How Long Do You Have to be Separated to be Legally Separated?
Many couples who find that their marriages are too fraught to continue are nevertheless reluctant to file for divorce. There may be compelling financial reasons to stay married, such as issues relating to medical insurance or childcare. Alternatively, the couple’s religious convictions may prohibit divorce, or the couple may believe that a temporary separation can help them work through their issues. Some states have a formal process for becoming “legally separated” without fully divorcing, which may include a minimum time limit before the parties can be declared legally separated. New Jersey does not have a formal process for legal separation. There are, nevertheless, avenues for couples who wish to separate but not divorce in New Jersey. Read on for a discussion of the options for New Jersey couples who want to separate without seeking a divorce, and reach out to a knowledgeable Englewood marital separation lawyer with any questions you may have.
To separate from your spouse, you do not need to file a document with the court. You can just separate. However, if you want to have a legal document enforcing agreements regarding practical issues such as child custody and alimony, you and your spouse can create a document called a separation agreement. Separation agreements are written contracts between spouses that address issues such as child custody, parenting time, child support, temporary alimony, payment of household bills, management of joint assets and debts, and other similar issues that would typically arise in a divorce.
The document follows the principles of contract law and needs to be signed and notarized to be enforceable. There is no formal time limit for declaring yourself separated in such an agreement. Nor do the parties even have to live separately to sign a separation agreement. They simply need to follow all of the legal formalities. If the parties are unable to agree on the terms of a separation agreement, the parties can go to court and ask a judge to issue temporary orders regarding custody and alimony.
A knowledgeable New Jersey separation attorney can help you negotiate the terms of your separation agreement with your spouse, ensure that the agreement is enforceable, and argue on your behalf in court where necessary. If the parties ultimately divorce, the agreement can be drafted in such a way as to be incorporated into the ultimate judgment of divorce, saving time and money later when the divorce is proceeding.
Divorce from Bed and Board; Separate Maintenance
New Jersey law also permits parties to seek a court order called a “divorce from bed and board.” The final order will not be a judgment of actual divorce but can be used to resolve issues regarding child support, property division, alimony, etc. Parties typically pursue this option when they prefer not to divorce as a result of their religious beliefs or in order to maintain health insurance.
Parties may also file a complaint for “separate maintenance,” which allows a party to seek spousal support and/or child support without filing for divorce. The complaint does not affect the marital status and does not touch on other issues such as the distribution of marital assets.
Help with Marital Separation from Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorneys
If you’re considering a marital separation in New Jersey and would like professional and knowledgeable legal help to evaluate your options, contact the Englewood separation lawyers at Herbert & Weiss for a free consultation at 201-440-6300.