‘Legally Separated’ Is Not a Status Recognized in New Jersey

While entertainment news headlines these days may be full of celebrities and politicians calling it quits on their marriages, divorce is a big step for most couples no matter what problems they may be facing. There can be any number of reasons why a couple in domestic turmoil may not want to jump into divorce – at least not just yet. Among those reasons are financial situations, religious beliefs, insurance matters and even the hope that a little time apart could help mend the relationship. While many states recognize “legal separation” as a state between marriage and divorce, New Jersey does not. (1)

In New Jersey there is a proceeding on the books known as “divorce from bed and board.” This antiquated term refers to a marital state which is between living as husband and wife and divorce. During this time, the couple would enter into a Separation – or Marital Settlement – Agreement, which does much the same as a divorce agreement without permanently ending the marriage. (1)

Under a Separation Agreement, a couple decides and agrees on a number of issues such as how assets are to be distributed between them; whether or not support payments need to be made and, if so, how much; tax issues, such as who claims who as dependents; and custody matters, including visitation schedules and child support. (1)

While New Jersey may not recognize ‘legal separations,’ it does have ‘no fault’ divorces, which are also referred to as voluntary separations. The separation must be one that the couple mutually agrees to and enters into voluntarily. A divorce on ‘no fault’ grounds requires that the couple not cohabitate or live in the same house for 18 months consecutively and that they agree there is no chance for reconciliation. (2)

A ‘divorce from bed and board’ or a voluntary separation can provide couples with a cooling-off period during which they can reevaluate the relationship free from the pressure which put the marriage in trouble to begin with. For those who see no chance of reunion, a no-fault divorce allows them to dissolve the marriage without putting blame on any one partner. When these separations do end in divorce, couples find that most of the emotionally-draining decisions have already been dealt with in the Separation Agreement. (3)

(1) http://goarticles.com/article/Marriage-Separation-in-New-Jersey-is-Divorce-from-Bed-and-Board/4820620/
(2) http://www.divorcelawinfo.com/NJ/njdivexpln.htm

(3) http://www.ehow.com/how_6365207_file-legal-separation-new-jersey.html