"Did You Know That There Is No Legal Separation in New Jersey?"
"Many people contact my firm because they are considering separating
from their spouse and they want to know about how to obtain a “legal
separation.” I tell them that there is no such thing as a legal
separation in NJ; they can simply move out tonight if they wish to (of
course, I also make it clear that they cannot simply abandon their responsibilities,
both financial and otherwise, for a spouse and children.)
The fact of the matter is that unlike some other states, New Jersey does
not have a formal law authorizing legal separation.
Other states, such as California, do offer a formal legal separation as
an option for couples wishing to stop living as husband and wife. For
example, a legal separation in California is for couples not wishing to
get divorced, but who want to live apart and decide on money, property,
and parenting issues. In a California legal separation case, a person
can ask the judge for orders such as child support, spousal support, custody
and visitation, or any other orders a person can get with a divorce case.
Here in New Jersey, though, if people simply separate there is no judge
to ask for assistance because there is no concept of legal separation.
This may be a meaningless distinction though, because in New Jersey it
is possible to negotiate all issues of support, children, and property
distribution, and have an agreement reached with your spouse that has
been drawn up into a formal “Marital Settlement Agreement,”
or “Interspousal Agreement,” or “Property Settlement
Agreement,” without ever obtaining a divorce.
One can also file a Complaint with the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking
child custody, child support, alimony (or all three) without also filing
It is also possible to obtain a divorce from bed and board in New Jersey,
which is a formal legal court order that resolves issues of child support,
alimony, property distribution, etc. without granting a formal divorce
to the parties. Some people find this more acceptable than a traditional
divorce for religious reasons and other practical reasons, like the possibility
of continuing on a family health insurance policy without additional premium
cost. I call this a "99% divorce".
The decision to separate or divorce is a serious one. Notwithstanding the
fact that there is no concept of “legal separation” in New
Jersey, there are still difficult issues of child support, alimony, property
distribution, debts, insurance, and many other issues that need to be
If you are considering separating from your spouse, feel free to
contact me to discuss the particular facts of your situation and how they relate
to the issue of separating from your spouse."