Marriages go through ups and downs. Sometimes, a viable option is a legal separation instead of a divorce. There are differences between a divorce and legal separation. A separation does not end the marriage, but a divorce does. The two processes are similar, but the outcomes are different. New Jersey has laws that allow couples in a civil union to opt for a legal separation. There is some confusion since there is no verbiage in the law for legal separations. Instead, it is often called a divorce from bed and board. Discuss your options with a New Jersey family law and divorce lawyer.

How Legal Separation is Different in New Jersey

A legal separation in New Jersey is different from a divorce in some ways. However, there are many similarities. Separation deals with issues similar to divorce, such as dividing property, child support, custody, etc. However, when the process is over, you are still legally married. Most often, spouses will opt to negotiate a separation agreement.

A separation agreement is a contract between two spouses. It is legally binding and is signed and notarized. As mentioned, it will address the same issues as a divorce. This option is popular because many couples will achieve their desired outcome without involving the court. It can also be a faster and less expensive way to resolve issues.

You can go to court for enforcement if either spouse violates the agreement. If you take the matter to court, the spouse in violation may have to pay legal fees and be held in contempt. Another benefit is that if you decide to move forward with a divorce down the line, the separation agreement can help with the process. The caveat is that you should have the condition within the separation agreement to incorporate it in a divorce judgment. This is a benefit since many of the significant issues you would address in a divorce are already discussed in the separation agreement.

Typically, in a divorce, the couple will live in different places. However, you can establish a separation agreement and reside in the same home. You may think this is rare, but it does happen, mainly for economic reasons. You should meet with a New Jersey divorce lawyer to assess which option is best for you.

How to File for Legal Separation in New Jersey

The process will be faster the more topics you and your spouse can agree on. When there are issues you disagree on, that can hinder the timeframe. Since legal separations are not outlined within the law, there is some confusion about the process. Initially, both spouses will negotiate on the terms. When they both agree, then they can sign and notarize the documents. It is also best to have a New Jersey divorce lawyer review the documents to ensure it is fair and each party understands what they are agreeing to.

Typically, New Jersey separation agreements are resolved within a few months. However, if the spouses cannot agree on terms during negotiations, filing for divorce could be the next viable option. This will involve the court and can lead to them deciding your agreement.

FAQs About New Jersey Separation Agreements

Separation agreements are a unique way to resolve marital issues without going through a lengthy and costly divorce. Here are some of the frequently asked questions our New Jersey family lawyers get:

What is a Trial Separation?

Relationships are complicated, leaving some couples to embark on a trial separation. This is an informal agreement between the spouses. They will live separately but still be together. This is for couples who want to take some space and assess where their relationship is and the next steps. By living apart, they can take the time to evaluate the situation without the stresses that come from living together. There is no legal process for this as it is a voluntary and informal arrangement. Spouses will plan the following during a trial separation in New Jersey:

  • Who pays which bills
  • Financial support for the spouse or children
  • If there are children, any issues concerning where they reside and when the other parent will spend time with them

Since this is an informal agreement, there is no legal recourse if either spouse violates the initial terms. Taking legal action will lead to the courts determining child support and custody independently of your arrangement.

Why Choose Separation Agreements Over Divorce?

If you question whether to choose a divorce or separation, speak to the experienced attorneys at Jersey Coast Family Law. There are different reasons why people will choose a separation over a divorce. Finances are a significant contributing factor, such as filing joint tax returns or social security benefits. The most common reason is when spouses want to maintain their medical benefits. Sometimes, a reason for a separation is because of religious beliefs.

In other cases, the couple decides that separating will be easier for the children. This often backfires since a separation agreement is similar to a divorce. Another reason it backfires is when the couple remains living together during the separation. This can cause more confusion for the children. You should consider all aspects of your circumstances before you choose divorce or separation agreements. Discuss the pros and cons with a New Jersey family lawyer.

Is a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Necessary for a Separation?

Our last question is whether you should seek legal assistance for a separation. You can technically establish a separation agreement without a divorce. The issue with handling a separation agreement alone is they are complex, and tensions can be high. You may face substantial problems in the long term without legal advice. Some couples will use divorce ediation to reach an amicable agreement. The mediator often advises the couple to get separate New Jersey family lawyers.

Speak To Our Jersey Coast Family Law Attorneys
Where Family Comes First

Jersey Coast Family Law is a proven, trusted partner for family law issues. Understanding options can be challenging, but our New Jersey divorce lawyers are here to help. We have Toms River and Red Bank offices to serve clients throughout New Jersey. Call 732-361-4718 to talk to our team today. Work with Jersey Coast Family Law, where family comes first.

Serving clients in Ocean and Monmouth County, and throughout New Jersey.