Is a Separation Agreement the Same as a Legal Separation?
There is no provision for legal separation for married couples in New Jersey like there is in other states. Instead, couples who wish to separate but not divorce have the option to develop a separation agreement. The separation agreement serves as a contract between the two parties and outlines the terms of their separation. Once a separation agreement is signed and notarized, it is legally binding and, in many ways, functions like a legal separation.
The following terms are often included in separation agreements:
- Custody and child support
- Visitation schedules
- Debt responsibilities
- Property division
- Spousal support
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Because separation agreements are legal documents, you need to work with a knowledgeable attorney. A lawyer can help ensure that your rights and best interests are protected. Additionally, they can ensure that the legal document is completed and filed correctly. This will reduce the chance of errors.
You may also find it helpful to work with a professional mediator. Mediators can be an invaluable resource, especially when you and your ex are struggling to agree but want to avoid going to court. DeTommaso Law Group offers professional mediation services, and our attorneys have extensive experience handling separation agreement cases.
Why Pursue a Separation Agreement Instead of a Divorce?
Marriages all have their ups and downs. There are some situations in which a couple wants to separate but is not ready to divorce. Separation agreements offer many benefits to couples who are not sure if divorce is the right answer for them. Additionally, it gives couples the space to address whatever problems they are dealing with and figure out what they ultimately want. If a couple changes their mind, separation agreements are easily reversed.
A separation agreement is also a good option for couples who cannot divorce due to religious, moral, or other reasons. For example, some people decide to establish a separation agreement when a divorce would cause someone to lose their health insurance or other benefits provided by their spouse.
Separation agreements are also attractive to people because they are often faster and less complicated than pursuing a full divorce through the courts. Additionally, because you do not have to go to court to establish your separation agreement legally, they are a less expensive option both in court and attorney fees.
Do I Need a Separation Agreement for a Trial Separation?
No. When a couple decides to move forward with a trial separation, they typically do so independently of the court system, nor do they work with lawyers or draw up official documents. It is common for one person to move out of the shared residence during a trial separation, but you are still legally married and have the same legal responsibilities you do when married.
Establishing a separation agreement is a more formal option than a trial separation. The terms of a separation agreement are legally binding and must be adhered to by both parties. However, it is important to remember that even with a separation agreement, the couple is still married in the eyes of the law.
What Happens if I Decide I Want a Full Divorce?
After you and your ex have established a separation agreement, you still have the option to seek a full divorce later. In fact, a separation agreement fulfills some of the divorce prerequisites in New Jersey. Having a separation agreement already on file can help make the divorce process move more quickly and smoothly.
How Else Can a Married Couple Legally Separate?
In New Jersey, a married couple seeking a legal separation can seek a divorce from bed and board. This is a type of limited divorce that legally terminates the financial relationship between the married couple. They will go through the property division process but cannot remarry until they receive a full divorce. To obtain a divorce from bed and board, each party must agree and petition the courts together.
Read our blog on divorce from bed and board here.