New Jersey has a type of separate maintenance cause of action that is commonly referred to as a “divorce from bed and board.” A divorce from bed and board does the same thing as an absolute divorce except it does not legally terminate the marriage. Therefore, in the eyes of the law, you are still legally married. Generally, when the parties agree to a divorce from bed and board, a property settlement agreement is signed setting forth custody, alimony, child support and the division of property. Once a divorce from bed and board is granted, all new property rights stop accruing as if the parties had obtained an absolute divorce. Therefore, equitable distribution ends at the time of the entry of the divorce from bed and board. From a purely economic standpoint, the marriage is essentially over.
A divorce from bed and board can be for people who are morally or religiously opposed to divorce. You legally now have separate lives although your marriage has not been terminated. Another big reason people choose to have a divorce from bed and board is because they can usually stay on a person’s health insurance, which is a big financial benefit. Upon an absolute divorce, a former spouse cannot stay on the other spouse’s health insurance plan. However, with a divorce from bed and board, since the marriage has not been terminated, they can usually stay covered on the other spouse’s plan saving them thousands of dollars.
A downside to a divorce from bed and board is that neither party can marry again since they are technically still married. In order for a person to remarry, their marriage must be dissolved. Another downside is that at any point either spouse can convert the divorce from bed and board to an absolute divorce. If one spouse wants to convert it and terminate the marriage, the other spouse cannot stop that from happening. That could hurt a person who is covered by the other’s health insurance plan since that coverage would eventually terminate.
A divorce from bed and board is the closest thing New Jersey has to a legal separation. Contact me today to determine whether or not a divorce from bed and board is right for you.