Often, couples who have filed paperwork for divorce and live separately hold themselves out publicly as being legally separated. But technically, that is not what is called legal separation in Colorado. Legal separation refers to a wholly separate marital status resulting from a decree of legal separation, whereas divorce occurs with a decree of dissolution of marriage.
In practice, legal separation and divorce are very similar. Both involve severing your legal and financial ties to your spouse as well as dividing property. What makes legal separation different from divorce is that you are still technically married, meaning you cannot remarry unless you go through with a full divorce.
Why on Earth would someone want to remain legally married, but separate? The common reason is a religious or moral objection to divorce. Legal separation allows these people to stay in line with their faith while also providing necessary economic independence. Some other people might use legal separation as a method of prolonging a marriage for the purposes of some other benefit. For example, Social Security applicants can receive retirement benefits from their spouses or survivor benefits if they have been married for 10 years. Legal separation can allow a couple to split up while still giving them access to each other’s retirement funds. Lastly, some couples just don’t like the word divorce. It is foreboding and stressful to even think about, while a legal separation can seem less imposing.
So, which is best for you? The best way to figure it out is, if possible, to discuss your case in mediation.
Your legal representative in mediation can help create a personalized list of pros and cons to help you pick between divorce and separation.