When you and your spouse no longer get along in your marriage, it can still be difficult to decide how and when to end your relationship. There are certain situations when a separation might make more sense than a divorce, and there are other times when getting divorced might be a better option. Choosing to live separately might be better than remaining together in the same home when you have frequent conflicts and have children you are worried about in the context of the home environment.
A New Jersey divorce lawyer at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC, with offices in Bergen and Essex County, can speak with you and help you understand your options. It's important to understand the differences between separation and divorce in New Jersey and what they involve. Here's an overview from a divorce lawyer in New Jersey on separation vs. divorce.
What Is Separation in New Jersey?
New Jersey does not have a law that specifically provides the ability of spouses to legally separate. However, couples can file an action for a divorce from bed and board in court to receive a limited divorce. This type of action allows them to address the division of debts and assets while also resolving other issues, including alimony, child custody, and child support. If you receive a divorce from bed and board, you will still be legally married in the eyes of the law and will not be able to marry someone else. You will also need to list yourself as married on your income tax returns and other legal documents.
Instead of going through the court process to obtain a divorce from bed and board, most couples instead choose to enter into separation agreements. These are legally enforceable contracts between spouses that they can use to address all of the same issues without having to involve the courts. When you are separated under an agreement, you will still be married and can't marry other people. However, you will still be able to access your spousal benefits, including Social Security, pension plans, and employer-provided health insurance.
Some couples use separation agreements as a trial divorce to see whether they can resolve their differences and reconcile or if they should instead move forward with a divorce. Others choose to separate for other reasons. In any case, separation can be a viable option for couples who need time to evaluate their marriages and aren't ready to file for divorce.
What Is a Divorce?
A divorce in New Jersey is also called an absolute divorce. It is a legal process through which a marriage can be legally dissolved. Once you are divorced, you can't reverse it. Instead, you and your spouse will be single following a divorce and will no longer be able to access spousal benefits. Also, divorced spouses are free to marry others.
A divorce might be based on fault or no-fault grounds. People might pursue fault-based divorces in New Jersey to try to hold their spouses accountable for certain types of misconduct. However, fault-based divorces can be lengthy and expensive, and they also require the petitioner to prove the other spouse's fault. For this reason, most people choose to pursue no-fault divorces based on irreconcilable differences. They will not have to prove fault, making the process a little easier. Through the divorce, they can either negotiate a settlement agreement that resolves all outstanding issues or litigate the issues through a divorce trial and leave the decisions up to the judge.
When Might a Couple Choose to Separate Instead of Getting a Divorce?
Couples might choose to separate instead of filing for divorce for any number of reasons. In many cases, a married couple might not be ready to file for divorce but recognize they have serious problems in their relationship. They might decide they should separate while they evaluate whether they can work out their differences or instead proceed with a divorce.
Some couples decide to enter into separation agreements instead of getting divorced because of religious beliefs. In that case, the couple might decide to separate because they want to avoid disapproval by their religious community.
In other cases, couples might choose to legally separate when they are older, have no plans to remarry others, and want to remain married for financial reasons. For example, if one spouse has a chronic health condition and needs continued access to the other spouse's health insurance, the couple might decide that it's best to separate instead of getting divorced.
Couples might have other reasons for choosing separation over divorce. The decision can affect your life, so you need to think about the pros and cons of each option before making your choice. It's also important to note that both you and your spouse must agree to separate whereas either spouse can choose to file for divorce even when the other spouse disagrees.
Another option you can use without getting a divorce or entering into a separation agreement deals with child custody and support. New Jersey allows you to file a complaint with the court to seek child custody, child support, or alimony from your spouse without getting divorced. An NJ divorce attorney at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC can help you if you choose this option.
Why It's a Good Idea to Retain a Lawyer
Whether you are thinking about pursuing a separation or divorce, working with an experienced family law attorney is in your best interest. The legal processes and laws involved are complex. An attorney can help you navigate the laws and related issues that might arise. Having the help of a seasoned lawyer can be especially important when you and your spouse have complex assets or serious custody concerns.
When you are searching for a divorce lawyer in New Jersey, it's important to choose one you trust to handle your case and explain your legal options. The attorneys at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC, with offices in Bergen and Essex County, have years of experience and are compassionate advocates who understand the difficulties people face when they are dealing with marital conflict. Call us today to schedule a case evaluation at (973) 878-4373.
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