What should you do when your relationship ends? In terms of divorce or separation in New Jersey, it's important you know what your options are. Your best course of action will depend on how your relationship was categorized to begin with.
If you're trying to figure out how best to proceed with the end of your relationship, you should speak with a family law attorney in New Jersey because the answers forward aren't always black and white. Depending on your unique situation, some options will work better than others. For example, if you aren't legally married, you can't get divorced. Separation may be a good option for some, but in New Jersey, the process isn't like it is in other states. Legal separation isn't available to married couples in New Jersey, though it could be an option for those who are in a civil union.
Married Couples Can't Legally Separate in New Jersey
You might be shocked to learn that legal separation for married couples doesn't exist in New Jersey. In other parts of the country, state laws provide for a legal separation process when a married couple wishes to split up. The benefits of legal separation mirror those of a divorce in some ways. For example, those parties to legal separation in states outside New Jersey include child support orders and spousal support orders. Legal separations sort of look and act like a formal divorce, but they aren't final.
For couples who don't know if divorce is their ultimate answer, legal separation can be sort of a practice round. It might be frustrating to learn that married people can't legally separate in NJ, but you still have options that yield similar results.
Divorce from Bed and Board Available to NJ Married Couples
Divorce from Bed and Board can be considered New Jersey's alternative to legal separation. If the name sounds archaic, that's because it is. This alternative to a divorce found favor during a time when there was more stigma attached to divorce. Divorce from Bed and Board is also known as a Limited Divorce in New Jersey, and it provides many of the same results as a divorce or a legal separation. Although it offers the parties many of the benefits of divorce, those who receive a Divorce from Bed and Board order are still married.
A Divorce from Bed and Board order requires the consent of both parties, and importantly, those who pursue this route cannot remarry until they go ahead and receive a full divorce.
Legal Separation is Available to Couples in a Civil Union in New Jersey
While legal separation is not available to those who are married, as defined by law, it can be utilized when those in a civil union decide to split. In New Jersey, a civil union occurs between same-sex partners and pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-3:
- “Legal separation from a partner in a civil union couple may be adjudged for the same causes as dissolution of a civil union…”
If you're in a civil union with your partner, and you decide it might be time to go separate ways, you could consider a legal separation. Legal separation orders are issued by the court and can be revoked if parties change their minds and decide the dissolution of their union is no longer desired. In the alternative, a legal separation can be converted into a full dissolution of the union if so desired.
Separation Agreements in New Jersey
If you're in either a marriage or a civil union in New Jersey, and you'd like to begin the process of splitting up, you could and should consider entering into a separation agreement with the other party.
A separation agreement is a contract that both parties must sign. It also needs to be notarized. These agreements, when prepared by a skilled NJ family law attorney, will do most everything a legal separation or a Divorce from Bed and Board order can accomplish. What's better, though, is that you don't need to involve the courts to enter into a separation agreement. A separation agreement can be final and enforceable as soon as you both sign it and have it notarized. In contrast, you may have to endure more expenses and longer wait times if you go through the court.
Provisions Covered by a Separation Agreement
A separation agreement should address the issues that would arise in a divorce proceeding. For example, a separation agreement might include provisions addressing:
- Child custody and visitation
- Splitting of property
- Child support
- Spousal support
One big hurdle required of parties to a separation agreement is that they need to be able to agree to the terms. This often requires a negotiation process. You should always approach these discussions with the help of a skilled family law attorney. Most citizens are not experts at separation and divorce. It can be difficult to understand the long-term impacts of the provisions in a separation agreement. Working with an experienced NJ divorce lawyer helps mitigate these risks.
Is a Separation Agreement Enforceable in New Jersey?
A separation agreement is a binding contract so long as it's signed by both parties and is notarized. There is an art to preparing a separation agreement, and it's important that all provisions be legal. If any party breaches the contract, the dispute can be taken to court.
Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?
You should hire a divorce lawyer when you're separating from your partner, even if you don't know whether a divorce will ultimately take place. Attorney Joseph D. Lento routinely helps his New Jersey clients navigate the difficult waters of separation, and he can help you too. To learn how the Lento Law Firm can help you, call 888-535-3686 or contact us online today.