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The Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce in Colorado

Many people confuse legal separation and divorce.  But there’s a considerable difference between these two legal terms. Both options serve to separate couples in a marriage, and both options are enforceable by the courts, but only one choice permanently ends a marriage.

Simply put, legal separation physically divides the marital estate without ending the marriage.  Divorce divides the estate and permanently ends the marriage.

The simple act of moving out of the marital home isn’t enough to constitute a legal separation. A Colorado judge needs to rule on a separation to make it binding.

Why Choose Legal Separation?

Couples often to choose to end their relationship, but not their marriage. The reasons for this vary, but they may include:

  • Tax benefits of filing as a married couple,
  • Religious beliefs that prohibit divorce,
  • Maintaining insurance and other benefits, and
  • Paying lower insurance rates, just to name a few.

In other instances, some couples aren’t sure that they want a divorce and instead just need a break from one another. This option allows for easier reconciliation.

A judge still decides parental responsibilities, child support, spousal maintenance, and property division in a legal separation. But unlike divorce, legally separated couples still enjoy benefits granted by the city, state, and federal governments as a result of remaining married.

Legal Separation Requirements

To file a legal separation in Colorado, you must first meet the residency requirements. You must reside in Colorado for at least 91 days to be eligible for a legal separation.

If you have any children, the courts will be unable to consider any issues with children until they have lived in Colorado for at least 182 days prior to the filing, unless the children are under six years of age.

A Quick Warning

Most people in Colorado today choose to separate through divorce proceedings, but legal separations are still common. A note of caution, if you decide that a legal separation is a way you want to go, keep in mind that you won’t be able to remarry under this option. You’ll still be legally married, and any attempt to remarry will violate Colorado’s polygamy laws and put you in their legal cross-hairs.

The Colorado Judicial Branch provides a useful, albeit user-unfriendly, frequently asked questions page on their site. Visit their website to get more information and decide if legal separation is right for you. The information that the courts provide is useful, but it should only be used for educational purposes. We still recommended that you use the services of a licensed attorney to proceed with this type of separation.

Posted September 06, 2016
by: MFL Team


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