Legal separation can act as both an alternative and a prerequisite to divorce in New Jersey. You may elect legal separation if you need time to think about your marriage or develop a working divorce arrangement. As such, some family legal professionals encourage couples to consider executing a legal separation agreement before proceeding with marital dissolution.
With the help of a Livingston separation agreement lawyer, you might gain peace of mind about your financial and marital obligations without legally ending your marriage. Couples may incorporate these settlements into a divorce decree, modify the agreement based on their family’s needs, or void the contract if they wish to resume their marriage.
Officially known as a “divorce from bed and board” under Section 2A: 34-6 of New Jersey’s Revised Statutes, legal separation allows married persons to live separate lives without actually getting divorced. Business and property laws treat legal separation as an absolute divorce, but couples may not marry another person during a trial separation.
Most couples agree to a legal separation when they need additional time to prepare for a divorce, have a religious objection to an absolute divorce, or want to work on their marriage while living apart. Courts generally require couples to negotiate the terms of a legal separation agreement by attending mediation with a local attorney.
Because separation carries most of the same legal implications as an absolute divorce, spouses should treat separation agreements as divorce settlements. Qualified legal counsel could help couples identify potential areas of contention and agree to the following:
Importantly, N.J. Rev. Stat. §9:2–3 states that when parents of a minor child request legal separation, courts decide child-rearing, custody, support, care, and child maintenance matters as if the parents get divorced. Judges base this decision on the child’s best interests and may appoint a legal professional called a Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child’s welfare. A lawyer could help Livingston couples negotiate a separation agreement and draft a proposed custody and parental responsibilities plan for the court.
Legally separated spouses can often modify separation settlements as their situations develop without engaging in expensive post-divorce litigation. For example, children may not thrive in a current school environment, or one spouse may take a higher-paying job outside New Jersey, thus requiring a change in their existing agreement. Spouses also have the option to petition to resume their marriage, which terminates a separation contract.
In most cases, a couple’s separation agreement forms the basis of their divorce settlement. Judges often incorporate the terms of an agreed separation contract into an absolute divorce decree. Using an experienced lawyer to negotiate and, as necessary, modify a trial separation agreement could ease the legal, financial, and emotional burden of future family litigation.
Unlike most contracts, family-based agreements address a variety of sensitive and personal matters. A separation settlement could control the next chapter in your life, and therefore, should be taken seriously. By retaining a Livingston separation agreement lawyer, you could benefit from guided negotiation services or independent marital dissolution advocacy.
An attorney could draft a separation contract that addresses present financial concerns, sets relationship guidelines, and leaves room for changes. Consider speaking with our skilled legal professionals today.