How Legal Separation Works in New Jersey
Does New Jersey Allow Legal Separation?
Separation often comes before a divorce or an attempt at reconciliation. In fact, the state of New Jersey is one of the only states in which separating spouses can apply for a legal separation without the need to involve the family courts. Both you and your spouse can sit down and agree to your own terms, with the help of a mediator, and come up with a legal document that stipulates the terms and conditions of the separation.
Separation vs. Divorce: What’s the Difference?
To put it simply, by filing for divorce, you can put an end to a marriage once and for all. With a separation, the marriage is not actually dissolved; instead, both spouses are living apart. However, there are separation processes that do come close to a divorce in the state of New Jersey.
What Are the Benefits of Separation Instead of Divorce?
There are many reasons why someone might choose to opt for a separation instead of a divorce, although financial reasons tend to come up as the most common determining factor. Another popular reason for choosing separation is that, by remaining married but separated for at least 10 years, one spouse is entitled to Social Security based on the benefits of the other spouse.
For some people, divorces can be in conflict with their religious beliefs. While divorce is unquestionably more socially accepted in today’s world than it has been even in the recent past, many do still feel a stigma attached to the idea of divorce.
Also, by choosing separation and remaining married, some spouses will still be eligible to receive their spouse’s medical coverage that he or she receives through work. This used to be more prevalent and available across the board, although it is increasingly less available today.
Finally, some couples opt for separation instead of divorce because they believe it will be easier on their children. This may not necessarily prove to be so true, though, especially if the parents continue to live together. If you are considering a separation instead of a divorce based solely on your children, it is worth considering the potential negative impacts.
What Is Legal Separation in New Jersey?
The state of New Jersey has a law that permits those in a “civil union” to file for legal separation. There is, however, no written law that permits married individuals to separate, although this does not mean it is not possible.
Under New Jersey law, it is possible to file for a “divorce from bed and board,” which is different from an “absolute” divorce, or a divorce from the bond of matrimony. A “divorce from bed and board” deals with issues such as child support, dividing property, and the like, but spouses will remain legally married once the case has completed.
What is most commonly sought today is a New Jersey Separation Agreement, also sometimes referred to as a Property Settlement Agreement. This is a written contract between each party that features legally binding and enforceable terms and conditions, and it will not require the involvement of the courts. A New Jersey Separation Agreement will deal with topics such as child support, custody and visitation, alimony, and property division. Because the courts will not be required, this agreement saves a lot of time and money, especially when it comes to attorney fees.
Will You Need an Attorney?
To get the best possible outcome for your legal separation, your Bergen County divorce lawyer can help in assisting you when it comes to all of the complexities of your separation. While you will not be required to hire an attorney, it is highly encouraged that you retain one who understands the legal complexities of legal separation.