Divorce can be an expensive, messy process. Legal separation may seem like a better solution to many in a difficult marriage. Legal separation can allow one spouse to reduce their financial and legal risks associated with their spouse’s activities or to qualify for benefits or aid without considering their estranged spouse’s income or assets. People decide to separate instead of divorce for a number of reasons.

For some people, the remaining social stigma associated with divorce is enough to turn them off from the process entirely. For others, concerns about how their religious community might receive news of a divorce could affect their decisions. It’s also possible that someone considering a legal separation might have hopes of an eventual reconciliation with their spouse.

After securing a formal, legal separation from your spouse, you might move to a new property or even start a new relationship. If the separation has lasted for some time, do you have the option of getting married after legal separation?

Separation is not the same thing as divorce under Colorado law

You can file legal separation paperwork after living apart for at least 91 days. Those who legally separated from their spouse, possibly years or even decades ago, may have moved on with their life. However, from a legal standpoint, they still have ties to their former spouse.

Separation reduces your financial and legal culpability for mistakes made by your spouse, but it does not formally dissolve or end the marriage. Simply put, you are still married if you have gotten legally separated. As such, you cannot get married until you turn your separation into a divorce.

How do you proceed with a divorce after a lengthy separation?

Hopefully, after living separate lives for so long, you and your ex will no longer have disagreements about common divorce issues like the division of your property or the custody of your children. You likely already have made arrangements for those issues as part of a separation agreement during the legal separation process.

As such, provided that you both agree with the divorce, you may be able to secure an uncontested divorce. If your ex does not want to divorce despite the long separation, you may still have to file a contested divorce, although the courts may not have to hear much about property division or custody.