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.
What is a Legal Separation in Colorado?
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.
The process for legal separation is very similar to the divorce process. It’s generally only the end result that’s different.
You can’t remarry someone else if you’re legally separated – you can only do that if you’re divorced. And if you’re legally separated, you keep your inheritance rights if your spouse dies (unless you have a prenuptial agreement, which is often the case in high-asset splits).
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
Before 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. Call us at 970-488-1887 for a free consultation with a legal separation attorney today. We can answer all your questions and help you make the right decisions for your future.