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Choosing to end a marriage is never easy. Even if your circumstances have become strained to the point where you are considering divorce, you might wish to enter into a less permanent arrangement where you and your spouse live apart. This is what many couples mean when they talk about “legal separation”.
The decision to legally separate from your spouse is overwhelming enough in itself. At Team Law, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help smooth the process. We can help you understand your options and represent our interests to make sure you are protected.
Do You Have Questions About Legal Separation? We Can Help, Tell Us What Happened.
It’s important to understand that legal separation isn’t something that New Jersey courts formally recognize. You don’t have to file any kind of paperwork to legally separate from your spouse–and you don’t need permission or have to cite a reason for your decision. Documenting your decision can be useful for a number of reasons–if only to set expectations between you and your spouse.
Our attorneys at Team Law have over 60 years’ experience representing clients’ interests across New Jersey. To learn more about legal separation and your options for protecting your family, call us to schedule a free initial consultation today.
Although “legal separation” is not actually a technical legal term in New Jersey, many married couples who wish to separate without formally divorcing want to enter into some type of legal arrangement so that they’re protected.
To legally separate in New Jersey, many couples negotiate a legal separation agreement–or a settlement agreement. That agreement can govern the relationship between the parties during the period of separation. The agreement can cover:
Although not necessary to formally separate, the agreement can make sure both spouses are in agreement about the terms of the separation. Once signed, the separation agreement is a legally enforceable contract like any other.
Further, if you do eventually decide to divorce, you can have the terms of the contract incorporated into a divorce settlement agreement by the courts.
New Jersey also offers a separation option called divorce from bed and board. Divorce from bed and board is a form of legal separation–but it is not a divorce. You do, however, have to go before the court. You can obtain a divorce from bed and board for any of the same reasons as a formal divorce–or simply cite differences between you and your spouse.
If you choose this option, the courts will impose a formal order governing temporary child custody, child support and spousal support measures. If you eventually decide to divorce, the court can convert this order into a formal divorce order.
While divorce from bed and board is not a legal divorce–and both spouses remain financially obligated with respect to joint assets and liabilities–it does have financial repercussions. Once the temporary order is issued, any property acquired by either spouse is not treated as marital property. You are still technically married–so if you’re receiving government benefits based upon this type of separation, they shouldn’t be impacted.
Many couples choose to legally separate because they simply aren’t ready to divorce. Other couples may have religious beliefs that make divorce impossible. Divorce could simply be impractical for financial reasons.
The only situation where legal separation is actually required involves a divorce based solely upon legal separation. Since a non-contested divorce is possible under New Jersey law, this is rare–but not unheard of. To base a divorce upon legal separation, you must be legally separated from your spouse for at least 18 months. That means you cannot physically be living with your spouse during the 18-month period.
Regardless of your reasons for separating, legal protection is important. Managing expectations is often critical to avoiding future conflicts. Even if you are unable to agree, our lawyers can help with alternative forms of dispute resolution, including mediation.
For many couples, a legal separation is the first step toward a decision to divorce or reconcile. We know that you are likely facing challenges at home–and your relationship with your spouse might be tense and emotional. You don’t have to do it alone. Our experienced family law attorneys are here to look out for your best interests.
If you’re considering legal separation, call the family law attorneys at Team Law to schedule a free initial consultation today. You can also use our online contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.
Yes. While there is no need to go to court to separate, it is an option. A judge can listen to your case and impose temporary measures, such as temporary alimony and child support, as well as child custody and parenting time. The judicial order will be binding, so it’s important to make sure you have an experienced lawyer by your side to protect your interests.
No. In fact, many couples choose to remain within the same household, whether for economic reasons or childcare needs. Your separation agreement can create terms that are custom-tailored to your unique situation.
Technically, no. If you and your spouse can agree to all of the terms of the separation, an attorney isn’t strictly necessary. However, it’s always advisable. An experienced lawyer will know the types of things that should be included in the settlement agreement. Your lawyer can help ensure that the agreement is validly executed so that it is legally enforceable–and can help you understand what can happen if one party violates the terms of the agreement.
In the end, your lawyer is there to protect your interests, so it’s always a good idea to speak with an experienced family law attorney before making any decisions.
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Family Law Information Center