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Family & Divorce Law

What is the Difference Between Legal Separation & Divorce?

By Tolison & Williams / May 17, 2019

According to Colorado Divorce Law, a couple that no longer wishes to continue living together has two options. They can get a divorce, or pursue a legal separation. If they choose divorce, their marriage will be legally terminated in the eyes of the law. Once finalized, the action cannot be undone.

The process of legal separation is less harsh to some extent. In this case, the couple goes through the steps of living apart physically, dividing their assets, and agreeing upon matters such as visitation or child support. If the couple does this without involving the courts, this is an informal separation agreement. To obtain a legal separation, both you and your spouse will need to undertake specific legal procedures and go to court. The process of legal separation is the same as obtaining a divorce. The final results are just different.

Reasons For Pursuing a Divorce vs. a Legal Separation

The primary reason a couple has for pursuing a divorce is the desire to end their marriage permanently. Those who seek a divorce often have strong moral reasonings for this. Those who opt for a legal separation instead are driven by other rationalities:

  • Religious or moral objections to divorce
  • Remaining open to the possibility of marital reconciliation in the future
  • Maintaining insurance or other benefits
  • Avoiding the stress of divorce proceedings
  • Protecting family members from the impacts of divorce
  • A strong desire to postpone divorce proceedings

Mind that if you are a couple who wants a legal separation to retain insurance or certain tax benefits, you should consult an attorney. Some policies exclude legally separated couples.

Obtaining a Legal Separation

Just like divorce, a separation can be pursued by both marriage partners, or just one. Even if only one person wants the separation and the other is opposed, the separation will be approved by the Colorado courts. Of course, if the couple cannot agree on their separation agreement, the legal proceedings will become more complex. If possible, it is advisable to reach an agreement on as many matters as you can to avoid the time and expense of going through the courts.

Ending a Legal Separation

A legally separated couple may end their separation at any time. They may choose to resume their marriage if both parties agree. They can also file paperwork with the court to convert their legal separation into a formal divorce agreement.

Getting a Divorce After Legal Separation

Anyone who chooses the option of legal separation must understand that their separation agreement will be used as the guideline for their divorce. In other words, the courts will likely base any decisions regarding the division of property, custody, support, etc. on the separation agreement. Deviating from this will likely require court filings and negotiations between the couple and their attorneys.

Because of this, it’s crucial to get qualified legal advice before pursuing or agreeing to a legal separation. Coming to an agreement regarding your separation agreement can make any future proceedings much easier for you. A lawyer will help you negotiate the best possible outcome for your situation. Your attorney will help you understand the separation process, and negotiate on your behalf.

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Tags: Divorce

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