A divorce is a dissolution of the bonds of matrimony. You are no longer legally entangled with your spouse and cannot be called upon by society to answer for his or her actions, nor are you entitled by law to his or her earnings, assets, or accumulations.
A separation, a legal separation, is not an entity in New Jersey.
That means if someone were to come into my office and say, “I want a legal separation,” I would have to tell them there is no such thing in New Jersey.
The closest thing to a legal separation in our state is a divorce from bed and board. It accomplishes the exact same thing as a divorce except the bonds of matrimony remain in place. So, one would file a divorce complaint and go through the same process whether it is by divorce from bed and board, or an absolute divorce, which is what most people think of as divorce, and you would ultimately reach a resolution of all issues.
But you would settle your case, draw up your terms by which you would live, and that would include all the things that you would address in a divorce action such as child custody, support for the children and spouses, distribution of assets, debt and allocation of expenses, and council fees. You would address all of those issues whether it’s by divorce, or by divorce from bed and board, however, you’re still technically and legally married.
If you wanted to remarry, you would have to convert your divorce from bed and board into an absolute divorce. That can be done by simply filing a motion, or if you have agreed with your spouse in advance as to when you’re going to do that, you would file a consent order with the court.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com