When a marriage stops working, often the best way to find relief is to live separately. While separation is not necessary to file a divorce in New Jersey, it is a common practice because it can reduce strife and help both spouses prepare to live independently after a divorce. Separation also leaves the door open to reconnection instead of divorce, if this is something you may desire. In cases of extended or long-term separation, it’s crucial to understand the implications on both parties, especially when considering the possibility of divorce.
However, because this is an emotional time, many common mistakes often take place during the separation period. If you want the divorce proceedings to go in your favor, or the chance to reconcile, here are some separation mistakes to avoid.
Here’s what not to do if you are separated in New Jersey.
1) Don’t Seek or Create Fault
New Jersey is a No-Fault divorce state. This means that if you spend six months sure that the marriage is over for “irreconcilable difference”, you can get a divorce in which no one is “to blame”.
But there are At-Fault divorces. If your spouse successfully files an at-fault divorce, you will be at a disadvantage when it comes to custody, support, and asset division during the divorce proceedings. That is why it’s important to carefully choose your behavior during the separation that leads up to a New Jersey divorce.
At-Fault divorces can stem from
- Adultery (cheating)
- Drunkenness or Drug Use
Avoid any situation where you could be found at-fault and—for everyone’s best interest, don’t be tempted to trigger an at-fault divorce against your spouse unless they have committed acts of abuse that warrant this path.
2) Don’t Transfer Money from a Joint Account
Leave the joint accounts alone, or only use them in the same ways that you and your spouse always have. You can start putting your paycheck into a separate, personal account and you can pay shared bills with the joint account money. But don’t suddenly transfer large or steady sums of money out of the shared accounts. This is a form of divorce theft and can cause your assets to be frozen.
3) Don’t Make Major Changes to Shared Property or Assets
Don’t go wild on jointly owned property or assets. Don’t suddenly sell all of your stocks or make major changes to the house. Don’ t knock down walls, start a renovation, sell the car, etc. Of course, you can do small tasks like fixing a leaky sink, but don’t do anything drastic that could significantly change the value of your possessions.
Doing so can be seen as an attempt to steal or sabotage marital property. Leave your assets and properties as they were when the separation started.
4) Don’t Cut Your Spouse Off from Shared Property, Accounts, or Funds
Don’t suddenly close shared accounts or take your spouse’s name off of shared credit cards. Don’t financially cut off your spouse or lock them out of the house or other shared properties.
In the event that you are worried that your spouse will start revenge-spending, selling, or renovating; request offocial interjection or freeze the accounts for both parties, instead.
5) Don’t Take the Kids on a Sudden Long-Distance Trip
Parental kidnapping is common in a divorce. Avoid any appearance that you are at risk of attempting to kidnap your own children to avoid a fair custody agreement. In other words, don’t plan any sudden camping trips or visits to distant relatives during your separation.
Camping trips and visits are still OK, but your spouse needs to be fully aware and in agreement before you take the kids any distance or for an extended length of time.
6) Don’t Start a New Romantic Relationship
It is not illegal to see other people during your New Jersey separation, but your spouse could potentially file an at-fault divorce, using adultery as grounds for divorce, if you start a new romantic relationship before your divorce is complete..
If you have feelings for someone new, ask them to wait. Most importantly, do not move in together or start an overt courtship while you are in the process of separation or divorce with your current spouse.
7) Be Aware of the Risks Associated with Extended Separation
Lengthy or indefinite separation periods may seem like a practical alternative to divorce, but they come with risks and complications. Extended separation can complicate finances and create emotional distance between spouses, causing stress and insecurity.
Use New Jersey Separation for Its Intended Purpose
If you want the best outcome for a New Jersey No-Fault divorce, consider your actions carefully during separation. The three most important things to avoid are the appearance of divorce-related theft (ex: Clearing joint accounts), the appearance of parental kidnapping (ex: Sudden camping trips), or any basis for your spouse to file an at-fault divorce (ex: Adultery).
If your goal is to live separately until you are ready to divorce, live peacefully. Separate your respective incomes and expenses. If you have children, practice co-parenting before you build the formal custody agreement. If you will not reconcile, use your separation as a practice session for a productive divorce in which both parties can move forward independently.
Legal Separation in New Jersey is a significant step that requires careful consideration and planning to ensure a fair and peaceful resolution for all parties involved. For more insights or assistance on a successful New Jersey divorce, contact Petrelli Previtera, Family Law. We are here to help.