Should You Opt for a Separation Prior to Getting Divorced?
Filing a divorce is a major decision and nothing to rush into. While in some circumstances, the choice to legally end your marriage is obvious, there are others in which you may have doubts. Going through the process of a separation can be a way to get more clarity about the situation. Done properly, it can either help save your marriage, or it can provide the groundwork for a fair and reasonable eventual divorce settlement.
Marital Separation in New Jersey
If you are contemplating the option of spending time living separate and apart from your spouse prior to getting divorced, the first thing you need to be aware of is that there is no such thing as a legal separation in our state. Under Section 2A:34-6 of the New Jersey Statutes, you may seek a divorce from bed and board through the court, which allows you to stay married while protecting your interests and your rights to marital assets during your time apart. Known as a limited divorce, it requires both parties to be in agreement about the separation, while requesting the court oversee the terms. In the event the couple does eventually decide to seek a divorce, any agreements made can be used as terms for a final order.
While this type of legal separation is available, a far more common arrangement is to enter into a separation agreement. As a formal contract, this is a document negotiated through your attorney, outlining the terms under which your separation will occur. However, it does not need to be filed with the court. Issues that may be addressed in either situation include:
- The rights to marital property, such as homes, cars, or other belongings;
- Spousal support or alimony, in the event one party makes significantly more than the other;
- Child custody and support payments.
While a divorce from bed and board may seem preferable in some situations as it carries the weight of a court order rather than a contract, it does come with certain consequences. Obtaining a limited divorce could jeopardize your rights in obtaining health insurance or other benefits through your spouse and could also impact your rights in terms of property inheritance.
Ground Rules for a Marital Separation
According to Psychology Today, couples tend to separate either as a way to gain perspective on their marriage or with the clear intent of eventually getting a divorce. In either case, it is important to establish some ground rules first:
- Be clear in your goals: Are you hoping to resolve issues and rebuild your relationship, or is your separation the first step in getting a divorce? Make your intent known.
- Clarify your expectations: Be sure both you and your spouse are on the same page in terms of when, where, and how often you will communicate, whether you will attend family functions together, and how you will handle issues, such as seeing other people.
- Get support from a third party: If you are hoping to eventually reconcile, it is a good idea to seek help from a marriage counselor or therapist. Whatever your goals, seek guidance from an experienced attorney to ensure your rights are protected.
Let Our New Jersey Family Law Attorney Help You
At the Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards, we act as a strong legal advocate on your side to protect you in matters involving divorce and separation. Get the professional legal guidance you need and contact our New Jersey family law attorney to request a free consultation today.