If the Judge thinks you are trying to “slip in” testimony it finds irrelevant, you may even lose credibility with the Court.

Does it Ever Matter?

Occasionally, it may be relevant to the Court in Colorado that one spouse cheated on the other spouse.  If what has occurred in some way affects the best interests of the minor children, it may be a relevant factor to the Court.  However, if you believe this is true in your circumstances, I advise that you speak with an attorney as to the specifics of your case to determine how to proceed.  If you have serious parenting concerns of your spouse, you may need to retain a Child and Family Investigator or a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator to evaluate both parents and their interactions with the children.

Also, in limited circumstances, the fact of a cheating spouse may be relevant based on a concept called “marital waste.”  The Court may award less to a spouse if it believes that one party has “wasted” assets in contemplation of a divorce.  This means within the context of infidelity, if your spouse, while cheating on you, spent a large sum of money on dinners, hotels, jewelry, travel, etc. on the affair, you may be able to bring this to the Court’s attention in attempt to get a larger share of the assets that are remaining.  You should also contact an attorney if you believe this applies to you, as this concept is generally applied narrowly by the Courts.

In Conclusion

In general, you cannot bring this issue up in Court.  However, as an attorney, I see the range of difficult emotions my client is facing when dealing with some of these issues, especially when he or she “didn’t see it coming.”  If you are having a difficult time dealing with the issues surrounding your divorce, I highly recommend that you seek a professional therapist, a parenting coach, or other mental health therapist to help you work through the emotions and build a better future for yourself.   It is natural to feel extreme anger and sadness during the process of divorce.  Although these emotions are usually unavoidable, you can work through them and I recommend for you, and your children, that you seek whatever help you need to get into a better place.