One of the first questions many couples first think about is how to get legally separated in New Jersey. But this is a common misconception—you cannot file for legal separation in New Jersey. While some states allow you to be legally separated, New Jersey does not. If you and your spouse no longer wish to reside together, you are not forced to. You can separate and live separate lives. However, this is not legal separation as other states have it. In the event that you and your spouse wish to live separately, you can draft an agreement that outlines each person’s responsibilities and details regarding parenting time, who will pay what bills, and so on. But if one party does not follow through under this agreement, you will not have any recourse because it is not an enforceable agreement due to the fact that no legal proceedings were initiated. So how can you file for separation in New Jersey? Here’s how to get “legally separated” in New Jersey:
Divorce from bed and board
The version of legal separation in New Jersey is to file for “divorce from bed and board.” Specifically, you will still need to file a complaint for divorce and you will resolve all of the issues in your case by way of settlement agreement. This agreement will outline all of the issues in your case including custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution. The only difference is that at the end of the process, a final judgment for bed-and-board divorce will be entered rather than the standard final judgment. The effect of this is that the marriage bond remains intact. Therefore, neither party can remarry until the divorce from bed and board is dissolved.
Two of the most common questions from potential clients during a consultation is how much does it cost to file and how long will it take. The answer for both an absolute divorce and a divorce from bed and board are the same—it’s impossible to tell. The process for a divorce from bed and board and an absolute divorce are the same in New Jersey. Only the result is different.
The reason that a divorce from bed and board is attractive to some couples is that the continuance of the marriage relationship often permits the party who provides medical insurance to continue to do so even after the legal case has been resolved. Generally, the divorce from bed and board is agreed to for a specific period of time, such as two years, which will give the spouse who will need separate benefits a chance to find employment or qualify for insurance at their place of employment without a lapse of coverage.
If you do decide to simply separate from your spouse and have an unofficial agreement, you can make that agreement the formal settlement agreement if you eventually proceed to a divorce, so long as you are both in agreement. If you have been living separately for a period of 18 months, you can file for divorce under the no-fault provision of separation for 18 months. However, to file under the more common no-fault provision of irreconcilable differences, you only need to allege that there have been issues in your marriage for six (6) months.
Should you just file for divorce?
You may still be unsure as to how to file. Since the process of legal separation in New Jersey requires the parties to do nearly everything a divorce would involve without actually dissolving the marriage, it may make sense to just go through with a divorce. Deciding which path is right for you can be challenging, but we can help you evaluate your options and make the choice that is best for you.
Although divorce ends your marriage and resolves all issues, such as custody, child support, alimony, and property division, you don’t have to file for divorce to get legal assistance and support.
If you decide to separate, you can still file for custody, child support, and spousal support without seeking a divorce. Resolving these issues can allow you to live separately without a lot of indecision and conflict over these very important matters. Here are some more things to consider that may help in your decision to file for legal separation in New Jersey or to file for divorce:
Reasons to consider separation
- You still have misgivings about completely ending your marriage.
- You are still in couples or marital therapy.
- There is a possibility that you can repair your relationship.
- You don’t really know what you want, and some time alone may allow you to work through your feelings.
- Your spouse will not agree to a divorce at this point.
- You frequently change your mind about whether you want a divorce.
- You feel as though it is just too soon to file for divorce.
- The thought of divorce makes you feel terrified.
Reasons to consider divorce
- You have taken time to consider your options and believe a divorce is right for you.
- You believe your marriage is not fixable.
- You want a complete physical and financial separation from your ex.
Either way, you’ll benefit from knowing your rights and working with a family-law attorney who can help you arrive at the right decision. The attorneys at DeTorres & DeGeorge are ready to discuss divorce and separation with you and help you move forward with what’s best for your family. Call us now for an appointment at 908-304-9683.