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What’s the Difference between Divorce and Legal Separation in Colorado?

Divorcing your spouse is not the only option available when you no longer want to live as a married couple. A legal separation puts into place many of the boundaries and guidelines of a divorce, but it does not officially end the marriage. For some couples, this is a better option because of their religious or personal beliefs about marriage, or because of practical reasons, such as insurance.

Though not all states recognize legal separation, Colorado does and has laws that specifically address the difference between legal separation and divorce. In order to be legally separated, you must file a petition with the court and for many, go through a process vary similar to divorce.

Legally separated couples have custody arrangements, parenting agreements, and maintenance obligations, just the same as divorced couples. This is why many choose to obtain the support and guidance of an attorney for their legal separation because there is as much at risk as there is during a divorce.

What else is important to know about how the State of Colorado views legal separation?

According to C.R.S. § 14-10-106, which covers both dissolution of marriage and legal separation:

(1)(a) The district court shall enter a decree of dissolution of marriage or a decree of legal separation when:

(I) The court finds that one of the parties has been domiciled in this state for ninety-one days next preceding the commencement of the proceeding;

(II) The court finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken; and

(III) The court finds that ninety-one days or more have elapsed since it acquired jurisdiction over the respondent either as the result of process pursuant to rule 4 of the Colorado rules of civil procedure or as the result of the act of the respondent in joining as copetitioner in the petition or in entering an appearance in any other manner.
(b) In connection with every decree of dissolution of marriage or decree of legal separation and to the extent of its jurisdiction to do so, the court shall consider, approve, or allocate parental responsibilities with respect to any child of the marriage, the support of any child of the marriage who is entitled to support, the maintenance of either spouse, and the disposition of property; but the entry of a decree with respect to parental responsibilities, support, maintenance, or disposition of property may be deferred by the court until after the entry of the decree of dissolution of marriage or the decree of legal separation upon a finding that a deferral is in the best interests of the parties.
(c) In a proceeding to dissolve a marriage or in a proceeding for legal separation or in a proceeding for declaration of invalidity, the court is deemed to have made an adjudication of the parentage of a child of the marriage if the court acts under circumstances that satisfy the jurisdictional requirements of section 14-5-201 and the final order:

(I) Expressly identifies a child as a “child of the marriage”, “issue of the marriage”, or similar words indicating that the husband is the father of the child; or

(II) Provides for support of the child by the husband unless paternity is specifically disclaimed in the order.
(d) Paternity is not adjudicated for a child not mentioned in the final order.
(2) If a party requests a decree of legal separation rather than a decree of dissolution of marriage, the court shall grant the decree in that form unless the other party objects.

If you are considering legal separation or you are unsure if a divorce or legal separation is best for you, we can help. Contact Montgomery Little & Soran, PC at 303-773-8100.

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