Does Legal Separation Exist in New Jersey?
Married couples in New Jersey who want to end their relationship sometimes think divorce is their only option. However, it is possible to get a legal separation without formally ending the marriage. This is sometimes called a divorce from bed and board or limited divorce, and is a preferable solution for many couples who are not ready to finalize the divorce.
Is There a Law for Legal Separation in New Jersey?
The term “Legal Separation” is not used in New Jersey state law as it is in other states. This leads to some confusion among New Jersey couples as to whether or not separation is possible. Even though that exact terminology does not exist in this state, married couples who are civil and agreeable are still able to enter into a legally binding separation agreement.
Is a Legal Separation the Same Thing as a Divorce?
A legal separation, or divorce from bed and board, is different from a divorce. The separation process involves many of the same issues, including dividing property, child custody, and child support, but in the end the couple will still be legally married. Instead of an absolute divorce, the couple will negotiate a separation agreement.
What is a Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement is a legally binding written contract between the two spouses. The agreement resolves all issues that would come up in a standard divorce, including:
- Child Support
- Child Custody
- Parenting Time
- Distribution of Assets
- Alimony (or Spousal Support)
This agreement finalizes everything that would be decided in a traditional divorce without having to involve the courts. Unlike an informal trial separation, if one of the spouses violates the terms of the separation agreement, the other can go to court to enforce it. It is also important to note that the couple does not have to live separately for the separation agreement to be valid.
Why Would a Couple Want to Get Legally Separated Instead of Divorced?
Obtaining a separation agreement instead of finalizing a divorce has several benefits for couples who are able to cooperate and come to a mutual understanding, including:
- It saves time and money as opposed to a formal divorce proceeding in the courts
- It gives couples time to consider whether an absolute divorce is right for them, and possibly repair the marriage
- It allows the couple to still file joint taxes together and share health insurance
- It can be easier on your children than a traditional divorce
- If they couple does ultimately decide to get a divorce, the existing separation agreement can be incorporated into the divorce judgment, making the process easier
How Can I Get a Legal Separation in New Jersey?
The first step towards pursuing a legal separation with your spouse is to hire a qualified New Jersey separation mediator. Steve B. Menack has been helping couples reach separation agreements through a collaborative and positive process for over 25 years. If legal separation seems like the right course for you and your spouse, do not hesitate to contact us so we can begin the process right away.