In Colorado, a person seeking to legally sever ties from his or her spouse can either file for a Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) or Legal Separation. What is the difference? While the process to obtain a divorce or a legal separation is the same, and both cut each spouse’s financial ties to each other as well as having the court decide parental responsibilities (parenting time, decision-making, and child support) if minor children are involved, there is one major difference: you are still married to each other. Neither spouse can legally remarry unless the separation is converted to a divorce.
There may be advantages to a legal separation for insurance, pension, or religious reasons.
A legal separation may not be permanent. Six months after a decree of legal separation has been entered, either party may petition for a divorce and the Court is required to grant the petition to convert the legal separation to a dissolution of marriage.
Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. While some states require you to choose a ground for divorce, such as adultery, cruelty, abandonment, etc., the only ground for divorce in Colorado is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Being a no-fault divorce state also means that when the Court is determining how to divide the marital estate or whether to award spousal maintenance, the Court cannot consider marital misconduct or actions by either party that led to the divorce or legal separation.
To begin the process in Colorado, residency requirements must be met:
- at least one party must have lived in Colorado for at least 91 days before the case is filed.
- If there are minor children, they generally need to have been in Colorado for at least 182 days before the Court can have jurisdiction (there are some exceptions) to begin a case to determine parental responsibilities.
When you begin a divorce or legal separation case, the time between the initial filing and Permanent Orders can be quite long. If there are contested issues that cannot wait until the Permanent Orders hearing (click here to learn more about contested vs. uncontested), you can request Temporary Orders. Temporary Orders can cover issues such as:
- parenting time
- child support
- spousal maintenance
- who lives in the marital home
- payment of bills
The Orders from the Temporary Orders hearing will last until the Permanent Orders hearing. You can usually request Temporary Orders at the Initial Status Conference but may be required to attend mediation or have a settlement conference with the other party before you can attend Temporary Orders.
Deciding to move forward with a divorce or a legal separation is a hard decision to make and comes with lots of questions. Contact us to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation to help answer some of those questions.