Separation and Divorce in New Jersey

file451294959608 morguefile ManicMorFFMy spouse and I would like to legally separate before deciding whether to divorce. Can we do this?

The legal separation of married couples is technically not permitted in the State of New Jersey.  Instead, spouses may choose to separate informally, enter into a separation agreement, or consider a limited divorce. In a “divorce from bed and board,” (also known as  Limited Divorce) a married couple has the option to end their marriage from a financial standpoint while still remaining legally married. Since it may be revoked, a limited divorce makes it easier for spouses to later reconcile. Similarly, such a divorce may be converted into a standard judgment of  (Absolute) divorce. Since all support determinations and asset distributions are made when a “divorce from bed and board” is granted, property and financial issues are no longer an issue if a New Jersey couple ultimately chooses to end their marriage after engaging in a limited divorce.

If my spouse and I end our marriage, will I get half of everything?

A family court in New Jersey will typically endeavor to distribute  a divorcing couple’s marital assets fairly. Depending on the facts of the situation, however, a former married couple’s assets may not be split equally (keep in mind, our state of New Jersey subscribes to the theory of Equitable Distribution.  “Equitable” does NOT mean EQUAL!  It means what is fair!  For example, any property or other assets one spouse brought to the marriage may typically stay with that spouse (being exempt from equitable distribution)  following a divorce. This is especially true in cases involving inherited property. Likewise, each member of the couple’s contributions to the marriage and earning capacity will normally be taken into account by the courts when a marriage settlement agreement is created. It is also important for a divorcing couple to be mindful of the tax consequences involved when distributing retirement and other assets. Any distribution of a former couple’s property and other assets may involve direct or indirect negotiations, court-ordered mediation, or judicial determinations.

Can I waive child support payments in order to gain a larger portion of the marriage settlement?

Since the right to receive child support belongs to a couple’s child, a New Jersey parent may NOT waive such payments without the consent of a family court. When considering whether to award child support, a court will consider the best interests of the divorcing couple’s child. Similarly, any child custody determinations are also made based on a child’s best interests.

In the State of New Jersey, the rights of both the child’s parents are considered equal. When issuing a child custody order, a family court will normally consider a variety of statutory factors, including the parents’ ability to cooperate, the age of the child, any history of domestic violence between the parents, the child’s existing relationship with each parent, and more. Since it is generally in the best interests of a child to spend as much time as possible with each parent, a New Jersey family court may require a child’s parents to engage in mediation in order to establish a parenting plan that both parties can agree to.  If the parties cannot themselves come to an agreement as to the parenting and custody arrangement, then the court will typically require the appointment of a forensic psychologist to conduct a “best interest evaluation” in which the parties and their children will submit to this testing and interview process in order to allow these experts to now recommend how the parents should parent their own children. Thus, it is abundantly clear that parents should work together towards achieving this result – to determine the destiny of their own children between them, as opposed to having third parties – the court and the “experts” tell them how to do this!

I have more questions about my rights. Who can I talk to?

For top-notch legal assistance with your divorce or other family law questions, call the dedicated New Jersey family lawyers at Goldstein Law Group at 732-967-6777 or contact our knowledgeable attorneys through our website.

More Blog Posts:

The Use of Medical and Mental Health Records in a New Jersey Child Custody Case, June 28, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

Understanding Your Rights Under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, June 27, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

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