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Divorce vs Separation

By Snyder & Sarno on April 25, 2014


According to Yahoo Celebrity, after twenty years of marriage, Sara Kapfer has filed for a legal separation from her husband, Cuba Gooding, Jr.The petition was filed in California citing irreconcilable differences. While California recognizes a legal separation, there is no such thing in New Jersey. Therefore, although a couple can choose to physically separate in New Jersey, there is no cause of action under which the parties can file to get a legal separation.

In New Jersey, the major difference between a divorce and a separation is that a divorce is a legal status that terminates the marriage. Alternatively, a separation is not a legal status and the couple remains legally married. If a couple wishes to physically separate in New Jersey, they can do so even though there is no such thing as a legal separation in New Jersey. Upon separation, the couple can, and often should, enter into a written separation agreement resolving matters such as spousal support, child custody, child support, equitable distribution, and any other matters that need to be resolved in order for the couple to live independently from each other.

Another option for a couple that does not want to terminate their marriage, but does want some form of “legal separation,” is to file for a divorce from bed and board. Unlike a separation, a divorce from bed and board has the benefit of a legal status for the relationship. Similar to a separation, when a couple gets a divorce from bed and board, they are still legally married. Although it is not an absolute divorce, upon a judgment of divorce from bed and board, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, and other such issues will be decided. The main benefit of a divorce from bed and board is that some health insurance carriers will allow the ex-spouse to remain on the policy holder’s health insurance policy.

The downside to a separation or a divorce from bed and board is that if either person wishes to remarry, they can’t legally do so. This is because the couple is still legally married to each other. However, if the couple wishes to reconcile, it is easy for them to do so because they are still legally married. Even if the couple obtained a divorce from bed and board, they could jointly request that the judgment be vacated so that they could continue life as a married couple.

Alternatively, if a couple obtains an absolute divorce, their marriage is terminated and each person is free to remarry whomever they want. However, if the couple reconciles, they must get married to each other all over again.

Entering into a separation agreement, obtaining a divorce from bed and board, or obtaining an absolute divorce all have their own set of complex legal issues and many positives and negatives to consider. Before making a decision on how to terminate your relationship, you should discuss these options with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer, who will be able to help you determine which option is best for your particular situation.

If you have questions about divorce or separation in New Jersey, please contact Snyder & Sarno at (973) 274-5200.

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