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FAQ: Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Colorado

Answers to common questions about the difference between divorce and legal separation

If you’re considering a divorce in Colorado, then you may have come across phrases like: “dissolution of marriage” or “legal separation.” While they have some similarities, these are two very different things in the eyes of the law.

This list of frequently asked questions can help you decide whether legal separation or divorce is right for you.

What are the differences between legal separation and divorce in Colorado?

One way to legally end a marriage is to file for a divorce, also known as a “dissolution of marriage.” After a divorce, both parties are legally single and may enter into a new marriage.

In Colorado, a Legal Separation operates in the same exact manner as a divorce – the marital assets and debts are divided, maintenance and/or child support is awarded, and parental responsibilities are allocated; however, at the end of the proceedings, both parties are still legally married. Therefore, after a legal separation, the parties cannot get remarried unless the proceeding is converted to a divorce.

Why do people get legally separated? What are the benefits of legal separation?

Couples opt for legal separation for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is to enable one spouse to remain on the other’s health insurance policy; however, some companies are implementing rules to prevent this as an option.

Others see legal separation as an alternative to divorce, without the stigma or permanence of divorce. It also allows spouses to keep their tax and insurance benefits while offering the freedom of living separately.

It is important to know that in Colorado, there is no difference between a legal separation and and a divorce, other than the parties remain married after the Decree of Legal Separation is entered.  If one party wants a divorce after the entry of the Decree of Legal Separation, all that is required is one simple Motion, after which the Court will enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and the parties will be officially divorced.

I want a separation. Can my spouse and I separate on our own?

If you and your spouse decide to take a break and live apart, this is not the same as a legal separation. Being legally separated is an actual legal status, so you must follow a specific process through the court.

What are the grounds for a legal separation in Colorado?

The grounds for a legal separation are the same as the grounds for a divorce in Colorado. Since Colorado is a no-fault state, you don’t have to prove any wrongdoing. The marriage just needs to be irretrievably broken.

Can I date while being legally separated?

In the eyes of the law, being legally separated does not mean you are single, but separated spouses can still date without violating bigamy laws. However, because the marriage is still intact during a legal separation, legally separated spouses cannot enter into a new marriage or cohabit with a new partner without first getting a divorce.

Do I need an attorney for a divorce or legal separation?

You are not required to hire an attorney when filing for a divorce or legal separation in Colorado. However, divorce and legal separation both have long-term financial and legal consequences. So, to protect your legal and financial interests, it’s best to consult with a family law attorney.

An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process and help you understand your options. If there are contested issues during the process, a lawyer can represent your interests and guide both parties to a resolution.

If you’re considering a divorce or legal separation, contact Halligan LLC today at (720) 608-2361. Our experienced family law attorneys would be happy to meet with you for a consultation in our Denver office.