What Is a Divorce from Bed and Board in NJ?

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If you are contemplating divorce but are having trouble deciding whether or not it is right for you, you may want to consider other available options. In some circumstances, couples can receive a “legal separation” either prior to or instead of a divorce. New Jersey doesn’t have a legal separation process for married couples, but it does have a similar process, referred to as “divorce from bed and board.” This is sometimes also called “limited divorce,” as distinguished from complete divorce, or “divorce from the bonds of matrimony.” In addition, New Jersey also has a procedure called “legal separation” for civil union partners, and this is almost equivalent to divorce from bed and board. To learn more, continue reading and reach out to our Hackensack, New Jersey divorce lawyer.

Divorce from Bed and Board Procedure

New Jersey married couples can get a divorce from bed and board on the same grounds as a full divorce; however, no matter what the grounds are, both parties must agree to the procedure. Couples who go through a divorce from bed and board stay technically married. Neither spouse can remarry without taking steps to convert the divorce from bed and board into a final judgment of absolute divorce. While conversion is typically a simple procedure, it does demand filing further paperwork and paying additional court fees. Spouses who reconcile the following divorce from bed and board can also apply to have the judgment revoked or suspended. This is not an option after a complete divorce; a couple would have to remarry instead.

Similar to a complete divorce, a couple can decide how to split their marital property and debts and enter into a settlement agreement. If the spouses haven’t reached an agreement, the court will split marital property and debts according to equitable distribution rules and may also award alimony if applicable.

Divorce from Bed and Board and Health Insurance

One of the largest reasons couples consider a divorce from bed and board more frequently than in the recent past is because this process often permits a dependent spouse to continue health insurance coverage supplied by a supporting spouse’s employer. Health insurance has become increasingly expensive, and a dependent spouse often has difficulty finding affordable insurance following divorce. If the employed spouse works for a business with at least 20 employees, one option may be to continue the same coverage under COBRA (The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act); however COBRA coverage is generally only available for a maximum of 36 months and it is often expensive, as the former spouse’s employer will no longer cover any portion of the premium. Taking out an individual policy can be even more expensive. Because couples are technically still married after a divorce from bed and board, the dependent spouse can usually continue coverage under the employed spouse’s policy. In some cases, it may make sense for a couple to agree to a divorce from bed and board for a limited period of time to allow the dependent spouse a chance to find a job with health benefits, or to reach the age of eligibility for Medicare.

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