Legal Separation vs Divorce in Colorado - A Complete Guide

May 23, 2021
Legal Separation vs Divorce in Colorado

Legal separation in Colorado is an alternative to divorce rather than a pathway to the dissolution of a marriage. A legal separation broadly deals with resolving similar issues as a divorce, namely:

  • Parenting and custody arrangements
  • The division of marital assets and debts
  • Spousal/child support and maintenance

Legal separation can last for years but generally leads to a divorce when one or both parties desire to remarry.

Having a dedicated and experienced family law attorney by your side can help you find the best solution for your family. Contact our legal team at Johnson Law Group today for advice. Call us at (720) 463-4333 or text-to-chat at (720) 730-4558.

The Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation in Colorado

Legal separation in Colorado is no simpler or less formal than a divorce. In Colorado, the formal process of legally separating entails the same procedures and financial consequences as divorcing. However, the major difference with a legal separation is that the spouses still maintain a connection as they continue to be married “on paper” despite living separate lives. Spouses who are legally separated can still enjoy some of the benefits of staying married, such as remaining on a spouse’s health insurance.

Divorce in Colorado

Getting a divorce in the state of Colorado means separating all connections with your spouse. Unlike with a legal separation in Colorado, you will both be single persons after a divorce and able to remarry other partners. Spouses will also:

  • Lose the right to an inheritance from the other spouse
  • Lose the right to any health insurance obtained through a spouse
  • Lose the claim to pension, social security, and other spousal benefits

The Legal Process of Divorce in Colorado

The legal process starts with filing for a divorce in Colorado. Since Colorado is a no-fault state, the valid reason for divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage as per Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-106(1)(a)(II). It is important to note that the spouses do not have to agree on whether the marriage has broken down. If one spouse considers the marriage irretrievably broken, the divorce can go ahead.

If you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce, including parental responsibilities, spousal and child support, and the division of property, a divorce can be finalized after 91 days in Colorado. However, in reality, most couples do not agree on all aspects, and divorces tend to take longer than the statutory waiting period of 91 days. A highly contested and acrimonious divorce could take several months.

If you are considering getting divorced, contact Johnson Law Group. We can guide you through the legal process.

Reasons for Deciding on a Legal Separation

It is up to each couple to decide whether legal separation or divorce is right for them. Some couples prefer to remain married even though the relationship has broken down, for example, due to religious, moral, or legal considerations. Other reasons for deciding on a legal separation instead of a divorce can include:

  • Preserving medical insurance and other employment-related benefits for a spouse
  • Avoiding the finality of a divorce
  • Continuing to receive marriage tax benefits
  • Reasons related to children and parenting

The Process of Legal Separation in Colorado

A legal separation is a much more formal procedure than the couple simply deciding to split assets and live apart. The procedure for filing for legal separation is almost identical to filing for a divorce. You can either file a petition for legal separation together with your spouse or, if your spouse disagrees, you can file the petition on your own.

The Colorado Judicial Branch provides the necessary forms for legal separation. You and, if filing jointly, your spouse will have to sign the petition in front of a Notary Public before filing. In order to file for separation in Colorado, you must have lived in the state for a minimum of 90 days. Your petition has to include a reason for requesting a legal separation, namely the marriage being irretrievably broken.

How Long Does the Procedure of Legal Separation Take?

Couples need to wait 90 days before the court will make the decision. During that waiting period, the couple has time to negotiate the terms of their separation, such as custody matters and living arrangements. If the couple is unable to agree, the court will decide the terms of separation for them. Once the court order for separation is granted, each spouse can go their separate ways.

You can potentially revoke a separation and either resume the relationship with your spouse or decide to officially divorce. However, to divorce, a couple will have to wait at least six months after being granted a separation.

Should I Hire a Family Law Attorney?

Couples are not required to hire a lawyer for a legal separation or a divorce in Colorado. However, having experienced legal representation can be helpful as the legal issues surrounding separations and divorces can be complex. Moreover, if your spouse has obtained professional legal representation, you could be at a disadvantage when it comes to resolving challenging areas such as parental responsibilities and division of assets. An attorney can ensure that you are treated fairly and protect your legal rights when it comes to resolving potentially long-term financial and legal issues.

A seasoned family law attorney can advise and guide you through the entire process from beginning to end, making sure that you understand the legalese and know your options. Emotions can run high during legal separation and divorce, potentially making it difficult to find solutions for common stumbling blocks. If the legal separation or divorce proves challenging and contested, a family law attorney can help resolve any issues while representing your best interests at all times.

Johnson Law Group Can Help

Our law firm has a track record of helping clients successfully maneuver what can be a very stressful time in their lives. The compassionate and experienced attorneys at Johnson Law Group understand that each family is unique. We can offer the personalized attention and compassion that you deserve, explaining the law clearly so that you can make informed decisions.

The decision to file for legal separation or divorce in Colorado can be difficult and feel overwhelming. However, you are not alone. Our experienced attorneys can analyze your particular family situation and help you get clear on your options and the next best steps.

Get advice today and call the Johnson Law Group for a free, no-obligation consultation at (720) 463-4333 or text-to-chat (720) 730-4558.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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