Divorce From Bed and Board
A New Jersey Divorce from Bed and Board is best understood as a limited divorce. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-3, a Divorce from Bed and Board may be granted for the same grounds as an absolute divorce, including six months of irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage, adultery, and at least 18 months of separation in different habitations.
The most significant limitation of a Divorce from Bed and Board, as opposed to an absolute divorce, is that the parties cannot remarry until one of them files a Notice of Motion with the Court seeking to convert the Divorce from Bed and Board to an absolute divorce. This is not especially difficult to do, and the typical timeframe for an Order from the Court granting the absolute divorce would be around 30 days. Under New Jersey law, the Court must grant the application to convert the divorce so a litigant should not be worried that such an application might be denied.
In the event the parties are granted a Divorce from Bed and Board and subsequently reconcile, New Jersey law provides that they may apply for a revocation or suspension of the Judgment of Divorce from Bed and Board. (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-3a)Why Choose a Divorce From Bed and Board?
The most common reason (and really the only reason I have ever seen it utilized) to pursue a Divorce from Bed and Board is that because it is a limited divorce, in many cases the spouse without health insurance may remain on the other spouse’s policy. This ultimately depends upon the health insurance company, however, and one should be very careful in making sure that the insurer will honor the Divorce from Bed and Board and allow the other spouse to continue to receive health insurance benefits.
Once upon a time, arguably, a Divorce from Bed and Board carried less social stigma than an absolute divorce, however this rationale does not seem to be of particular concern to modern litigants.Can I Force My Spouse to Grant Me a Divorce From Bed and Board?
No. Procedurally, even if you file a Complaint for Divorce from Bed and Board, your spouse can file a Counterclaim for an absolute divorce, and this counterclaim would be granted. Sometimes, the spouse that has health insurance benefits may be willing to agree to a Divorce from Bed and Board, at least for a limited period of time, in exchange for some kind of consideration, such as a reduction in the amount of alimony that spouse might be otherwise obligated to pay. Again, this would only be an option if the spouse that has health insurance has no immediate plans on remarrying, since remarriage is not permissible until an absolute divorce is granted. Not infrequently, the parties may agree that the spouse receiving the benefit of the health insurance coverage shall assume responsibility for filing a Motion to convert the limited divorce to an absolute divorce at the appropriate time.Is Property Equitably Distributed as Part of a Divorce From Bed and Board?
Yes. Assets and liabilities will be equitably distributed between the parties just as if they were to receive an absolute divorce. Issues of custody, child support, and alimony will also be addressed by the Court or through agreement of the parties.What Else do I Need to Know About a Divorce From Bed & Board?
It is important to note that you will be considered “unmarried” for federal income tax purposes. Also, in the event a Divorce from Bed and Board is granted, and your ex-spouse subsequently dies, you may not claim an elective share against the estate.