Legal Separation vs Divorce
Dedicated Family Law Attorneys Assisting Denver Residents
When a marriage breaks down, couples in Colorado can either seek a divorce or they can file for a legal separation. If you are contemplating a legal separation or simply want to know all of your options in regards to ending your marriage, we can help. At Plog & Stein P.C., our experienced Denver legal separation attorneys are well-versed in this area of law and can help you understand your legal rights and options. With over 70 years of combined legal experience, we have helped people resolve their family law issues even in the worst of times and we can help you, too.
Choosing Between Legal Separation and Divorce
People opt for legal separation over a divorce for a number of reasons including religion, finances, inheritance rights, health insurance benefits, social security or even because they simply are not ready for the finality of a divorce. It is a common misconception that a couple is legally separated if they have filed for divorce and are living apart. Instead, in Colorado, legal separation is a unique legal status distinct from divorce for which a couple must file. In other words, once a couple decides they want a legal separation, they must take a series of legal steps and file the appropriate paperwork to obtain a final order known as the “decree of legal separation.”
When couples obtain a “decree of legal separation,” all relevant matters that are addressed in a divorce and related to the marriage are resolved, such as those pertaining to parenting time, spousal maintenance, child support, marital property division and more. If parties cannot easily reach an agreement on these terms, our lawyers will be there for you to assist with settlement efforts, the ultimate goal being a resolution as close to your objectives as possible. However, if parties absolutely cannot agree then these matters will be decided by a judge. If court trial ensues, our attorneys are well prepared and experienced to litigate your divorce issues.
Just as in a divorce, when the parties are legally separated, they are considered to be no longer financially entangled with each other and are free to make independent financial decisions. This does not mean there may not still be ongoing financial ties, such as alimony or child support. However, there are two significant differences between legal separation and divorce in Colorado. First, spouses who are legally separated cannot remarry when they are separated because they are still married in the eyes of the law. In order for either spouse to remarry, they would need to convert their legal separation into a divorce. In addition, unless there is a written agreement (i.e., a prenuptial agreement) saying otherwise, spouses who are legally separated do not lose their inheritance rights.
Once a marital separation is in place, it is much easier to convert it into a legal divorce since all of the issues that are required for the final divorce decree have already been decided. As such, the process for converting the decree of separation into a decree of dissolution only requires the filing of a motion requesting that the decree of legal separation be converted. It is important to note that this can be done no less than six months following the decree of legal separation. The Colorado Court’s process for converting the decree from separation to dissolution is then automatic and has the effect of formally changing the parties’ marital status.
Discuss the Differences Between Legal Separation and Divorce with a Denver Attorney
Couples going through marital problems may have options other than divorce. If you have questions regarding the differences between a legal separation and a divorce, you need to reach out to an attorney in the Denver area who is familiar with this area of law. At Plog & Stein, P.C., we understand that dealing with the breakdown of a marriage is taxing, which is why we are committed to handling your case with a careful attention to detail. Our goal is to help you figure out your next steps in a dignified and stress-free way. We also represent people in Aurora, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, and other cities in Denver, Douglas, and Arapahoe Counties. For further information, do not hesitate to reach us at (303) 781-0322 or contact us online.