Legal Separation

Legal Separation in Boulder, CO

Some married couples seeking to end their relationship and formally separate their lives may choose a legal separation over a divorce or dissolution of marriage. What is the difference, and why would anyone want to legally separate instead of completely divorce?

Similarities of divorce and legal separation

Both legal separations and dissolutions of marriage allow divorcing spouses to divide their assets, personal property, real estate and debts. Both mechanisms also make provisions for child support, custody and other parental responsibilities where children are involved. Both consider maintenance, alimony or spousal support when the parties no longer reside in the same home.

Does not fully, finally, and legally terminate the marriage

A legal separation, however, does not fully, finally and legally terminate the marriage. Parties who are legally separated, but not divorced, cannot remarry. Although Colorado family law courts may issue orders relating to the separation of financial obligations, creditors may still hold both parties responsible for any debts that remain in both parties’ names.

Why legally separate rather than divorce?

• The most common reason for married couples to request a legal separation is on the basis of moral or religious objections to divorce. By obtaining a decree of legal separation, couples can establish parenting responsibilities and a certain level of economic independence while living apart in a manner that is consistent with their beliefs.

• For some couples, the term “legal separation” is less emotionally devastating than “divorce” during the initial transition from being married to living apart.

• Social security retirement and survivor benefits are available to former spouses married ten years or more. Legal separation could afford the opportunity to “buy time” while waiting for the ten years to elapse.
• A few insurance policies and retirement plans still allow a legally separated person to remain on their spouse’s plans.

Conversion of legal separation to divorce

Under Colorado law, a party who wishes to convert a decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution of marriage (divorce), may do so by formally notifying the other party and filing a request with the court that issued their initial decree. The parties do not need to agree to convert the proceeding from a legal separation to a dissolution of marriage. One person can cause the conversion on his/her own if s/he wishes.

If you are contemplating a legal separation, or need help deciding whether to file for a divorce, meet with a Boulder divorce attorney at Ross Law firm today. We will discuss your personal situation, explain the benefits of both options, and help you decide what is best for your situation.