New Jersey Legal Separation
(DIVORCE FROM BED AND BOARD)
In our state, the law does not use the commonly known term “legal separation;” however, this does not mean there is no such legal proceeding. New Jersey legal separation is known as divorce from bed and board or complaint for limited divorce. The grounds for divorce from bed and board, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-3, do not differ than those for divorce.
This proceeding became popular in the 1950s and 1960s among people who viewed divorce as a sin. New Jersey legal separation solved this dilemma by allowing couples to financially separate entitling them to the same equitable distribution, child support and alimony as divorced couples, without breaking the marital bond. The judgment obtained by the parties also addresses division of pensions, marital debt, selling of the marital home, parenting time, and any other applicable issue. This method of separation has become rare but it is still an option for individuals who have cause not to legally dissolve a marriage, whether the reason be religious, personal, or financial.
There are many couple who choose to live apart for months or even years without taking some form of legal action. For these couples who intend to continue living apart but do not want to divorce, New Jersey legal separation can provide financial protection. If a spouse collects a large sum of debt, the other is responsible for those actions and can be pursued via collections agencies or legal action. It is unfair to assume this kind of joint responsibility if living apart from a spouse for a prolonged period without word on how they are handling finances. Like divorce, New Jersey legal separation provides this protection. It can also be useful in cases where the parties would like a spouse to maintain health insurance through the other’s employer.
In divorce, the Court can grant a default judgment of divorce if the Defendant is entirely unresponsive or uncooperative; however, the same is not true for divorce from bed and board. Both spouses must agree and cooperate with New Jersey legal separation. For this reason, it is crucial that parties are civil and expect to remain so after entering the agreement. Because the marriage is technically still valid, it will also pose challenges if either party decides to date or intends to remarry in the future. The agreement can be modified into a complete divorce or be revoked/suspended should the party reconcile.
Many people may not realize the seriousness of this type of separation, but other than the technicality of remaining married, New Jersey legal separation acts very closely to divorce. After entering an agreement, spouses will have no claim on one another’s assets including making a claim to their spouse’s estate after they have passed away. All equitable distribution matters are finalized as they would be in divorce.
It is important to consider all aspects of New Jersey legal separation to decide whether it is right for you. At Armour Law Firm we are dedicated to helping clients find the path that best suits them. During your free consultation all options will be discussed in detail with an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney.