Some states, such as New York, recognize the concept of legal separation of married parties. New Jersey does not recognize legal separation, however, married parties in New Jersey have the option of entering into what is known as a “Divorce from Bed and Board.” Both parties must agree to enter into a Divorce from Bed and Board. Divorce from Bed and Board is most often utilized when the parties want to maintain certain marital benefits, such as employer-maintained health benefits.
The main difference between separation and divorce is that during separation, legally, the couple is still married. A Divorce from Bed and Board can be terminated if the parties decide to reconcile. Divorce terminates the bonds of marriage and allows both parties to freely remarry. Oftentimes, choosing between the two is a matter of personal preference. Family and couple dynamics, including religious beliefs and whether children are involved, are often a driving factor in determining which method is most suitable.
Below are some more specific reasons couples might choose separation over divorce:
- Financial Considerations including Alimony/Spousal Support: During separation, the parties may negotiate and agree to the payment of fair support to be paid voluntarily by one spouse to the other. In addition to determining how much support will be paid, the parties can decide how and when the spousal support will be paid. During the period of separation, parties should try to maintain what is known as the financial “status quo” which should reflect the financial arrangements that existed during the marriage, to the extent possible.
- Healthcare/Benefits: While most benefits are terminated after a divorce, separation allows for each individual to keep his or her benefits, including health insurance and Social Security benefits, during the period of separation.
- Property Rights: In terms of property, separation will allow for legal rights to property benefits and all related matters. For instance, during the period of separation, the parties can decide between themselves to sell property and divide the proceeds. They can also transfer savings and other valuable assets or debts in ways they believe to be fair.
Child Custody and Child Support: During the period of separation, the parties can make decisions regarding child custody and child support because New Jersey uses guidelines to calculate child support based upon such factors as the parties’ income, the overnights each party has with the child(ren), health insurance premiums for the child(ren), and work-related daycare.
The attorneys at Bozanian McGregor understand that contemplating either separation or divorce is a complicated and sensitive matter. Please contact them to discuss your situation and how they may be of service to you. They specialize in all matters of divorce and family law, including alimony, child support, child custody, and even high-net-worth divorce proceedings.