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Denver Divorce Attorneys

Legal Separation

What is Legal Separation?


A legal separation is a formal legal proceeding that can accomplish everything that a divorce can accomplish EXCEPT legally divorcing the parties. In a legal separation, the parties resolve all of their legal issues with a final decree that addresses things like maintenance, child custody, division of property and other legal issues. At the end of a such a proceeding, however, the parties remain legally married. A legal separation can be converted to a divorce during the pendency of the case or anytime in the future (but no earlier than 6 months after the Decree has issued).

Reasons to Choose Separation Instead of Divorce

We do not often recommend legal separations to our clients. However, in two particular instances, a legal separation may be appropriate:

  • There may be tax purposes, health insurance purposes, or business purposes that warrant a Legal Separation instead of a divorce.
  • You have religious reasons for which you do not want to be divorced, but you need to separate the rest of your estate from your spouse.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

In Colorado, a legal separation is like a divorce in every way except that the parties remain legally married. However, there are some subtle differences and you may want to choose one over the other. A case is filed with the court and decisions are made with respect to all of the same issues as in a divorce such as custody, maintenance, child support, and property division. In effect, a legal separation is exactly what it says it is, it separates the two spouses “legally” but does not “divorce” them.

Negotiating a Separation Agreement

After filing for legal separation, couples deciding to take this route must negotiate a separation agreement outlining the terms of their separation. This agreement covers various aspects, including property division, child custody and visitation schedules, alimony (spousal support), and financial responsibilities.

Converting a Legal Separation into a Divorce

When spouses are legally separated, either may request a decree of dissolution before the final hearing and the court will convert the case to a divorce. Once a decree of legal separation has been granted, either party may request that the court change the legal separation into a divorce although it can be more challenging to perform the conversion once the case is over.

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Legal Separation

What Can Be Accomplished

A legal separation can accomplish everything a divorce can, except at the end of the proceeding the parties still remain married. This means that all issues, including things like child custody, maintenance and property division will be addressed in your legal separation. However, both parties must be in agreement regarding the legal separation. At any time, either party can move to convert the legal separation into a divorce.

Legal Separation

Things to Consider

There are spouses who believe that getting a separation is more cost effective than proceeding with a divorce, but this is untrue. All of the issues that must be resolved during a divorce also need to be addressed when the spouses decide to separate. Some of the issues that need to be discussed are child custody, child support, reviewing assets and debts, spousal support, and more.

Denver Divorce Lawyer

Need Help With Legal Separation?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does legal separation affect health insurance?
Parties often try to avoid losing their spouse’s insurance coverage by entering into a legal separation rather than a divorce. While this may be technically correct, many, but not all insurance companies will cancel insurance based upon a decree of legal separation.

How does legal separation work?
The process for a legal separation is almost exactly the same as that of a divorce. The only real difference is that a petition for legal separation is filed to open the case rather than a petition for dissolution. And at the end of the case, the parties receive a decree of legal separation instead of a decree of dissolution. Otherwise, the internal process of the cases are the same.

How is legal separation different from a divorce?
A legal separation and a divorce both address the same legal issues. The only difference is that the parties are divorced at the end of a divorce case, but are still married at the end of a legal separation.

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