Legal Separation

Choosing to file for divorce, legal separation, or dissolution of a domestic partnership can be a difficult decision to make. Add to that the choices you will need to make about whether a divorce or separation – or even a reconciliation – is the right next step for you and you can feel overwhelmed. We understand and can help.  Talk to us or learn more about legal separation in New Jersey, below.

We know that there is often considerable confusion as to the differences between legal separation and divorce, so please read on to understand more about these differences and what these routes might mean for your situation. Firstly, it is imperative to understand that the courts do not formally recognize legal separation in the state of New Jersey in the same way as a divorce.

New Jersey Legal Separation is Different from Divorce

Unlike divorce, there is no need to file a Complaint with the family court to legally separate from your spouse. You and your spouse can simply choose to reside in different homes, and you can formalize agreements to take care of practical elements, such as child custody, visitation, child support, asset distribution, and other similar divorce related issues.

New Jersey legal separation may be a viable solution for those couples who need some physical separation time but want to leave the door open for possible reconciliation of their relationship. If you decide to physically separate from your spouse an agreement can be developed with the assistance of one of our attorneys as to the separation terms but the agreement will not be filed with the court. Instead, it will strictly be an agreement between you and your spouse without involving the courts.

While a healthy break and opportunity to see a marriage counselor may be exactly what you and your partner need, it is important that you do not neglect the protection of your children and financial assets during that time.

Legal Separation and Your Family

When you and your spouse agree to live apart, it can be a difficult time for your family. In addition to finding a new home, joint household incomes will now need to be utilized to support two separate households. If you and your spouse have children, you will need to consider child support, child custody, and parenting/visitation time issues. How will you share parenting responsibilities? How will you meet all of your children’s needs—both emotionally and financially?

New Jersey Legal Separation Lawyers

At Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, our legal separation lawyers understand the intricacies of a legal separation in New Jersey and the questions you may have regarding your next steps. This is why we offer a free initial consultation. Talk to us. Together, we will talk about your specific situation and review all of your legal options. We understand your primary concern is to safeguard your family and your future, and clients find that consultations help clarify their own thinking and they come away certain about their next steps. Whether reconciliation with your spouse is in your future or you need legal options to secure your future, we can assist you every step of the way. Call us now or read on for some FAQs on legal separation in New Jersey:

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Is There “Legal Separation” in New Jersey?

We often hear from recently separated spouses asking if there is court paperwork or forms they need to file in order for their separation to be considered legal in New Jersey. The answer is quite simply: No.

In New Jersey, unlike other states, the concept of “legal separation” technically does not exist. In practical terms, this means that spouses are free to move out without the need to involve the courts. However, this also means that a separated couple in New Jersey remains married under New Jersey law. Even if you are living apart, be aware that you and your spouse are still legally bound to one another regarding certain financial matters, such as the repayment of jointly held debt, and in the care and support of any children you have together.

Since couples tend to separate only when there are significant problems in their marriages, discussing and making decisions about how to handle joint accounts, joint debts, child support, and child custody, is often tricky. In a perfect world, a couple could sit down and amicably develop a temporary agreement outlining how these matters can be fairly handled until they decide to reconcile or divorce.

Separation agreements, can “freeze” assets and debts, preventing either spouse from selling an asset or incurring additional debt during the separation. The agreement can specify items such as temporary child support, child custody, and alimony, and how the couple will handle payment of the mortgage, rent, and other household bills during the separation period. It can also cover what will happen if the couple does not ultimately reconcile within a specified time period. To be valid, a separation agreement must be in writing, signed by both parties, and notarized.

In the event one spouse is uncooperative in reaching a separation agreement, refuses to provide support payments, or cuts off communication and refuses child visitation (parenting time), either spouse can file a Complaint with the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking child custody, child support, or visitation (and sometimes all three) without filing for divorce.

Another legal remedy available to separated couples is called “divorce from bed and board.” This legal court order can resolve issues of child support, alimony, property distribution, and more without the need to obtain a formal divorce decree. Divorce from bed and board is typically sought due to religious beliefs about divorce.

Deciding to separate requires making a number of serious choices concerning child support, alimony, property distribution, debts, insurance, and countless other issues. No, there is no “legal separation” in New Jersey, but you can still take steps to protect your future and provide stability and security for your children during this uncertain time. To discuss the specifics of your situation, please give the divorce and family law attorneys at Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group a call. We’re here to listen, and to help.

How does a legal separation of a marriage work in New Jersey?

There is really no such thing as a legal separation in New Jersey in terms of any specific court documents that you must file. You and your spouse are free to live separately if you choose. You may consider coming up with a written agreement with your spouse that describes both of your responsibilities during this time, including payment of bills, management of joint accounts and issues relating to parenting time and child care.

How long must I be separated from my spouse before I can file for divorce?

You do not need to be separated from your spouse to file for divorce in New Jersey, unless you want to base your divorce on the fact that you are separated from one another. If that is the case, you need to be living separate and apart for at least 18 months before you can file and you would file based upon separation. If you do not wish to wait for the 18 months to pass, you can file for divorce based upon Irreconcilable Differences which does not have the 18 month separation requirement.

How long does it take to put a marriage separation agreement in place?

The more that you and your spouse can agree upon, the faster and easier it will be to get your separation agreement in writing. If you cannot agree on terms of your agreement, consult with an attorney or utilize a mediator to assist you in the process.

How does a separation affect our income tax status?

It is always advisable to consult with your accountant or financial advisor to ensure that you are filing appropriately during your period of separation. You and your spouse should discuss how you will be filing your taxes each year to ensure consistency.

Can I date if I am separated from my spouse?

There is no legal prohibition on dating in New Jersey law. Be advised, however, that moving in with a new person may affect any alimony you may be receiving from your spouse during this time.

How do I reverse or end a legal separation?

Since there is no legal separation status in New Jersey, you and your spouse can choose to reconcile at any time. Even if you or your spouse have taken the step of filing for divorce and later change your minds, you have the option to withdraw your filing at any time prior to the final judgment of divorce.

Legal separation actually doesn’t exist in the State of New Jersey. Many people just don’t know that. They read about it on the internet or they hear about it from family members or friends, and it’s a concept that does exist in some other states, but not here. What you need to know is that you can physically separate from your spouse, but it’s not going to be recognized by the court and you don’t need to file any special court paperwork declaring your separation. You can go to a lawyer or you can set up temporary terms of separation with your spouse, but it’s not going to be an enforceable contract per se.

You can work with your spouse and say, “We’re going to have this trial separation for a period of time, maybe six months. I’m going to live here, you’re going to get an apartment and we’re going to split the bills in this particular way. We’re going to take care of the kids in this particular way. We’re going to set up a type of visitation schedule,” or otherwise, have some type of support arrangement and then see if you want to take the next step to a divorce, or ultimately reconcile your marriage. Many people do that and they are faithful to the ultimate terms of their separation if you will. But it’s not actually a legal separation that is formalized in any particular manner.

To discuss your separation from your spouse, and to safeguard your future, talk to us. Schedule a free consultation:

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