Many states offer legal separation arrangements for couples who want to live apart but are not ready to divorce. Strictly speaking, New Jersey is not one of those states. New Jersey does not recognize legal separation for married couples. Nevertheless, New Jersey has certain legal options that are similar to a legal separation.

What Are Informal Separation Arrangements?

Many couples prefer a trial separation before they determine whether to divorce. They will enter into informal agreements concerning issues such as child custody, child support, parenting time, living arrangements, and how to manage finances. These arrangements might also include spousal support payments.  

Because the arrangement is informal, there is no need to submit any documentation to the court. The court will get involved, however, in issues involving child custody and child support. For child-related issues, the “best interests of the child” standard overrides any contrary agreements that the parents may have entered into.

What Are Formal Separation Agreements? 

In a consensual divorce, the divorcing spouses enter into a written agreement that covers issues such as property division, child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), and other relevant matters. If the court approves the agreement, the document becomes a court order, and violating it could mean a contempt of court charge. The marital separation laws in many states work the same way. 

However, New Jersey Law is different. Although NJ courts do not recognize a formal separation arrangement, New Jersey spouses are free to enter into a written agreement covering the same issues that would be covered in a divorce. There is no need to submit it to a court. 

Once both spouses sign a written separation agreement, it has the same legal force as any other contract, and a court will enforce it the same way it enforces other contracts. Violating such an agreement will not result in contempt of court charges. However, if the couple eventually divorces, they may ask the court to incorporate their separation agreement into the final divorce decree. 

Divorce From Bed and Board in New Jersey

Divorce from bed and board is a unique arrangement that allows a couple to separate their finances without undergoing a formal divorce. This means that the property gained by either spouse after a divorce from bed and board belongs to that spouse alone, rather than to both spouses, as would be the case in an ordinary marriage arrangement. 

However, some of the financial advantages of marriage remain. The couple can share the same health insurance policy, for example, and they can file joint tax returns. They cannot remarry without obtaining a full divorce. For various reasons, divorce from bed and board is not a popular option in New Jersey. 

Why Do Couples Choose to Separate Rather Than Divorce?

A couple may choose to separate rather than divorce for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The religious beliefs of one or both spouses forbid divorce;
  • The couple prefers a trial separation to gain some perspective before they make a decision on divorce;
  • The couple wishes to keep some of the financial advantages of marriage without actually living together;
  • The couple believes that a separation will be better for their children than a divorce

Regardless of your reasons, it is best to consult with a family law attorney and carefully contemplate all relevant issues before you make any final decisions. You may even want to seek the services of a trained family law mediator.

During a separation, you will need to agree on important issues such as child custody and property division. It is not a good idea to try to save money by hiring a single lawyer to represent both spouses. No matter how amicable your separation, your interests will almost certainly diverge from your spouse’s interests at some point. 

Each spouse should hire their own family law attorney to advise on important decisions.

Contact the Bergen County Family and Divorce Law Firm of Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for more help

Contact the experienced family attorneys at Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers today for legal assistance. Visit our law office in Bergen County or give us a call at (201) 487-1199 to schedule an appointment. to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Bergen County Law Office
1 University Plaza Dr #400,
Hackensack, NJ 07601, United States