Legal separation is more than just a steppingstone to a divorce. Some couples may treat it as merely a part of the divorce process, but separation is an important legal process in and of itself. A legal separation is a court order that stipulates the rights and obligations of a couple that has decided to live separately. Spouses may choose to live apart from each other at any time during the marriage, but it is the formal declaration by the court that makes a separation legally official.
When exploring whether a legal separation is right for you, there are several important factors to consider.
How is a legal separation different from a divorce?
The primary difference between a separation and a divorce is that in a separation, the marriage is still legally intact. In a divorce, the couple is seeking a divorce decree to end the marriage. Important issues such as property division, child support and visitation are also decided during separation – just as they would be for divorce proceedings.
The state of Colorado requires a 91-day waiting period after filing for divorce in order to ensure that both parties are certain that they want to proceed. A separation, however, does not require any such waiting period – as long as one or both parties has been residing in the state for at least 91 days.
After becoming legally separated, if you or your spouse later decides that you want a divorce, you’ll simply need to file a motion in court.
Is legal separation right for me?
If you are considering a legal separation, you might be a good candidate if you fit one of these criteria:
- You are unsure whether you want to file for divorce.
- You are religiously opposed to divorce.
- You don’t want to live as spouses, but you wish to retain the benefits of marriage – such as tax and social security benefits, insurance coverage or inheritance rights.
How mediation can help
A mediator can prove to be extremely valuable in helping you and your spouse decide how you want to proceed. Mediation is considerably less expensive – and less acrimonious – than litigation. Your mediator can walk you and your spouse through the various implications of separation versus divorce – and decide which course of action is right for you.
A mediator can also work with you both to help you come to an agreement on the terms of your separation with regards to property, finances and parenting in a way that serves you both. Because a mediator is also an attorney, they can draft and file any legal documents you may require. Ultimately, a mediator can be valuable in helping you and your spouse amicably navigate your separation.