When marriages struggle many people do not realize that there may be more legal options available than dissolving the union through a divorce. What if you know something needs to change in your marriage but you aren’t certain that you are ready for the finality of a divorce? What if you want to end your marriage in the financial sense, but your faith does not allow for divorce?
For such purposes, the State of Colorado recognizes legal separations as an alternative to divorce.
There are many misconceptions about legal separations, the most common of which is that a couple is legally separated if they have filed papers for divorce and are living apart from one another. In Colorado, legal separation is a unique legal status distinct from divorce, and a couple must file for this status in court in order to actually be considered separated in the eyes of the law.
In many ways, a legal separation is very similar to a divorce in that the couple will follow the same procedures that they would follow if seeking a divorce. They will finalize child custody and parenting plans as well as any financial arrangements like division of assets or spousal support. When it is completed, the two parties involved in a legal separation will be considered financially independent of one another and free of responsibility for each another’s affairs.
The key difference between a legal separation and a divorce, however, is that the couple will still technically be considered married when it comes to legal marital status. This means neither spouse can seek to remarry at any time following the legal separation unless they also seek to dissolve the marriage.
Maintaining a legal status of “married” also has implications for benefits like healthcare and insurance, such as allowing the separated couple to remain on the same plans or continue to share a spouse’s military benefits.
The most common reason couples seek legal separations over a divorce is when their religious beliefs do not allow for obtaining a divorce. The separation allows the couple to establish financial independence and create a system of separated responsibilities with regard to parenting, etc, without actually dissolving the marriage. Some couples may also seek a legal separation as a sort of “test run” for a divorce to see if it is right for their situation.
Since the procedure of obtaining a legal separation is so similar to that of divorce, it is generally quite simple for couples to convert a legal separation to a dissolution.
If you have more questions about the difference between a divorce and legal separation, or if you believe you are in need of pursuing either option, please contact the law firm of Duncan Legal PC and let’s talk about your options.