Skip to content

What is a Legal Separation in Colorado?

In the state of Colorado, there are two ways to end a married relationship: divorce and legal separation. Divorce officially dissolves your marriage, but the alternative – legal separation – leaves you still married.

Legal separation is a means to end your marital relationship. However, it’s not the same as a divorce. Because a marriage is a legal contract between two adults, the only way to officially dissolve your marriage is through divorce. Legal separation deals with many of the same aspects of your relationship as a divorce does, such as child custody, property division and child support, but at the end of the process, you’re still married.

Legal Separation in Colorado - Ft. Collins Divorce and Separation LawyersLegal Separation vs. Divorce

The process for legal separation in Colorado is very similar to the divorce process. It’s generally the result that’s different. That can make legal separation—or divorce—a more preferable option for some couples, depending on their situation, needs, and objectives.

Spouses will seek legal separations in Colorado, instead of divorce, for various reasons, like (but not limited to):

  • Respect for religious beliefs: Observing religious bans on divorce while still separating from a spouse can be possible through the legal separation process.
  • A need to maintain certain benefits or insurance coverage: Retirement benefits and health insurance coverage through a spouse can be major reasons to not finalize a divorce.
  • A desire to maintain inheritance rights: Both spouses may want to maintain inheritance rights for each other while still taking a step to end the marriage. This can be beneficial, for instance, when high-risk jobs or a terminal illness may be involved.
  • An interim step to test the waters before getting a divorce: If divorce seems too final, a legal separation can offer an alternative, letting spouses formally distance themselves while still leaving the door open for reconciliation. Legal separations will remain in effect until parties file a petition to reverse the separation (in which case the marriage would still be in effect) or convert the case to a divorce (to end the marriage).

All of these benefits of legal separation are no longer available once a divorce is final. Another critical distinction between legal separation versus divorce in Colorado is that only divorced parties can remarry. Those who are legally separated cannot remarry until they convert their legal separation into a divorce case and that divorce case has been finalized.

For those pursuing legal separation or divorce in Colorado, there will be certain similarities. These include:

  • The same process to resolve the same potential issues: Both legal separation and divorce will involve issues division of marital property, custody matters, and/or support payment requests. Consequently, legal separations can be as heated and sensitive as divorce cases.
  • Similar costs: With the same process involved, the same costs typically apply—from court and mediation fees to the costs of experts and more.
  • Similar duration: The only way corners get “cut” in legal separation or divorce cases in Colorado is if the parties agree on all or most of the issues involved. When they don’t, legal separations can be as drawn out as disputed divorce cases.

Whether you are considering a legal separation or divorce in Colorado, it’s always best to consult an attorney before making any moves. Discussing the issues and your goals with a family lawyer can reveal your best options. It can also help you avoid any mistakes that have the potential to sabotage your standing in a case.

Is a Legal Separation the Same as a Trial Separation?

A legal separation isn’t the same thing as a trial separation. Many couples try living apart for a while – a trial separation – to see if they’re better off without each other. At the end of a trial separation, the parties can decide whether it’s time to legally end their marital relationship.

Why Do Some People Choose Legal Separation?

Whether to divorce or legally separate is a very personal decision for couples. In some cases, people choose legal separation because there’s still a chance for reconciliation, but one or both parties really needs a break from the relationship. In other cases, people choose legal separation because they have religious or moral objections to divorce. Still others use a legal separation to maintain one party’s medical insurance or preserve military- or employment-related benefits, or to take advantage of tax benefits that are only available to married couples.

What is a Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement used in both divorces and legal separations. It can include information on child custody, property division and other important issues. Preferably, you and your spouse can work on it together – that way, you keep important decisions out of the judge’s hands and under your control.

If your separation agreement is fair and reasonable to both of you, the judge will probably approve it.

Requirements for Legal Separation in Colorado

Legal Separation Fort CollinsBefore you can file for legal separation in Colorado, you must have lived in the state for at least 91 days. When you petition the court for a separation, you must include a legal reason for your request – and fortunately, we live in a no-fault state. That means you don’t have to blame yourself or your ex-spouse when you file. You only have to tell the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that there’s no chance that you will reconcile.

You must go through a 3-month waiting period. During that time, the judge in your case expects you to negotiate the terms of your separation agreement. You’ll have to agree on things like child custody, alimony and the division of property. If you and your spouse can’t reach your own agreements, your judge will make decisions for you.

Your divorce attorney will probably advise you to negotiate with your spouse (and even assist you in the process). That’s because litigation is expensive and time-consuming, and your lawyer wants you to resolve your case as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About a Legal Separation?

If you’re considering a legal separation or divorce, we may be able to help you. Contact us for a consultation with a legal separation attorney today. We can answer all your questions and help you make the right decisions for your future.

Top Divorce Related Pages at Cossitt Law Firm

Divorce Decree Paper work

I Want to Get Divorced

If you have decided to get a divorce, the next steps can seem daunting. Here we provide a few answers to common questions about filing for divorce.

Read More
Person getting served divorce papers

I Just Got Served

If you were just served with divorce or custody papers you are likely wondering what to do next? Here is what you can expect, if you still have questions, we are here to help.
Read More
Types of Divorce

Types of Divorce

Depending on your family, financial, and personal circumstances there are many factors you will want to consider when filing for divorce. Find out what type of divorce is right for you.

Read More
Young child listening to parents fight

How Divorce Affects Children

If you have children and are going through a divorce, one of the hardest things to do is to tell your children. Learn more about the effects of divorce on children.

Read More

Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce

cutout of people implying divorce

Planning for Divorce

How can I Plan for my Divorce? Pre-divorce planning is about making wise decisions as it can assist you in identifying all of the potential issues you may encounter going through the process thereby allowing you to position yourself for a favorable resolution.
Read More
Divorce Check List

The Courts Timeline for Divorce

How long will it take for the Court to issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage? The earliest a Colorado court could issues the divorce decree is 91 days after the petition was filed. However it can take longer than 91 days, as expert valuations and reports may be needed.

Read More
Divorce papers with wedding rings on them

Uncontested Divorce

How can a divorce attorney help with an uncontested divorce? Uncontested divorce generally means the parties have agreed upon all issues, or they believe they will be able to easily agree on all issues. A divorce attorney can help with an uncontested divorce by ensuring everything drafted properly.

Read More
Stack of a couples financial papers

Financial Disclosures

What are mandatory financial disclosures?   Financial disclosures are required of both parties in every divorce case, within the first 45 days after the petition has been filed. The exchange of mandatory financial disclosures is intended to put each party on a level playing field as it relates to the finances of the divorce.

Read More


  • "I am very appreciative of Toms services. English is a second language to me, and this process seemed difficult because of that barrier. He was very patient and thorough making sure I understood everything before he proceeded. I will recommend him to everyone! He truly cares about you, as does his wonderful, helpful team"

    Review from AVVO

  • "I had a very challenging case, one that could have had indefinite financial consequences. Tom Cossitt evaluated my case and identified several strategies for moving forward. I chose one and Tom developed and implemented that strategy with speed and with the utmost in professionalism. The documents he drafted on my behalf, based on extensive research and case law / precedent were thorough and comprehensive. When the Court ruled, it used the arguments as developed by Tom Cossitt verbatim in its decision, and the case was decided in my favor. Needless to say, I was pleased beyond words. Based on my experience and the outcome of my case, I would highly recommend Tom Cossitt to anyone requiring the services of a family law attorney."

    Review from Google

  • "I met with as many as 10 different attorneys before coming across Thomas. After our initial consultation, I was very pleased with his knowledge and realistic expectations. During the really tough time, Thomas kept me calm and helped tremendously to get custody of my daughter. He kept me informed on what was going on and would ask for my input; if it was something that was unrealistic or could be done a different way, Thomas would tell me right away. During the hearings, he was amazing. He kept a professional attitude and was great at cross examinations. He took in all of the facts and evidence, and was able to present them efficiently and effectively. Ultimately helping me gain custody of my child."

    Review from AVVO

The Cossitt Difference: Fort Collins Divorce Attorneys That Care

AFCC Colorado Logo
Law Week Colorado Logo
Colorado Bar Assocation Logo
Fort Collins Chamber Logo
Super Lawyers Logo
Lead Counsel Verified Logo
Avvo Client's Choice Logo
Expertise Logo

Schedule a Consultation with one of our Fort Collins Family Law Attorneys

(970) 488-1887
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram