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What Does ‘Separation From My Spouse’ Mean in New Jersey?
If you and your spouse don’t want to jump to divorce or if your spouse has asked for a “separation,” it’s a good idea to understand what that entails if you live in the Garden State.
A change in your marital status can be an overwhelming thing to process, especially if your spouse initiated it. People talk about “filing for divorce” or “legally separating,” but you may not understand the difference between the two. In New Jersey, it’s important to know that the courts don’t formally recognize a legal separation the way they do a divorce. Some couples opt to separate as a way to take a pause in their marriage to work toward an eventual reconciliation.
If you find yourself in a situation where your spouse has asked for a separation, or you’ve also agreed to the pause, we’re going to give you the basics of what you need to know when you reside in the Garden State.
Why Do Couples in NJ Decide to Separate?
For couples experiencing marital problems or difficult circumstances, they may choose a separation to gain time apart, with the intention of reconciling in the future.
In New Jersey, couples who separate temporarily don’t need to live in different residences, since there are no specific court documents you must file. You can continue to reside under the same roof and still have a valid separation agreement that outlines how you’ll pay bills, manage joint bank accounts, handle parenting time, and more.
It’s important to realize that this will understandably be a difficult time for you and your spouse, as well as your children. Plan to see a marriage counselor or a clergyperson to attempt to work through your issues and also address any emotional needs or uncertainty that your children experience.
In New Jersey, Legal Separation Isn’t the Same as Divorce
If you live in New Jersey and want to separate from your spouse, you aren’t required to file any paperwork with the court, since you don’t need a judge’s permission to separate. However, there are a number of areas that you’ll want to agree on with your spouse during your time apart, which can include:
- Child custody and parenting time
- Temporary child support
- Short-term alimony
- Handling household bills (including mortgage or rent)
- Joint assets and debts (your agreement can prevent a spouse from selling an asset or incurring joint debt during a separation).
It’s a good idea to retain an experienced family law attorney or mediator to help you draft an agreement that you and your spouse both sign and have notarized. If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, then you may end up in court in front of a judge who’ll establish temporary support and custody orders during your separation.
If your spouse isn’t cooperating with your separation agreement, won’t pay support, refuses to see your children, or cuts off communication with you, you can file a complaint with the court to seek child custody, support, and visitation without filing for divorce. Again, retaining an experienced family law attorney is a smart idea during this difficult time to ensure the best short- and long-term outcomes for your family.
Why Do You Need a Separation Agreement?
As we’ve explained, New Jersey doesn’t have a “legal separation” status, meaning that you can declare yourself separated without involving the courts. However, while you’re separated, you’re still legally married to your spouse and obligated to each other in various financial and family issues, such as paying bills and caring for your children.
If you’re separating temporarily from your spouse, most likely tensions are running high. That’s another reason why having a formal separation agreement in place can supersede any emotional issues that could cause conflict when it comes to financial or family responsibilities. A verbal agreement may not be enough during this difficult time to work out child custody or alimony payments.
That’s why a family law attorney can help you through this process with an agreement that protects your family’s rights.
If you’re separated around tax time, we also recommend consulting with your accountant or financial advisor to ensure that you’re filing your taxes correctly.
Can My Spouse File for Divorce After We’ve Been Separated a Certain Amount of Time?
In New Jersey, a spouse doesn’t need to be separated in order to file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences. If you want to divorce on the fact that you’re separated, then you’d need to live apart for at least 18 months before you can file.
What’s Divorce From Bed and Board?
In New Jersey, some couples opt for a divorce from bed and board, which is used in place of a legal separation. Also known as “limited divorce,” couples negotiate many of the same issues in a divorce, like child custody, support, alimony, and property distribution. However, even though they live separately, they remain legally married. Many couples seek this arrangement due to religious beliefs concerning divorce.
If you live in New Jersey and are considering any of these options with your spouse, including divorce from bed and board, we recommend that you consult with a family law attorney to safeguard your family’s future and financial stability. Contact the experienced attorneys at Smedley Law Group for guidance in your unique situation.
How Do We End a Marital Separation in New Jersey?
Remember, in New Jersey, there’s no legal separation status, so you can your spouse can reconcile at any point. If you or your spouse did file for divorce, you can withdraw your filing before a final divorce judgement is issued. If you set up a temporary separation agreement, you can consult with your attorney to see if you need to make any adjustments as you reunite with your spouse.
Get an Expert Family Law Attorney On Your Side Today
If you’re facing a marital separation, getting legal help is key to protecting your rights and your family’s future. We want to help you see the entire picture — so our number one priority is advocating to accomplish your goals. Because we have decades of experience, we know the right questions to ask to move your matter toward an effective reconciliation or resolution in your unique situation.
Our attorneys at Smedley Law Group are here to help. Contact us today to see how we can protect your family.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group About Your Separation Today
If you’re facing a potential separation from your spouse, you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. Our separation understands the intricacies of a legal separation in New Jersey and can answer your questions about the next steps and how it may affect your life. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’ll fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.