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How Does Colorado Define “Legal Separation?”


You and your spouse no longer wish to live together as husband and wife. You are both wise to resolve the rights and responsibilities arising from the marriage such as division of assets and debts, parenting time, child support and spousal maintenance (formerly “alimony”) to name a few. In Colorado, the parties may decide to file for dissolution of marriage (divorce) or legal separation.

Legal Separation Distinguished from Dissolution

Most commonly, parties have religious or moral beliefs which make a legal separation preferable to dissolution of marriage. Additionally, a legal separation may be emotionally easier on the parties as they separate from each other.

Obtaining a decree of “legal separation” must address exactly the same issues which must be addressed in a decree of dissolution (divorce). Therefore, after a decree of legal separation has been entered, the parties shall be separate people financially except for the responsibilities contained in the decree of legal separation. The parties must complete the same procedural requirements of a dissolution of marriage action.

There are distinct characteristics of a legal separation:¬† The parties may not remarry while they are legally separated Sometimes (but rarely) a party may remain on the other’s insurance policy (be sure to check with the particular insurance policy to confirm) Couples may live apart, with legally separate financial obligations, without being “divorced”

If one party wishes to dissolve the marriage, the agreement or order contained in the legal separation decree is entirely enforceable in the decree of dissolution of marriage

Unless otherwise excluded, both parties may retain their inheritance rights from the other spouse.

Converting a Decree of Legal Separation to a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage

Though there are some distinctions between legal separation and dissolution of marriage, either party may seek conversion of the decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution of marriage after six months have passed from the entry of the decree of legal separation.

Converting the decree of legal separation into a decree of dissolution requires only legal notice to the other party, informing the other party of the intent to convert the decree of legal separation to a decree of dissolution. Granting the conversion to a decree of dissolution of marriage is automatic, and formally restores a spouse’s prior name (if requested) and changes the status of the spouses’ legal relationship.


Parties may have moral or religious motivations which make a legal separation preferable to dissolution of marriage. For some, simply the title “legal separation” is more palatable during the initial separation. Transitioning from husband and wife to separate households is a very personal experience. For some, filing a petition for legal separation is preferable to filing a petition for dissolution of marriage.

For more information contact:
William E. Smith, Esq.