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Divorce laws in different states can vary widely

Colorado residents likely know that divorce is regulated by state rather than federal law, and these laws vary widely in different parts of the country. While some of these irregularities, such as residency requirements, are relatively minor, the differences in the rules dealing with property division and spousal support can be significant. States approach these matters in one of two ways. Less than a dozen community property states, and the rest in general follow the principles of equitable distribution.

Colorado is one of the few western states with equitable distribution laws for the division of marital property. This means that family law judges in the have a certain degree of flexibility when making these decisions provided that assets are distributed fairly. Judges in community property states must divide marital assets equally even if the couple involved were only married for a short time. Most states have laws that help judges to separate marital property from assets that were owned prior to the marriage, but Massachusetts, Michigan, Connecticut and Vermont have no such state laws.

Many states have introduced legislation to change the way that alimony is awarded or to place limits on the length of time that these payments must be made. In 2013, new rules went into effect in Colorado that require judges making these awards to follow a formula similar to the one used when child support is calculated. The goal of this type of legislation is to ensure that these decisions are made in a consistent manner.

While these variations in state law can be significant, family law attorneys may encourage their clients to seek an amicable compromise rather than face the uncertainties of a judicial decision. Attorneys may also recommend prenuptial or pos-tnuptial agreements to clients who wish to avoid bitter disputes should they choose to divorce.

Source: The Colorado Legislature, "House Bill 13-1058", accessed on May 30, 2016

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