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Is Legal Separation the New Trend?

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr. Jane Seymour and James Keach. Kris and Bruce Jenner. It seems everyone’s opting for separation instead of divorce these days.

While the tabloids may be screaming “It’s Over,” the reality is these couples are trying to protect their financial assets as they buy some time to determine the best paths for their families. The Jenners, for example, have not yet legally separated, while Bloom and Kerr are reportedly having the least “break-upy break-up” ever and Douglas is filling the airwaves with talk of a reconciliation with Zeta-Jones. Dina Eastwood, on the other hand, revoked her request for a legal separation from husband Clint Eastwood after just two days in favor of a divorce petition instead””perhaps because news of Clint’s affair became public.

What is the benefit of being “legally separated” as opposed to just starting the process of divorce though””especially for those of us whose lives aren’t splashed across the papers?

In Colorado, being “separated” doesn’t just mean living apart and buying your own groceries; it’s an actual legal decree that divides the couple into financially-independent individuals who have stipulated terms for alimony, child custody, debts and property issues. While that sounds almost exactly like a divorce, there are some financial advantages to being separated instead of divorced; those who opt for a legal separation maintain their inheritance rights, contribute to the ten-year entitlement for spousal social security and military benefits, and may sometimes receive insurance or other retirement benefits. Neither spouse can remarry until the decree of legal separation is converted into a decree of marriage dissolution, but this is often a satisfactory solution for couples who may have religious or moral objections to divorce itself.

A “legal separation” is different from “temporary orders” in that the latter is only a provisional arrangement concerning child custody, living arrangements and financial duties. Although temporary orders are formal agreements validated by a court, a legal separation is the final word on these matters and is considered the permanent state of affairs. It’s quite convenient to then convert a decree of legal separation into a dissolution of marriage, as you only need to formally inform the other party of your intent no less than six months after the separation decree was issued in Colorado. As a result, both parties must be very careful about the conditions set forth in the legal separation as these could also be the final divorce terms.

Celebrities have their own reasons for pursuing the legal separation route, but please contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys if you think this might be an ideal solution for your family as well.