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LEGAL SEPARATION IN NJ: It's Called "Divorce From Bed & Board"

undefinedThat's it.

You want a legal separation.

You're done.

You just cannot take it anymore.

The marriage is over.

You've heard about legal separation for a long time and you think that you might want one (yes, NJ DOES offer legal separation notwithstanding what other people may say...it just isn't called "legal separation" here in New Jersey...we call it a "Divorce From Bed and Board".)

But...you've got to give this some more thought because you can seek either:

1.   an informal separation; or

2.  a legal separation; or

3.  a divorce.

While we don't use the phrase "legal separation" in New Jersey, our "Divorce From Bed and Board" is similar to what other states refer to as "a legal separation".

What exactly IS a "Divorce from Bed and Board"?

And would you be better off with a Divorce from Bed and Board, a simple informal separation (where you basically just move out and work things out informally) or a regular divorce?

A Divorce from Bed and Board is what I call "a 99% divorce."

Normally it would start out as any other "divorce case".

We negotiate.

Perhaps we actually file for divorce based upon irreconcilable differences.

Then we settle all financial issues: alimony, child support, college payments, credit card debt, and any other financial issues.

We divide all property: houses, boats, investments, retirement accounts, and all other forms of property.

Child custody is decided, as is parenting time between the parties.

Everything that would normally get resolved in a divorce case gets resolved in a divorce from bed and board case.

In writing.

But here's the difference from a divorce case...

Ultimately, at the end of the case, there is a formal order signed by a New Jersey Superior Court Judge that makes the "divorce from bed and board" a final order of the Court.

Similar to what you would receive in an absolute divorce case.

So what is the difference in New Jersey between a regular divorce and a Divorce from Bed and Board?

And how would you begin to pursue either a divorce or a Divorce from Bed and Board?

For starters, if you get a Divorce from Bed and Board, you are still married. You cannot marry someone else because you and your spouse remain married (although all obligations and responsibilities of your marriage have been resolved in a Court order called a "Judgment of Divorce From Bed and Board".)

In New Jersey, whether a person is seeking a regular divorce or a Divorce from Bed and Board, the initial legal paperwork is identical: a formal court document called a "complaint for divorce" seeking a regular divorce is filed.

At the end of the case, after everything has been settled, a person who had originally sought a traditional divorce might seek to modify his request to a "Divorce from Bed and Board". 

(Note: a "Divorce from Bed and Board cannot be forced upon anyone by a judge...a judge only has the power to enter a traditional divorce, so you can only request a Divorce from Bed and Board if your spouse consents.)

In my experience, there are 3 main reasons that someone might consider a Divorce from Bed and Board as opposed to an absolute divorce.

First, many people wish to attempt to continue using their current health insurance account without triggering an increase in rates. A full divorce would require each side to obtain their own health insurance, which can be very expensive.

On the other hand,  in New Jersey, a Divorce from Bed and Board is often viewed by health insurance companies as something that has not ended the marriage, and therefore the insurance company may continue to pay benefits to both parties without raising premiums.

This can be a great way to save money while also finalizing all issues of money, property, and children with your spouse.

Second, sometimes a person has religious objections to divorce, and the fact that a Divorce From Bed and Board means that they are technically not divorced, yet they have the benefit of having resolved all issues with their spouse, is comforting to them for religious reasons.

Finally, some people who no longer wish to live together but hold out hope for a possible future reconciliation feel that it may be easier for them to reconcile later by putting a Divorce from Bed and Board in place rather than a full divorce.

In any event, if you and your spouse agree to convert your divorce case to a case for "divorce from bed and board" then you will remain technically "married" but you will go forward living your separate lives pursuant to the contract that your reached, as embodied in your legal separation judgment (again, in New Jersey we call it a "divorce from bed and board judgment.)

But do you really want a "legal separation" (ie, a "divorce from bed and board")?

Or should you be investigating the possibility of getting a divorce?

Or would it be best for you to just separate informally?



...but you probably should be getting a solid "divorce education."


Learn undefinedhow toundefined undefinedprotect yourselfundefined and make a fair deal.undefinedundefined

I've written hundreds of articles on New Jersey-specific divorce topics.

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I look forward to helping you get the "edge" in your New Jersey divorce case!

Until next time,

Steven J. Kaplan, Esq.

Specializing In Divorce
Throughout New Jersey

5 Professional Circle
Colts Neck, NJ. 07722

(732) 845-9010

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