Separation vs Divorce: Expert Insights From a Colorado Springs Family Law Attorney

On December 11, 2023

There Is Only One Way To End a Marriage In Colorado

Separation vs. divorce in Colorado involves both similarities and differences, but only one involves the legal end of a marriage. The only way a marriage ends in Colorado – other than “’til death do us part” – is through divorce. But sometimes, spouses who have decided that their marriage isn’t working find that divorce won’t work for them either. Several circumstances can make the complete termination of legal, financial, or religious bonds an unavailable, unappealing, or impractical option for some couples who may otherwise agree they should no longer share their lives. In these “can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em” situations, separation may be the best option and a viable alternative to divorce.

Over our many years practicing family law in Colorado Springs, the experienced divorce attorneys at Perkins Law have assisted clients in deciding between these two options when their marriage is no longer working. If you are contemplating making a change but are unsure about choosing separation vs. divorce, here are some key insights that can help inform your decision when you discuss your situation with your family law attorney.

Termination of Marriage

As noted, the most fundamental difference between separation vs. divorce in Colorado lies in its effect on the legal status of a marriage. Separation may mark the end of married life in the eyes of the spouses involved but not in the eyes of Colorado law. In a legal separation, spouses may live separately but remain legally married. Neither spouse can remarry until and unless they get a divorce. 

Read More: 3 Tips for Choosing the Best Divorce Lawyer in Colorado Springs

Financial Issues

Financial matters, including unwinding the couple’s interconnected assets, liabilities, and incomes, play a crucial role in separation and divorce. In both processes, decisions must be made regarding the valuation and division of assets and other issues with financial implications, such as child support and spousal maintenance. The key difference is who is making these decisions. Making these financial decisions is a crucial part of separation vs. divorce, and careful thought should be put into making them.

Since there is limited court involvement in a separation, the spouses must address and resolve these matters independently. Often, the parties enter into a legal separation agreement that sets outlines the financial terms of their separation, along with other issues that would be included in a final divorce decree if the couple were divorcing. While El Paso County Courts do not have to approve a separation agreement, these are commonly filed with the court so both parties retain rights under the agreement. However, separation agreements may not be as enforceable as a divorce decree.

In a divorce, the spouses can still agree on their own as to their finances, but an El Paso County judge will need to approve such arrangements if they are to be included in the final divorce decree. If the couple cannot resolve their differences, the judge will make these decisions for them using the principle of equitable distribution.  

Perkins Law - Separation vs Divorce

Child Custody and Support

Child custody and support are areas where there are similarities between separation vs divorce, but the legal procedures and implications differ. In both cases, parents may work out an agreement regarding child custody and support during separation, informally or through a legal separation agreement. However, without a formal court-approved agreement, these arrangements may lack enforceability. Hiring a Colorado Springs child support attorney can assist in enforcing these arrangements.

In divorce proceedings, the court must approve a parenting plan that addresses issues such as the physical and legal custody of the child or children, visitation schedules, and child support. The court’s primary interest is on the child’s best interests, and the final decisions may vary depending on each family’s unique circumstances. 

Related: Preparing for a Child Custody Case

Residency Requirements

For some Colorado couples, divorce may not be a legally available option – at least for the moment. To file for divorce in the state, at least one of the spouses must have been a Colorado resident for at least 91 days before filing the petition. 

In contrast, there are no residency requirements for legal separation. This distinction in separation vs. divorce allows couples to pursue separation without meeting the same residency criteria required for divorce, providing them more flexibility.


Since separation does not end a marriage, reconciling spouses can get back together and continue with the same rights and obligations they had before without needing divorce proceedings. 

Couples can reconcile while a divorce is pending and agree to dismiss the action. However, they are no longer married once a final divorce decree is entered. They must get remarried if they want to get back together as a married couple. 

See Also: How Does Colorado View Domestic Partnerships?

Questions About Separation vs. Divorce? Call Colorado Springs Divorce and Family Law Attorneys Perkins Law Today

If you are contemplating making a change to your marriage and would like to explore your options between separation vs divorce, the team of Colorado Springs divorce attorneys at Perkins Law welcomes the opportunity to meet with you. Together, we will find a way forward. Please contact Perkins Law today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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