What is Legal Separation?
Many couples experience marital difficulties and, despite deciding to separate, are not prepared to proceed with a divorce. Often, they seek time and space to work through relationship difficulties, hoping they might get back together. If that happens to you, you want to protect your rights if the relationship is not saved and proceeds to divorce or a longer separation. Under both circumstances, a written separation or mid-marriage agreement is advisable. This document is a formal written contract outlining the personal and financial terms of their separation. These often address child custody, parenting time, spousal and child support, and distribution of assets and liabilities. Our experienced Legal Separation attorneys are available to handle cases in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County, Mercer County, Union County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Essex County, Morris County, and Hunterdon County.
These agreements can also address the terms of getting back together, and are then called mid-marriage agreements. These are more typically done when there has been infidelity or addiction issues that are getting addressed before the couple gets back together. These agreements have been found controversial, are often subject to claims of duress and coercion, and can be difficult to enforce, but may be an avenue worth exploring depending on your set of circumstances. Our team of attorneys can talk you through your options and the various concerns that you have.
In either case, a legal separation agreement or a mid-marriage agreement is not filed with any court. It is a formal contract and is fully enforceable in court if necessary or can become the divorce agreement if they do not reconcile and a divorce is ultimately obtained. If the couple reconciles, the agreement can be voided and they can go about living their life together.
Another form of legal separation, which does involve the NJ Court System, is called "Divorce from Bed and Board". This is often used when a couple wants to permanently separate, there is no prospect of reconciliation, but for other purposes, such as age or health conditions they decide a Divorce from Bed and Board is the right thing to do. In these circumstances, you should check with a tax professional how this may impact filing taxes as you may need to continue to file joint income tax returns (or married but filing separately) as you are not legally divorced. You should also be aware that insurance companies may have rules that allow them to consider a Divorce from Bed and Board the same thing as a Divorce. They may ultimately deny coverage based on the Divorce from Bed and Board. A Divorce from Bed and Board is often put in place for a limited amount of time. When that time runs up, an Absolute Divorce can be filed to convert the legal separation into a complete divorce. This has to happen if one party wishes to remarry. If the parties cooperate, this may be accomplished through a Consent Order or a simple motion to the Court.