For many couples, divorce is a messy and complicated process that can put an even greater strain on an already strained relationship. Some couples choose not to take this path and instead opt for a legal separation. A legal separation, also sometimes called a divorce from bed-and-board, is a legal process that allows a couple to separate but still remain legally married. In cases where children are involved, a court order will typically make arrangements for child custody and shared parenting, as well as child support.
Why Do Some Couples Pursue Legal Separation?
Choosing to move forward with a legal separation instead of a divorce is often a matter of personal preference. A legal separation can be a good alternative for situations where divorce is not an option, whether through moral or religious objections. Also, because a legal separation does not automatically lead to a divorce down the line, some couples might reconcile, and won’t have to do anything in order to continue their marriage.
Some couples do use legal separation as a stopping point on the way to divorce. This allows them to settle important issues (division of assets, child custody, alimony, etc.) while keeping the marriage intact and determining what they really want. A legal separation is easily reversible, but a divorce is final, so having a middle step is helpful for many couples.
How Do You Get a Legal Separation?
A couple can separate and live apart at any time for any length of time without court involvement. This is called a trial separation and couples will typically do this as an informal experiment to test whether divorce is ultimately what they want. A legal separation occurs when the court formally declares you as separated and you can file for separation just as you would file for divorce.
Some states do not offer legal separation as an option, but legal separation in NJ is available to couples who need it. Divorce and legal separation are both viable and useful options when a marriage is failing. Ultimately, the better choice will come down to what feels comfortable to you.