Alternatives to Traditional Divorce

July 9, 2019

If you are reading this, it is likely that you and your spouse are going through a rough patch in your marriage.  You are not sure of your feelings for one another right now and are thinking you might want to take a break.  However, neither of you want to commit to being apart for the rest of your lives or face the legal consequences of divorce.  The best alternative to traditional divorce is separation, as it does not have as strong of an emotional impact on your life or the lives of any children involved.

What is separation?  It simply involves you and your spouse choosing to take time apart from each other, usually in different living quarters, but leaving the possibility to reconcile your relationship without having to go through a complicated legal process.  In New Jersey, there is no need to go through a judge to separate from your spouse.  If you wish, you can put together a separation agreement, which lists the obligations you and your spouse have toward one another during this period, but the agreement is not mandatory.  You can decide to separate and reconcile as you wish, and there is no legal obstacle to doing so.  During the separation period, keep in mind that you are still legally married, and this will be reflected in issues involving the children and financial assets.  If you or your partner enter into a relationship during this period, it will be considered adultery since you are still legally bound to each other.  This will affect the divorce process if you eventually decide to go that route.  Therefore, it is important for each of you to recognize the legal obligations you have toward one another.  If you do not wish to still have these obligations, you must file for divorce. 

         If you do not wish to reconcile with your spouse, are simply looking to avoid traditional divorce for financial reasons and qualify for an annulment, that is your best option.  An annulment is similar to a divorce, but it essentially treats the marriage as if it never happened.   Therefore, it can be tricky to qualify for an annulment.  For a marriage to be annulled, it would have to not have been legal in the first place, due to a blood relation to one’s spouse or being unable to consent to the marriage, for example.  A traditional marriage would not qualify for an annulment, so this option should only be considered if the marriage was truly a mistake and should not have happened in the first place.  Otherwise, separation is your best bet.

         Hopefully you and your spouse can work things out and continue on the road to a happy, life-long marriage.  But if this is on hold for now, the information in this article will help you evaluate your options and decide on the next step.

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