While other states permit a formalized legal separation between spouses, New Jersey does not. Many potential clients contact our office seeking a formal arrangement to be entered between them and their spouse, even though they do not want to file for divorce. It is possible to enter into an agreement, which protects your children, assets, property, etc., however, that agreement must incorporate all the formalities and effort that we, as your attorneys, would negotiate should you seek a divorce from your spouse in the distant or immediate future. The agreement must clearly outline all assets and support arrangements for future enforcement actions should one party not comply.
An agreement, like that discussed above, would be called a “Marital Settlement Agreement.” This type of agreement is an enforceable contract between parties once it is signed by both parties.
In that agreement, the parties would likely include language such as the following:
“The parties have agreed upon an adjustment and settlement of their respective property rights and interests, present and future, and also desire to amicably settle and adjust their rights of support and maintenance between them and all other rights, claims or other demands arising out of the marriage relationship aforesaid, which this settlement shall adjust and is intended by each in the event that either of them shall ever secure a decree of divorce against the other, regardless or irrespective of who may prevail in such action.”
Language such as this, protects the parties in the event one seeks a divorce in the future or files to enforce the terms of the agreement.
A legal separation is not to be confused with one of the no-fault grounds for divorce of “Separation.” That ground for divorce is applicable if the couple has lived apart for at least 18 months. More often then not, a potential client will qualify, sooner, to file their Complaint pursuant a ground of “Irreconcilable Differences” which requires parties to have suffered a breakdown of their marriage for at least 6 months with no prospect of reconciliation. This ground does not require parties to live separate and apart.
If you have questions regarding your available options in separating from your spouse, contact the attorneys of Shane and White today to schedule a consultation.