Colorado’s Divorce Cooling Off Period
Cooling off periods are common in divorce cases. Colorado law provides for a 91-day delay (not officially called a “cooling off period”, but that’s what family law attorneys typically say) in divorce and legal separation cases, even though we are a no-fault state under C.R.S. 14-10-106(1)(a)(III). The 91 day countdown starts once the responding spouse has been served or from the date of joint filing if co-petitioners. The court cannot finalize a divorce decree before that cooling off period expires, even if the parties agree on everything!
Although the domestic relations court cannot finalize a dissolution of marriage during that 91-day cooling off period, it does not mean the case is at a standstill for three months. The spouses can use that time to work on reconciliation if they choose, but despite the term “cooling off”, most of the time is spent providing financial disclosures, negotiating, or even waiting for a hearing date with the judge. As the clock runs down, the spouses are required to share financial information and attend mediation if there outstanding issues before the court will sign off on the divorce.
Unless agreements on all issues are reached relatively quickly, an overwhelming majority of divorce cases take longer than 3 months to resolve so the 91 day delay usually does not actually slow the case down (and for a highly contested, divorce case, a time frame of 8-12 months is not unusual, particularly if there are experts).
Unlike divorces and separations, an annulment in Colorado has neither the same 91 day “cooling off period”, nor the 91 day residency requirement prior to filing. Under C.R.S. 14-10-111(7), the court merely requires that at least one party live in the state for 30 days prior to the filing of the case with no cooling off period required.
The statute laying out the 91 day “cooling off” period does not give a reason why we have one but is likely aimed at giving parties time to evaluate whether or not a divorce is necessary. As recently as 2012, state lawmakers have complained that getting divorced in Colorado was too easy and proposed bills to lengthen the cooling-off period for divorce. The 2012 bill would have required additional education classes and another cooling off period before filing (so presumably there would be two cooling off periods, one before and one during the case).
So far, bills to increase Colorado’s “cooling off” period have failed in the face of heavy criticism. After all, if the spouses start a divorce, then change their minds, they already have various ways to stop the dissolution proceedings without the state requiring encouragement.
For more information about what happens during a divorce case, see our Understanding the Colorado Divorce Process article in the Colorado Family Law Guide.
China’s New Divorce “Cooling Off” Period
More changes are coming to divorces around the world during the pandemic. We’ve already discussed how divorce rates are starting to skyrocket in China, you can get married and divorce on Zoom, and Russia & Dubai have banned divorce for the foreseeable future. Covid-19 & China are back in the news for instituting a “cooling off period for some divorce cases. Just like Colorado.
According to reporting, China’s legislative body approved a new 30-day cooling off period before divorce cases will be processed by Chinese courts. The new requirement passed last week, is aimed at reducing the country’s skyrocketing divorce rate as the country comes off of lockdown.
Similar cooling off periods had already been implemented in several Chinese cities in the last few years, but this is the first country-wide rule of its kind. This countrywide rule only applies to divorces where both parties are seeking the divorce and does not apply in cases involving domestic violence. It is unclear if this rule is just a stopgap passed during the pandemic or if this cooling off period is a permanent fixture of the Chinese civil code when it goes into effect in 2021.
There has been some pushback on Chinese social media against the cooling off period, arguing that the rule just wastes time and allows a party that does not want a divorce extra time to harass the other party according to the Bangkok Post and The Guardian.
“Cooling Off Periods” Around the World
Cooling off periods before a divorce can be finalized are fairly common around the United States and the world but the lengths can vary.
In the UK, you can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for 2 years and both spouses agree to the divorce. if there is no agreement, you must be separated for 5 years! Since 2008, South Korea has had a 3 month cooling off period for families with children and a 1 month period for childless couples.
These periods can vary from state to state as well. In Arkansas, if you want to pursue a no-fault divorce, you must be separated for 18 months. Compare that to our neighbor Kansas, with its 60 day cooling off period. It’s worth noting that Kansas does have provisions for an emergency divorce – if an emergency exists, the court can hear the case immediately. Unsurprisingly, emergency divorces rarely actually happen in Kansas despite that provision.