Is There Actually Such a Thing as Legal Separation in NJ?

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Not everyone who is unhappily married considers divorce the best option. In some religious faiths, marriage is regarded as a permanent commitment that cannot be ended. A number of couples hesitate to divorce – hopeful for the chance of reconciliation. So, what happens in the meantime? Does legal separation exist in New Jersey?

You might be surprised. First, there’s the concept of a “Divorce from Bed and Board.” NJSA 2A:34-3 provides some insight into the process. According to Leggio v. Leggio, a divorce from bed and board most strongly represents a legal separation in New Jersey. But, what does it actually mean?

First, some critical considerations. Couples who decide on a Divorce from Bed and Board must both agree to do so. The usual no-fault and at-fault options may be used to petition the court.  In the end, the result is essentially a limited divorce. Unless the action is upgraded to an absolute divorce, the couple remains married, and neither is eligible for remarriage.

Could this possibly make sense? For some, perhaps. When it comes to reconciliation, there’s no need to plan a new wedding. A Divorce from Bed and Board merely acknowledges that the couple has decided to live apart from one another. That said, the limited divorce is useful when it comes to health insurance. Since the couple is still married, they do not have to worry about purchasing separate policies. They also avoid any perceived stigma associated with divorce.

Separation Agreement

In the meantime, you and your spouse might consider yet another option. You might like the idea of a separation agreement – especially because you do not have to go to court for judicial approval.

Technically speaking, there really is no such thing as a legal separation in New Jersey. However, a separation agreement essentially acts as a contract between you and your spouse. The benefit of a separation agreement is that you decide how particular issues will be handled. If you choose to reconcile, you can void the agreement. In the meantime, a separation agreement may actually help expedite your divorce – if that becomes the ultimate outcome.

Your separation agreement may address child custody and parenting time. Of course, it is critical to discuss financial issues – including support issues and payment of bills. Separating couples will ideally make arrangements concerning management of their assets and liabilities.

In best case scenarios, you and your spouse may be able to come to your own agreement documenting your separation. However, it is advisable that each party retain experienced family law counsel to review the final contract.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we understand that your hesitations concerning pursuing a divorce. We offer a complimentary consultation to all new clients. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.