Marriage has it highs and lows, and, rather than pursuing a divorce, many couples decide they want to get a legal separation instead of a divorce in hopes that taking a break from each other for a while will help cure some of their marital woes. At the end of the day the couple separates, but remains married.
What Legal Separation is Not
Legal separation is not an end to your marriage. Once the court give you a decree of legal separation, you’re still married. However, the other thing that many people don’t understand that being separated from each other is not legal separation either. In order to become legally separated, you need to get a decree from a judge. Without that magic piece of paper, you’re not separated in the court’s eyes.
What Legal Separation is
In Colorado, legal separation is a declaration from the court stating that the parties are officially separated. Otherwise, it’s nearly equal to a divorce. Property and debts are divided, spousal support or alimony can be ordered and tax status of the parties is declared. If you want to see more potential things that can be addressed in a legal separation, go to our divorce page.
The process of getting a legal separation is identical to a divorce with one major exception: there is not statutory waiting period before the decree of legal separation can be entered by the court. That means the parties can get their decree much faster, potentially, then can parties filing for divorce.
How is Legal Separation Different from Divorce?
Other than the statutory waiting period, there are a couple of other minor differences between a legal separation and a divorce. I can’t reiterate this first point enough. You are still married. That means if you want to get married to another person, while you’re legally separated, you have to get divorced first.
Next, there are some social security benefits as well. There is a 10 year rule that applies to divorced couples that allows a spouse to receive social security benefits based on their ex-spouses income. This 10 year rule starts ticking after divorce, and not after legal separation, and allows the parties to essentially delay the 10 year clock until they decide to get divorced.
The third differences is that legally separated spouses do not lose their inheritance benefits after the decree has been entered. This does happen with a divorce. Sometimes couples decide they want to be separated, but they still want their estate to go to their significant other after they die. If this is the case for you, a legal separation makes sense.
Finally, though it is increasingly rare, legally separated couples can maintain insurance and other retirement-related benefits where divorced couples couldn’t. However, most insurance companies aren’t allowing this to happen any more. If it’s in your plans to keep these benefits for your spouse, then be sure you obtain some kind of written statement from your insurance company stating that they will allow it.
What to do if you Want a Divorce After Getting Legally Separated
Many times reality sets in and the couple decides they want to get divorced. Fortunately, getting this done is quite simple. The parties need to wait at least six months after their decree of legal separation was issues and then they can file a motion to convert the legal separation to a decree of dissolution of marriage. Either party can do this without the consent of the other party. The requesting party simply needs to send proper notice to his or her spouse. Once the court finds that the other party has been properly notified, the decree is automatically converted to a divorce, and you will get your paperwork in the mail within a week or so.