Understanding Legal Separation in New Jersey
Divorce isn’t an option for every couple, even when the relationship seems to have soured. Religious strictures or economic realities keep some couples together who might otherwise part, and others choose to forestall the finality of marriage dissolution in the hopes some reconciliation or reset might be forthcoming. For reasons like these and others, legal separation is an option short of divorce that might sound appealing, but what exactly is it, and what does it do? Below we attempt to clarify the concept of legal separation in New Jersey, how it differs from divorce, and what legal rights and obligations it entails.
If you are considering separation or divorce in Union, Middlesex, or Essex County, contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro to discuss your needs and options with a compassionate and dedicated Union family law attorney.
What Is Legal Separation in New Jersey?
Legal separation, a concept often misunderstood, is a significant legal process in New Jersey. Unlike some states, New Jersey does not formally recognize “legal separation” in the same way it does divorce. However, couples can opt for a path similar to legal separation through a process known as “Divorce from Bed and Board” or can choose to live separately while remaining legally married.
Divorce from Bed and Board
This unique form of separation is a hybrid between divorce and legal separation. It is sometimes referred to as “Limited Divorce.” It allows couples to live apart and settle aspects like asset division, child custody, and support while remaining legally married. This status can be beneficial for couples who wish to retain certain benefits, like health insurance, or for those who have moral or religious reservations about divorce.
Alternatively, couples may enter into a separation agreement. This binding contract outlines the terms of their separation, covering financial responsibilities, child support, and custody arrangements. While not officially altering the marital status, these agreements provide a structured framework for the separation period.
Legal Separation vs. Divorce: Key Differences
Understanding the distinction between legal separation and divorce is vital for couples considering their options.
Marital Status: In a Divorce from Bed and Board, couples remain legally married, which is not the case in a complete divorce. A Divorce from Bed and Board does not allow either spouse to enter into a new marriage with someone else, for instance.
Reversibility: Separation under Divorce from Bed and Board can be reversed or transitioned into a complete divorce if desired, offering flexibility not typically available in an absolute divorce.
Financial and Legal Obligations: Both processes involve similar considerations regarding assets, debts, and child-related issues. However, since legal separation does not dissolve the marriage, certain legal rights and obligations continue.
Legal Rights and Obligations in a Separation
During a separation, whether through Divorce from Bed and Board or a separation agreement, certain legal rights and obligations arise:
Asset and Debt Division: Equitable distribution of assets and debts is a key component. Parties must agree on how to divide property acquired during their marriage.
Child Custody and Support: Determining custody arrangements and support is critical. The best interests of the child are paramount in these decisions.
Spousal Support: Alimony may be a factor, depending on the couple’s circumstances and the duration of the marriage.
Healthcare and Insurance Benefits: One unique advantage of Divorce from Bed and Board is the potential retention of certain marital benefits, like health insurance.
Guidance and Support Navigating Choices Between Divorce and Separation in New Jersey
Legal separation in New Jersey, while not formally recognized as in some states, offers alternative paths for couples navigating marital challenges. Whether through a Divorce from Bed and Board or a separation agreement, understanding the legal implications and differences from divorce is essential. The Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro, serving Union, Essex, and Middlesex Counties, stands ready to provide expert guidance and support for families facing these complex decisions. With a compassionate approach and a deep understanding of New Jersey family law, we are here to help you navigate this challenging journey.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro by calling 908-964-0102. Let us help you understand your options and rights, ensuring your decisions are informed and tailored to your unique situation.