In matrimonial law, there can be an obstacle course of issues.
What is the Difference between Separation and Divorce?
Many people use the terms “divorce” and “separation” interchangeably, even though they are legally quite different.
There is no such thing as a state of legal separation in New Jersey. Spouses are free to separate without a Complaint to court, live apart, and develop a plan to take care of equitable distribution, child custody, child support, and other divorce-related issues. That said, this plan would not be a legally enforceable separation agreement. You would still be legally married to your spouse with all of the obligations involved, including sharing debt and other financial considerations, while also being unable to legally marry someone else.
What Are Our Divorce Options?
If you want a “legal separation” in New Jersey, then your best bet is Divorce from Bed and Board. This legal arrangement does not dissolve the bonds of matrimony. You will still be legally entangled in many ways, such as potentially being able to continue to carry health insurance for legal spouses. Although many of the benefits of marriage will continue, spouses will almost always divide their assets and liabilities, provide for alimony, child custody, child support, and plan parenting time as they would in an Absolute Divorce. At any time, either spouse can make an application to the court for an Absolute Divorce, with the settlement terms under your Divorce from Bed and Board staying in place unless you and your spouse agree otherwise.
A divorce (also called Absolute Divorce) has legal ramifications that a Divorce from Bed and Board does not. When you are divorced, your spouse can no longer carry health insurance for you. You no longer accumulate benefits on your spouse’s earnings record for Social Security. Your spouse can change beneficiaries on their life insurances and retirement assets without your knowledge. There are many other benefits to marriage that a divorce will terminate.
The first step towards divorce in New Jersey is for one spouse to prepare a Complaint for Divorce. As filing this Complaint with the court can impact your ability to negotiate freely with your spouse without court interference in mediation or collaborative practice, we suggest waiting until those options have been explored.
You can file for an uncontested divorce (if a marital settlement agreement has been signed), a contested divorce, or look for an alternative method of resolution. Divorce and separation in New Jersey can be a very technical process, but you have many options that you can use to your advantage. There are many privately negotiated agreements that can be made using a number of methods outside of the courtroom. These can include divorce negotiation, mediation, or the Collaborative Law process. A collaboratively trained attorney can help you work together through collaborative practice to find an ideal separation agreement and help you both move forward into the future.
If you have questions regarding your specific divorce or separation issue, or any other areas of divorce and family law, please feel free to call us for a consult. We will provide you with individualized legal counsel with one of our family lawyers.
Keith Family Law is a full service family law practice in Westfield, New Jersey that serves clients from Union County, Essex County, Hudson County, Morris County, Hunterdon County, Somerset County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Warren County.