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Legal Separation

In Colorado, Legal Separations are very similar to divorces accept the Parties remain married. Child custody and child support issues are resolved. The Parties’ property, assets, and debts are divided to include retirement assets. They will live apart and may not molest the peace of the other. So, the question is: why file for legal separation instead of divorce? There are two primary reasons for non-military families and one additional reason for military families.

Primary Reasons: Religious Beliefs and Health Care Benefits

Some people, primarily for religious reasons, don’t believe in divorce. They recognize that they can no longer live with the other person and they realize that dividing their assets and debts makes sense, but they simply refuse to divorce.

The other reason is health care. Many insurers automatically terminate the health care benefits of the former spouse upon divorce. However, many don’t recognize legal separation as a reason to terminate the benefits of the spouse who doesn’t carry the insurance because they still consider the couple married. There may be upcoming surgeries or long-term health care issues that would not allow that spouse to qualify for his or her own insurance so the Parties agree to stay married to keep the health care plan intact.

Military Members Can’t Legally Separate

The military doesn’t recognize legal separations for its members. There are two reasons this is significant. First, the non-military member can retain their Tricare benefits. The second unique reason military members sometimes file legal separations is because they are close to being married for 20 years overlapping the military members service. Once a non-military spouse hits that magic number of 20 years overlapping 20 years of their spouse’s military service, they retain their Tricare benefits for life, and can keep their ID card and full Base or Post access even if they later divorce. This is a significant benefit for the non-military spouse.

Both Parties Must Agree

One of the key components of a legal separation is it MUST be agreed to by both Parties. The Court cannot order a legal separation in Colorado over the objection of one of the Parties. Further, unless the Parties agree in writing to a longer term, either Party can turn a legal separation into a divorce after six months. That’s why it’s particularly important to have an attorney like Ray Chamberland to assist with any legal separation. This is especially true for military legal separations.


Ray Chamberland, family law attorney, discusses these and many more common family law questions on his Youtube.

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