What is a Legal Separation vs. a Divorce?

A legal separation is a court case where you and your spouse go through all of the same processes as a divorce without the granting of an actual divorce decree. Because the two processes are so similar, you may be wondering why someone would choose one over the other. The main difference between the two is that after a legal separation, the two of you are still married. A legal separation mainly separates your finances but you remain married and therefore cannot remarry (although you may not want to).

Read on to learn more about legal separation in Colorado:


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.


  • The spouses may have a religious opposition to getting a divorce;
  • The spouses want to reconcile but have concerns about maintaining joint finances. This is often due to the fact that one spouse has trouble managing money or is engaging in reckless behavior that is depleting the marital estate’s resources (a drug habit, for example);
  • There may be tax-related or insurance-related benefits to remaining married;
  • There may be retirement-related benefits to staying married, particularly if one of the spouses is in the military;
  • The parties may simply not be ready to be “divorced”; and,
  • Other financial benefits.


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.

Couples who choose a separation over a divorce are often concerend about how divorce relates to religion, morality, and other philisophical concerns about divorce. Others may be concerned about continuing health insurance coverage or other aspects of life that divorce changes (divorce will often force you to remove a spouse from an employer’s health insurance policy).


How do you File for A Legal Separation?

In the exact same fashion as a divorce – by filing a petition with a Colorado district court. In fact, the two are so similar that when clients come and consult with us, they often end up going with a divorce because the process is so similar anyway. The forms that are used to file a petition for legal separation or divorce can be found here.


What is the cost of a Legal Separation?

The cost of a legal separation is essentially the same as a divorce as both processes involve the exact same issues. There are very few, if any, cost-related benefits to filing for a legal separation over a divorce. The most costly parts of the case are the costs associated with expert fees, mediator fees, and attorney fees.