In New Jersey, there is no legal case that provides for a legal separation by the courts. However, if you and your spouse are having marital problems but are unsure if you are ready to file for divorce, then you can enter into a separation agreement. This article will give you a basic understanding of the NJ separation agreement.
What is a Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement is a legally binding written contract/agreement between you and your spouse. The agreement outlines the terms of your separation and govern your financial issues from the time when you separate until you are ready to file for divorce. To be valid, it must be in writing, signed by both parties, and notarized.
Generally, the basic idea of a separation agreement is that it intends to keep the family "afloat" while the spouses try to sort out their lives. The more comprehensive and detailed the separation agreement is then the better it will serve your family and less likely for their to be disputes.
What needs to be included in the separation agreement?
The separation agreement should resolve issues that relate to:
1. Determining child custody
2. Parenting time
3. Payment of child support
4. Payment of spousal support
5. Payment of medical expenses
6. Payment of Daycare expenses
7. Maintaining health insurance coverage
8. Maintaining automobile insurance coverage
9. Maintaining life insurance coverage
10. Payment of mortgage, credit card bills,household bills, college tuition etc.
11. Preparation of tax returns
12.Payment of back taxes due
13. Payment for car lease or car payments
14. Payment of property tax.
The list can go on and on. At this time, debts can be "frozen" and made separate for each spouse if desired. The same considerations for divorce, need to be considered during the separation agreement.
Why enter into a separation agreement instead of filing for divorce?
In these terrible financial times, even if you and your spouse both recognize that you want to get a divorce, it may not be feasible to run two households on your income(s). The cost of a divorce can create more financial problems that can further reduce the quality of life. You might need some more time to emotionally come to grips with the idea of becoming a divorced person and get used to the idea of being single and independent. Many people don't prepare themselves for the drastic changes in their life after the divorce. Be forewarned, getting a divorce in many instances will not make you happier. In many cases, you must sell your home or simply, you will not have as much disposable income to live a comfortable life.
A separation agreement can help provide some peace of mind during a confusing and difficult time in your life. It can establish any child support and spousal support during this new phase in your life. A separation agreement can also provide you with some certainty that you need to survive after you separate. The separation agreement could effectuate a "freeze" on all of your assets and debts that were acquired during your marriage. Moreover, if your separation agreement incorporates non-dissipation language, then your spouse can't liquidate your bank accounts or any other assets that were acquired during the marriage. Finally, your separation agreement can also protect you if your spouse racks up massive credit card debt during the separation, and then tries to argue that it is marital debt.
How long can the separation last?
There is no time constraints as to how short or long the separation can last. Generally, in most cases it is not legally advisable for a very long legal separation. The cut off point for equitable distribution is the time your divorce complaint is filed, NOT the date of separation. You run the risk of sharing a major share of your assets and wealth that was accumulated during the separation period with your spouse. Therefore, it is imperative that the marital assets, credit card bills, and home equity lines of credit be frozen during the separation period. A separation period is better utilized when both parties are on the fence about going through with the divorce. This protects both parties financial rights and obligations during that time period. Also, it gives each party the space necessary to make a final decision about whether divorce is the proper decision.
Do you need to go to court to have a separation agreement?
In New Jersey, you don't have to go to family court and file a separation agreement. You have the option of drafting a separation agreement on your own, however, that is not advisable. I recommend going to an affordable family lawyer in New Jersey who can draft a well prepared agreement for you at an affordable fee. The more comprehensive and thought out your separation agreement is then the more effective it will be.
A spouse may need to file a complaint for separate maintenance if she wants to receive child support. At a child support hearing, a hearing officer or the court will establish a child support award, provide for the payment of any day care expenses, and order the other spouse to maintain health insurance for the children, if applicable.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in more information about NJ Separation agreements, call The Law Offices of Tejal V. Patel, LLC. for a free initial telephone consultation. We can prepare your separation agreement today!!
Tejal V. Patel, Esq .
The Law Offices of Tejal V. Patel, LLC.
One Greentree Centre, 10000 Lincoln Dr. East, Suite 201, Marlton, NJ 08053
[T] 856.988.5453 [F] 888.946.9987 [E] [email protected]