Legal Separation vs. Divorce: Which Option Is Right for You?

Sometimes, a marriage comes to a point at which the couple has grown so far apart that they no longer feel united. In these cases, the best course of action may be to continue down separate paths. However, formally ending a marriage is a major decision that some individuals may not feel comfortable with. 

The guide below explains the differences between legal separation and divorce and the pros and cons of each so that you can determine which is the right option for you.

When a married couple wants to separate, they must decide how to go about it and whether they want a permanent solution. Terminating a relationship is a big decision and requires a legal process, which prompts some couples to file for legal separation before formally splitting apart.

During a legal separation, the couple goes through a court process to live separately, but they do not end their marriage. During this split, they may decide on specific aspects such as child care during their time apart.

Generally, couples choose legal separation over divorce because, while there may be issues with the relationship, they do not feel ready to end it. A couple can move forward with a divorce after separation, but the two individuals may also stay together if they reconcile.

A couple may also choose legal separation over divorce for religious reasons if one or both partners’ faith discourages divorce.

What Is Divorce?

Unlike legal separation, divorce is the legal ending of a marriage. Couples must divide their assets, settle child custody arrangements, and determine the need for financial support. Both parties can do this solely with lawyers, but going before a judge may be the only option if one partner contests or otherwise refuses to cooperate.

After a divorce, both parties can remarry other individuals if they wish, and they may not need to maintain contact with their former spouse. However, if you coparent, maintaining a cordial relationship may be best for the child.

The Effects of Contested and Uncontested Divorce

In a contested divorce, one party objects to the split or the specific details surrounding it. If this occurs, both parties may file for legal separation while working out the details surrounding the divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both partners agree to the split and the legal details.

A legal separation is ideal for some couples because it allows them to live separately without permanently ending their marriage. This comes with pros and cons, which we’ve detailed below.  

Some of the top advantages of legal separation in Colorado include the following:

  • A spouse can continue covering the other’s health insurance.
  • Couples can still file taxes jointly.
  • Couples can end the separation and remain married if they wish.

It’s important to note that while you can remain married during and after a legal separation, it is not a “trial period” for divorce. A couple usually files for legal separation because one party needs the other’s insurance coverage or because it is a more economical decision.

Although a legal separation may seem like the best option for couples that are considering splitting, there are also a few disadvantages to consider. For example, when filing for legal separation, both parties will have to decide on how they’ll care for their children. Likewise, couples may begin dividing up marital property or assets depending on their state’s laws. This process can become stressful if you have an unhealthy relationship with the other party.

The Pros and Cons of Divorce

Divorce also has various advantages and disadvantages, and the weight of each depends on an individual’s circumstances. Read through the pros and cons of divorce below so that you can weigh this option against legal separation.

The Advantages of Divorce

Since Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, the divorce process is generally less complex and time consuming than it is in other states. Some of the reasons to choose divorce over legal separation include the following:

  • A couple wants to completely terminate their marriage.
  • A couple can divide their marital assets and debts.
  • Divorce allows the parties to close this chapter of their lives.

Moving straight to ending a marriage that both parties know does not work is often more efficient. In Colorado, couples don’t have to file for legal separation first if they’d rather just divorce.

The Disadvantages of Divorce

“Divorce” can be a scary word, as it signifies the end of a marriage. Some couples steer away from it because they have children or because it goes against their faith. Couples also often choose legal separation over divorce because the former allows one spouse to continue covering the other for insurance.

When you get divorced, you legally cut ties to your partner. This means you:

  • May no longer share specific assets or debts
  • Are not next of kin
  • Can no longer file taxes jointly
  • Forfeit rights to make legal or financial decisions for each other

Moreover, divorce is a longer process than legal separation that can shake up the entire family unit. It is never a light decision.

Picking the Right Option

Deciding whether legal separation or divorce is the right option for you is very personal. Although you and your partner may have irreconcilable differences, you may not feel ready to formally end the marriage if, for example, you’ve been together for 20 years and have children. Alternatively, if your spouse was unfaithful, you may not consider reconciliation because the trust is gone.

No matter which option you choose, legal separation and divorce are major decisions that affect your relationship, family dynamic, and finances, to name a few. Take your time to decide on the option that would be better for you and your family. Always make the choice that will make you feel emotionally and physically safe. 

The Colorado family law attorneys at Jones Law Firm, PC have in-depth knowledge of the state laws surrounding legal separation and divorce. Whether you plan to file for a legal separation or divorce, our lawyers can guide your through the process. Hire an attorney who will stay by your side and assist you with legal matters throughout the duration of the split.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce: Which Option Is Right for You?

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).