When a couple realizes that their marriage is over, they usually begin the process of divorce. Some spouses, however, want to end their relationship without divorcing. In New Jersey, they have an option not available in every state: divorce from bed and board.
Divorce from bed and board is also called “limited” divorce. Similar to legal separation in some states, divorce from bed and board settles the same legal issues as full divorce while the parties remain married.
Our attorneys at Lane & Lane, LLC have considerable knowledge in helping couples understand their options. Many clients choose a traditional divorce, sometimes called “absolute” divorce. Others want to stay technically married for religious or other reasons.
How Limited Divorce Is Like Absolute Divorce
New Jersey has jurisdictional requirements that must be met for any marital action. This statute is designed to keep people from moving to the state for the sole purpose of obtaining a divorce. In this state, divorce from bed and board has the same residency requirements as an absolute divorce.
Residency requirements for any type of divorce or dissolution of a civil union in New Jersey are as follows:
- Either spouse must be a resident of the state for at least one year up to the time of filing the legal action.
- The one-year residency requirement is exempted when adultery is the grounds for the action.
Limited divorce also can be based on the same grounds as an absolute divorce:
- Irreconcilable Differences (No-Fault)
- Separation for 18 Months or Longer (No-Fault)
- Extreme Cruelty
- Addiction to Drugs or Habitual Drunkenness
- Spouse Imprisoned for 18 Months or Longer
- Spouse Institutionalized for 24 Months or Longer for Mental Illness
- Spouse Commits Deviant Sexual Conduct
Whenever a married couple parts ways, there are decisions big and small that must be made. State law provides a framework that many couples can use as a starting place to negotiate how to handle legal issues that must be solved.
In a limited divorce, couples enter a marital settlement agreement (MSA) that addresses the following:
Our attorneys can help spouses reach an MSA or argue our client’s position before a judge should the issues need to be determined through court.
How Limited Divorce Differs from Absolute Divorce
Unlike a traditional divorce, both parties must agree to the file as divorce from bed and board. The marital settlement is enforceable but not modifiable like in a full divorce. Even in cases where there is a significant change in circumstances, the still-technically married couple must abide by the original terms.
Couples who reconcile after getting a divorce from bed and board do not need to officially remarry. They would simply petition the court to revoke the order. Fully divorced individuals will need to legally remarry if they want to enjoy the rights and privileges of a married couple.
Spouses remain married in a limited divorce and cannot marry someone else without converting their divorce from bed and board to a full divorce. This conversion does not require the buy-in of both spouses. One spouse can initiate the action on their own.
Important Considerations in Divorce from Bed and Board
Every relationship has unique qualities that must be evaluated before deciding whether divorce from bed and board is appropriate. An advantage for one couple can be a negative consequence for someone else.
Elements that need to be scrutinized include the following:
- A dependent spouse may be able to continue health insurance coverage provided by a supporting spouse’s employer. This is not a certainty. Some policies may consider limited divorce to be a qualifying event requiring the spouse to be dropped from coverage. Confirm with the insurance company its policies.
- Marital property rights end with a divorce from bed and board, although most jointly owned property can continue without penalty. One spouse is not entitled to any property gained by the other spouse.
- Spousal survivor benefits in pension plans continue to be in effect, but a spouse’s elective share in a deceased spouse’s estate does not. Spousal rights to inherit property are removed.
At Lane & Lane, LLC, we can help you analyze the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision on your next steps.
Lean on Trusted Legal Representation for Divorce in Somerset County
Just as marriage should never be entered into lightly, neither should divorce. Thoughtful consideration and a thorough understanding of how decisions impact you are critical. Our legal team listens to what matters to you. We offer personalized, constructive advice and representation tailored to your goals.
To understand limited and absolute divorce more fully, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Submit our online form or call us at (908) 259-6673 to get started.