New Jersey has no action for separation for married couples. Instead, there is an action for “divorce from bed and board” which does everything a divorce action does, but leaves the parties married. These actions are based on exactly the same grounds as those for absolute divorce. If both parties are not in agreement to obtain a judgment of this type, it cannot happen. Also, either party may seek to convert these judgments to a judgment for absolute divorce at a later date.
Separation Agreement versus Divorce from Bed and Board
A separation agreement allows the parties to control how all assets and debts are shared, to determine custodial arrangements as well as child support and alimony decisions. In an action for divorce from bed and board, a judge makes those decisions.
A separation agreement, quite simply is not a court order and can be enforced under contract law only. A judgment of the court can be enforced as a court order.
Potential Benefits of Divorce from Bed and Board
At the end of a divorce from bed and board, all property and debt has been distributed, custody and child support determinations have been made and alimony has been awarded. Either party can obtain new assets with no claim from the other party, and neither party is responsible for any debt newly incurred by the other party.
Either spouse can draft a will distributing their property however they wish without consideration of their spouse, who may no longer make any claim against the estate. All marital ownership becomes ownership as tenants in common, relevant for estate distribution.
The IRS considers those going through a divorce from bed and board as if they are separated. Couples who have gone through an absolute divorce have a limited time period within which to make property transfers, but the IRS places no such limitations on separated couples.
With health insurance costs what they are, and the limitations of COBRA, these actions may allow the parties to remain on the same health insurance policies. This may be the biggest reason that people choose this option. One needs to check with their health insurance company to make that it does not consider a divorce from bed and board as an absolute divorce.
Social Security surviving spouse entitlements remain intact, and many pension and like plans allow the spouse to retain on survivor benefits, but not all of them. Review the terms of the specific plans to determine whether this is true.
Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a matrimonial attorney. Mr. Van Aulen has over twenty-four years’ experience as a divorce and family law attorney. Peter Van Aulen’s office is located in Saddle Brook New Jersey. The office is near a number of major highways which makes it an easy commute from many towns in Northern New Jersey. If you need to discuss a divorce from bed and board, call today the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free initial consultation at 201-845-7400.