Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Colorado

A lot of divorcing spouses will casually say, “We are legally separated,” but that is not the case. In reality, the married couple either split up and are living apart (or in separate bedrooms), or one of them hired an attorney, who filed the divorce papers in court. Living apart or filing for divorce is NOT the same as a “legal separation” under Colorado law.

In Colorado, married couples who no longer want to “be together” have two choices: 1) they can seek a divorce, or 2) they can file for legal separation. Once the couple makes their choice, they will follow a series of legal steps and when the process is complete, a judge will either issue a decree of dissolution of marriage (divorce), or a decree of legal separation.

What is the difference between a divorce and a legal separation? Which one is right for you and your family? Read on as we explain the differences between these two legal tools.

Legal Separation in Colorado

When a couple obtains a “decree of legal separation” in Colorado, all of the same issues that are addressed in a divorce will be covered in the legal separation, such as child custody and visitation, child support and spousal maintenance or alimony, property and debt division, who will pay which bills, and health insurance. Essentially, a decree of legal separation addresses the same exact issues that are addressed in a divorce.

Two key ways legal separation is different than a divorce:

  • One of the major differences is that the spouses cannot remarry when they are legally separated; that’s because they are still technically married. In order for a legally separated couple to remarry, they would have to convert their legal separation into a divorce.
  • Unless there is a written agreement, such as a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise, spouses who are legally separated do not lose their inheritance rights.

A legal separation is not that much different than a divorce, except for the fact that the spouses cannot remarry – because they in fact remain married to each other, that’s definitely the biggest difference. That being said, why do people decide to get legally separated rather than divorced?

In our experience, people choose legal separations for the following reasons: 1) they have religious or moral objections against divorce, 2) an ill or disabled husband or wife needs their spouse’s health insurance, or 3) the couple is not sure if they want a divorce so they want to “test the waters” so to speak by living separately.

We hope this post answers your questions. For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Jones Law Firm, PC to speak with an experienced divorce attorney.

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