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How does legal separation differ from divorce?

Sometimes, couples decide that they would be better off apart, but are not ready to end their marriage. In Colorado, legal separation is an option. A legal separation, unlike a divorce, does not legally end the marriage, and spouses who are legally separated cannot marry or enter a civil union with someone else. Couples may choose legal separation over divorce for religious reasons or for tax purposes. Sometimes, living apart is a preferable option to living together while they are trying to work out their problems. For others, it's a stepping stone to divorce.

A legal separation, unlike an informal one, needs to be approved by a court. It includes specific terms that are detailed in a legal separation order. These terms usually involve things like division of property, spousal support, child custody and support and payment of debts and expenses. Couples may choose legal separation over an informal separation so that these matters can be legally enforced if necessary. The terms of the order can also be modified.

If a legally separated couple reconciles, they need only submit a request to the court. If they decide to go forward with a divorce, their legal separation order can provide the basis for their divorce agreement.

Because a legal separation needs to be approved by a Colorado court, it's important to make sure that the separation order is prepared properly. A Colorado family law attorney can guide a couple through the process, help make sure that all issues are addressed in the order and help ensure that the order will be accepted by the court.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation," accessed June 26, 2015

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