How to File for Legal Separation in Colorado

September 29, 2021

For some couples who are facing marital concerns, legal separation is a better fit than divorce. If you are one of these couples, the experienced family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group are prepared to skillfully guide you regarding how to file for legal separation in Colorado. Some couples choose to legally separate rather than seeking a divorce, and the Colorado Judicial Branch explains that mechanism that exists for obtaining a legal separation. Whether you are taking a break, attempting to work out your differences, or are avoiding divorce on religious grounds, the dedicated family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group can help you address the matter of how to file for legal separation in Colorado at (720) 730-4558 (text) or (720)-463-4333 (phone).

Divorce vs. Legal Separation

Divorce is a legal contract, and the only way to end that contract is with a legal divorce. With a divorce, you and your spouse must make legal determinations including the following:

  • Your child custody arrangements (called parental responsibilities and parenting time under the Colorado Revised Statutes)
  • Child support
  • Spousal maintenance (or alimony)
  • The division of the marital estate (or the division of your marital property)

If you are unable to find common ground on any one or more of these terms, the court will do so for you. In a separation, the same terms need to be addressed, and they will guide how you and your spouse move forward into your legal separation. The primary distinction between a divorce and a legal separation in Colorado is that while a divorce terminates your marriage contract, a legal separation does not. If you obtain a legal separation, you remain married to your spouse and are not free to remarry (unless you move forward with the process of converting your separation into a divorce).

Common Reasons for Choosing Legal Separation

Every marriage, divorce, and legal separation is as unique as the people and circumstances involved, but there are common themes that often guide a couple’s decision to explore how to file for legal separation in Colorado rather than a divorce, including:

  • Using the separation to better understand what divorce would mean for them (rather than committing to a divorce from the outset)
  • Maintaining medical insurance or preserving other specific employment-based benefits (including military benefits) that would be lost with divorce
  • Ensuring that federal tax benefits for married couples continue to apply
  • Avoiding the social or religious stigma that some communities and/or couples attach to divorce
  • To make the transition toward divorce easier on their shared children

In other words, couples have a variety of emotional, financial, and practical reasons why they may choose a legal separation over divorce, and if you would like to learn more, the dedicated Colorado family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group are here to help answer your questions and ensure your rights remain protected.

Filing for Separation in Colorado

Filing for a legal separation in Colorado is nearly identical to filing for a divorce, and the steps include:

  • You and your spouse will file a petition (or a request) for a legal separation with the court.
  • Either you or your spouse must meet the residency requirement of the state, which means having lived in the state for at least 91 days prior to filing for your legal separation.
  • Just as you would if you were seeking a divorce, you will need to include a reason for your legal separation, which – because Colorado is a no-fault state – can be that your marriage is (as it stands) irretrievably broken with no current chance of reconciliation.
  • From here, there is a 90-day waiting period before the court can act on your separation request.

The 90-Day Waiting Period

The idea behind the 90-day waiting period is for you and your spouse to resolve the terms of your separation, which will allow you to bypass the court’s intervention and to retain decision-making power on these very personal and important matters.

Your Child Custody Arrangements

As mentioned, the State of Colorado breaks what you likely think of as child custody into parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parental responsibilities relate to who will be making important, big-picture decisions on behalf of your children, and these responsibilities can be taken on by one of you, can be shared, can be shared while one of you retains tie-breaking authority, can be fielded by only one of you, or can be divided according to the topic at hand. The kinds of decisions involved include those related to:

  • Your children’s schooling
  • Your children’s religious upbringing
  • Your children’s extracurricular activities
  • Your children’s health care

Parenting time determines how you and your spouse will split your time with your children, and you can either divide your time somewhat equally or one of you can take on the role of a primary custodial parent while the other has a visitation schedule.

Child Support

Child support is calculated according to Colorado’s state guidelines, and while many factors are considered, the two that are most significant include each parent’s income relative to the others and the number of overnights each parent has.


Only if one of you will experience a significant financial downturn upon separation while the other has the financial means to address this downturn will alimony play a role.

The Division of Your Marital Estate

Those assets that you acquired as a married couple (over the years of your marriage) are considered marital assets, and in the State of Colorado, they must be divided between you equitably (or fairly given the unique circumstances of your unique marriage).

Reach out to an Experienced Colorado Family Law Attorney Today

The experienced family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group are here to help you skillfully address your concerns as they relate to how to file for legal separation in Colorado. For some couples, a legal separation is a better choice than divorce, and we are committed to helping you explore your options. For more information, please do not wait to text us at (720) 730-4558 or call us at (720) 463-4333 today.

Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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