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How is a Legal Separation Different from Divorce in Colorado?

A lot of people think that legal separation is a step towards divorce. First you get legally separated, then you get divorced. But in Colorado, that’s not the case at all. There is no stair step to divorce. Legal separation is an alternative to divorce … very different. However, you have to go through the exact same process that you would go through if you were getting a divorce.

Divorce requires financial disclosures at the beginning. You have to do that as well in a legal separation. If you have children, you have to do a parenting plan. You have to figure out child support. If maintenance was an issue, you’d have to figure out maintenance. The process is exactly the same.

This begs the question why do we even have legal separation? The reason is that some people want to be divorced in reality; but, for a reason, sometimes religious, sometimes it has to do with medical insurance, they feel that a legal separation suits them better. Let’s just say that someone is on their spouse’s policy for medical insurance and they have a condition that really requires the use of that medical insurance all the time. The concern might be that if they get a divorce, they will be kicked off their spouse’s policy. So some people will choose legal separation as a way to maintain that policy for the spouse that doesn’t have that policy, that is on their spouse’s policy.

The second reason I’ve seen is the religious reason, you are still married in the eyes of the law. What does that mean? That means you can’t marry anyone else, right? I mean, that’s essentially the only difference. You’re not allowed to marry anybody else, and if you did, it would be bigamy. When you’re legally separated, you have, and I don’t know if you want to call them “advantages”, but all of the rights of someone who’s divorced, but you don’t have the name “divorce” and still are married in the eyes of the law.

The last reason I’ve seen people choose legal separation over divorce is when they’re trying their best to move something forward and their spouse is very upset about it, but feels better about a legal separation than they do a divorce. The funny thing about it, though, is that once you get a legal separation, after six months having been legally separated (meanting that the separation decree is in effect for six months) either party can file one piece of paper with the court and, poof! The legal separation will be considered a divorce. So, the only way you can really do a legal separation is if both parties are really in agreement. Once that six months goes down the line, either party can easily and quickly change it to a divorce independently from the other party – That’s legal separation.

Matthews Family Lawyers