If the tension in your relationship becomes more than just a rough patch, separation might be a positive choice for your family. Separation is not divorce. You and your spouse will remain legally married, with all the benefits that come with a marriage on paper. However, separation may impact matters such as finances and legal rights according to the type you select. Separation could be the key to continuing your relationship, reconciling your differences or deciding it is time for a divorce. It could also be the ideal permanent choice depending on your situation.
Trial separation could be the right move if you are still unsure about the future of your relationship. If reconciliation may be possible, a trial separation period could help you and your spouse see things more clearly. During trial separation, you and your spouse will live in separate places, but everything else remains legally the same. Legal rights such as parenting time and property ownership will not change.
If you and your spouse decide to continue sharing a bank account or child custody, put the terms of your trial separation agreement in writing. You do not need to file your agreement anywhere or make it official, but having both signatures can help you prevent legal trouble in the future. That way, your spouse cannot accuse you of stealing money or claiming property you do not own. The terms of your agreement will be clear. However, in the court’s eyes, you and your spouse will still jointly own bank accounts, debts and assets.
Permanent separation, as the name implies, is a more permanent split. This might be the best option if you and your spouse decide it is time to permanently break up – often after unsuccessful reconciliation during trial separation. Permanent separation has more legal ramifications than a temporary split. In most states, permanent separation will officially distinguish between you and your spouse’s properties. The debts you accrue and money you make while permanently separated will become your separate property rather than community property with your spouse.
If you incur debts for things such as paying the mortgage on your marital home or buying groceries for the kids, however, the courts in Colorado will most likely view these as community property debts rather than yours alone, even while permanently separated. Keeping track of the date of your legal separation is important, as this date can have significance during a legal separation or divorce case. Until you take your spouse to court or vice versa, a permanent separation will not be a legal one. The courts will not intervene with your arrangement.
Making your separation official can have certain legal benefits. Achieving a legal separation means the family court in your county will change your legal status from married to separated in the system. A legal separation is similar to a divorce in that the court will grant orders about property division, child custody, child support and other important matters; however, you and your spouse will still be technically married. This distinction can be important for issues such as health insurance benefits if you or your spouse wish to retain them through your current agreement. Many couples prefer separation to divorce.
Which Is Right for You?
Choosing the right type of separation depends on your unique relationship. Do your best to communicate honestly and openly with your spouse. Explain your needs, whether that is just to have some time apart to think or to make your separation legal in a Colorado courtroom. Whichever course of action you decide, consider consulting with a lawyer about your rights. A Fort Collins family law attorney can help you choose the ideal living situation for you, your spouse and your kids. A lawyer can also help you through the legal process should you decide to opt for legal separation or divorce down the road.