Having problems in your marriage, but not quite ready to file for divorce? A legal separation may be the answer. Though New Jersey doesn't require a separation prior to divorce—and in fact, the term “legal separation” doesn't correspond to anything in the state legal code—there are still ways for unhappy couples to legally separate. Opting to separate rather than head straight for divorce can have numerous benefits.
Legal separations are a popular divorce alternative and pre-divorce option, and the appeal is understandable. These agreements allow you to achieve many of the same goals you'd have in a divorce case—without a lengthy and costly court battle.
For example, when crafting the separation agreement, you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys can hammer out decisions on a variety of key issues, such as asset division, child custody and support, alimony, and others.
Best of all, if you choose to move forward with a divorce, a special provision in your separation agreement makes it possible to have everything incorporated into your divorce judgment. This saves you valuable time, money, effort, and potential heartache.
How to Legally Separate in New Jersey
There are three ways to legally separate in New Jersey:
- Trial separation. This voluntary, informal agreement between spouses is best described as just living apart. You and your spouse make your own determinations regarding where the children will live, when and where they'll spend time with the other parent, who will pay which marital bills (such as mortgage or health care premiums) during the separation, and whether one spouse will need financial support. The downside to a trial separation is that, because it's informal, its terms can't be legally enforced.
- Contractual agreement. Most people who choose to separate in New Jersey opt to negotiate a settlement agreement with their spouse, which outlines the terms for child custody and support, alimony, and other important issues. Once signed by both spouses, the agreement becomes an enforceable legal contract.
- Divorce from Bed and Board. A less-common separation option, a Divorce from Bed and Board involves filing a complaint with the court on the same grounds you would cite in a divorce and allowing the court to make the custody, parenting time, and financial support decisions for you. Alternately, you and your spouse can draw up your own agreement and submit it to the court.
Consult a Flemington, NJ Divorce & Family Law Attorney About Your Separation Options
If you're considering a legal separation, the caring and accomplished attorneys with Carl Taylor Law can help you understand your rights and how the separation option you choose could affect a future divorce case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our divorce lawyers in Flemington, NJ.