Just as there are many ways to maintain a healthy marriage, there are many ways to end one. Divorce is the most common, while legal separation is a worthwhile solution for some. There are tangible benefits to separation — perhaps one partner requires health insurance and has a complex medical background, or maybe it always seemed easiest to tell the kids you were separated instead of divorced.

In its simplest terms, separation is often considered a short-term solution and its benefits may hinder other parts of your life the longer you maintain the status. If you’ve been in a long-term separation, it feels normal, but many aspects of your life are legally on hold. Everyone falls victim to routine and it’s easy for one year to become three or ten. What happens if you’ve fully moved on from your former partner and you’ve met someone new-but you’re still legally married?

It’s a common problem, and it creates logistical headaches as your new relationship blossoms. Any separated individual cannot remarry, first of all, as you are still legally married to your former partner. Because you did not officially end your marriage, you may also share valuable property that complicates your new relationship.

When it’s time to move on

Colorado’s separation process mirrors that of divorce. While your official status hasn’t changed from married to single, in most cases you have already agreed to terms of property division and custody. It’s possible that this arrangement shifted in the years between your separation and today, but you’ve already laid the groundwork if your separation took place within the state of Colorado.

Any divorce in the state requires a waiting period of 90 days, but in your situation you’ve well exceeded this basic guideline. At this point, you wish to update your separation status to a marriage annulment, also known as a divorce. It’s a legal process that updates your marital status officially, thus setting the stage for your new relationship and formally cutting ties with the past.

Additional challenges

Remarriage isn’t the only reason why a long-term separation can cause confusion in your life. While you likely made the agreement for good reason, circumstances change. Many people who are separated feel a sense of putting their life “on hold.” This may not be an obvious feeling, but a subtle “tied down” element can linger as you make key life decisions. That is just one of many potential pitfalls.

Other risks include:

  • Your former spouse may not use shared resources responsibly
  • Divorce or separation law may change in the meantime
  • Long-term separation may stress your children
  • Long-term separation may stress your former partner

Closing all the loopholes

While separation made sense when you first made your decision to move apart from your ex-spouse, old habits can become bad habits with time. When it’s time to move on, it’s important that you update your marital status with the state and perform due diligence on all legal documents to make sure that your current needs are reflected in your legal status as you look to the future.