One of the most common questions we receive is how is (1) what is legal separation and (2) how is it different from divorce? The short answer is that they are basically the same thing, the biggest difference is the name.
How is Legal Separation Different from Divorce?
The difference is mostly in the name. In both situations you file with the court, you either reach agreements or you get orders from a judge if you can’t agree. If you have children, you get parenting time, decision making, and child support orders. And you get a decree saying that these orders are final. You are completely financially and physically separated. However, if you are legally separated then neither of you can get remarried. Otherwise it is functionally the same.
Why Would I Want a Legal Separation?
- Religious belief is the primary reason people seek legal separation. However, once the elders of the church have approved a divorce (if it is approved) most will convert the action to a divorce.
- Some people want to leave open the option to get back together if they can work things out. Starting as a legal separation sounds nicer to encourage that.
- Health Insurance: You might hear that a reason for a separation is so that one spouse can stay on the health insurance of the other person. This used to work, but it is rare anymore. Most likely you will not be able to stay on your spouse’s health insurance with a legal separation. But you can call the insurance company to check and find out.
Can I Convert A Legal Separation to A Divorce?
An action is only a legal separation if both people agree to a legal separation. Either person can ask for it to be changed to a divorce before the court issues the final decree. Since the Court can’t force anyone to stay married if they do not want to, it will be converted into a divorce. If you do get a decree of legal separation, it can be converted into a divorce decree by either party without notice to the other party more than 6 months after the divorce decree was issued.
Do you still have questions? Call us at 303.431.0415 for a free 15 minute phone consultation with an attorney.