While many states allow married couples to legally separate, in New Jersey, there is no such term. The closest legal concept to a legal separation in New Jersey is a Divorce from Bed and Board, also called a limited divorce. In New Jersey, both parties must consent and can file for a divorce from bed and board on the same grounds as an absolute divorce. Additionally, the Court can distribute property and award support just as it can with an absolute divorce. However, the parties are not technically divorced and are not free to remarry.
Either party may file an application to convert the divorce from bed and board into an absolute divorce, and such application must be granted. Additionally, if the parties decide that they want to reconcile, the divorce from bed and board can be revoked. This is not the case with an absolute divorce.
Many people wonder why parties would ever opt for a divorce from bed and board. A majority of clients seeking this option do so in order to remain on their spouses’ health insurance plan. However, it is important to note that some health insurance plans no longer allow for this. It is important to determine whether the insurance carrier in question will allow coverage to continue despite a divorce from bed and board if this is the primary reason for choosing this option. Additional reasons include uncertainty as to whether an absolute divorce is truly desired, or moral or religious objections to an absolute divorce. If you are considering an option comparable to legal separation in New Jersey, speak to an experienced family law practitioner about the option of divorce from bed and board. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.