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Divorce from Bed and Board

According to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-3, parties to a divorce can seek a Divorce from Bed and Board, which is an alternative to a final or absolute divorce. The option was created by the legislature to provide parties with the opportunity to settle all issues in their divorce without actually getting divorced. The Divorce from Bed and Board is not a true divorce because it does not dissolve the bonds of matrimony, but merely decrees a separation. The law was passed in the 1950's when divorce was much more of a taboo subject then it is today. It provided parties back then (and now) an option to live separate and apart without being labeled with the stigma of being divorced.

In order to get a Divorce from Bed and Board, parties must claim at least one of the grounds or causes of action for a final divorce. Therefore, even though parties are not seeking a real divorce, they must claim one of the same grounds as a party seeking a final divorce, such as adultery, irreconcilable differences, etc. Furthermore, just as in the case of a final divorce, parties must prove the underlying ground or cause of action to warrant the entry of a Judgment of a Divorce from Bed and Board.

It is important to note that both parties must request the Divorce from Bed and Board. If only one party wishes to enter into one, the court will not enter such a judgment. This aspect of the Bed and Board variety of divorce is a radical departure from the final divorce, which allows a party to acquire a final divorce even if the other party does not consent.

If parties seek a Judgment of Divorce from Bed and Board, their matters will proceed in a nearly identical manner as to those parties seeking a final divorce. If there is a settlement or a decision via trial, the court will enter a Judgment of Divorce and Board, which will resolve nearly all of the issues involved in the divorce including but not limited to support and equitable distribution.

If a Divorce from Bed and Board is granted, either party in the future can apply to the court for a conversion of said divorce to a final divorce as a matter of right. Therefore, while it takes the consent of both parties to enter into a Judgment from Bed and Board, either party may opt to exit the arrangement without the consent of the other party.

If the parties reconcile after acquiring a Judgment from Bed and Board, they may apply to the court for a revocation or a suspension of the judgment. A revocation of the Judgment will remove the Divorce from Bed and Board between the parties. The parties may also seek a suspension which will only temporarily lift the judgment.

There are some significant advantages to getting a Divorce from Bed and Board. Among the advantages is the fact that the parties can continue to file joint tax returns. As they are still technically married, the parties can share the advantageous tax laws in favor of married couples. One of the more common reasons that parties chose to enter into a Judgment of Divorce from Bed and Board is so that one spouse may remain on the medical insurance of the other. If one spouse provided health coverage for the other spouse (as is the case in most marriages), that spouse will normally be able to continue such coverage for the other spouse due to the fact that the parties remain married. Given the extensive cost of health insurance, it can be very beneficial for a spouse who would not be eligible for health coverage to continue to receive same through his/her spouse upon divorce. However, the spouse who maintains the coverage should check with his health insurance provider and/or employer to see if coverage will be maintained if a Divorce from Bed and Board is acquired as many health insurance providers are beginning to deny coverage if a Bed and Board Divorce is entered between parties.

While there are some advantages to a Divorce from Bed and Board, there are some disadvantages as well. While remaining in a Divorce from Bed and Board, a spouse cannot remarry as the bonds of marriage remain intact. Also, a party cannot resume the use of his/her prior name because the parties remain married in the eyes of the law.

At Donahue, Hagan, Klein & Weisberg, LLC, we are experienced in acquiring Judgments of Divorce from Bed and Board for our clients who wish to pursue that opportunity. If you think that a Divorce from Bed and Board is right for you, please contact us today.