Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Colorado

Legal Separation 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 vs Divorce 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 custodychild supportalimonyproperty division, and more.

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:

  • They have religious or moral objections against divorce
  • An ill or disabled husband or wife needs their spouse’s health insurance
  • The couple is not sure if they want a divorce so they want to “test the waters” so to speak by living separately

Colorado Separation Laws

The legal separation process in Colorado is the same as the divorce process. Before the separation process can begin at least one spouse must meet a 91-day residency requirement. After that is met, the come must file a petition for separation with the court. After filing, there’s a 90-day waiting period. During this time, couples should negotiate all aspects of their separation. Once a judge approves the separation, each spouse is free to live independently.

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.

Looking for a Denver divorce lawyer? Contact us today for a free consultation.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Our team includes attorneys licensed to practice in multiple states including April D. Jones in California, Patrick G. Barkman in Texas, the Cherokee Nation, the Northern District of Texas, and the District of Colorado (United States Court of Appeals 10th and 5th Circuit).