Denver, CO asked in Divorce for Colorado

Q: Is husband required to keep utilities on during a divorce if wife cant afford the bills? In Colorado, children in home

Wife works part time, she cannot afford mortgage/bills herself. Husband is moving out, got own apartment and is not sure about requirements to pay for bills in home while divorce is in process.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Steven  Visser
Steven Visser
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: Under the temporary injunction that is contained in the petition for divorce, parties are not permitted to dispose of property, allow insurance policies to lapse (homeowner's), and things of that nature. There is nothing in this injunction about paying bills. I have seen language in civil protection orders (restraining orders) where the restrained party may be ordered to continue to pay bills such as the mortgage. Legal advice aside, your question indicates that the children are in the home, and wife cannot afford the mortgage or the bills. What the Husband would not want to do is create a situation where the mortgage isn't paid or the bills are not paid and services start getting shut off while the kids are in the home. A Court would probably not look favorably upon that position. I would suggest that to the extent possible that the Husband maintain the status quo and pay the bills that he would normally pay. This situation could be addressed at a temporary orders hearing regarding which party will be responsible for the mortgage payment and other bills until the final orders hearing can occur.

Christopher N. Little
Christopher N. Little
  • Centennial, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: Great question!

These are some of my favorite questions to answer because they involve not only the law but also strategy and wisdom. From a moralistic perspective, you should keep paying the bills simply because your child is still residing at that home. I can’t imagine you would want your child living in a home without utilities. To me, that is just a commonsense approach.

Further, if you are in the middle of an active domestic relations case, I can assure you that no judicial officer is going to be impressed if they learn that you stopped paying utilities while your Wife and child are still in the home (especially when she does not have the ability to pay the utilities and historically hasn’t). You really don’t want that issue hanging over your head if/when you ask the Court to agree with you on some issue down the line in the case.

From a purely legal perspective, Colorado requires that the parties maintain the “status quo” during the pendency of the case. This means that if it is the status quo (think normal course of business) for you to pay for the utilities (and it sounds like it is), then the Temporary Injunction will likely require you to keep paying those bills, for the time being.

I suggest that you carefully read the Temporary Injunction, it is usually on the Petition and on the Summons.

I sincerely wish you only the absolute best both in your case and in life.

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