What is a Divorce from Bed and Board?
There may be times when pursuing an absolute divorce may not the best choice for a couple. For example, when a couple decides that they wish to live separate lives, but are not ready to proceed with a divorce. In such a situation, the parties may find that a divorce from bed and board accomplishes their shared goal of separating their respective lives, while still preserving their matrimonial bond in the eyes of the law. See Lavino v. Lavino, 23 N.J. 635, 638-39 (App. Div. 1957). Alternatively, an absolute divorce is a complete and final severance of the marital bond, and all of the rights, benefits, and recognitions that come with it. Ibid. Other reasons that a couple may decide to pursue a divorce from bed and board as opposed to an absolute divorce can include religious, financial, or emotional reasons.
A divorce from bed and board is similar to an absolute divorce in some ways. For example, New Jersey law provides that a divorce from bed and board may be based on the same grounds as an absolute divorce, including irreconcilable differences. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-3a. Additionally, in a divorce from bed and board, the property rights of the parties will be determined and finalized, just like it would be in an absolute divorce. See Loechner, v. Loechner, 119 N.J. Super. 444, 445 (Chan. Div. 1972).
Nonetheless, a divorce from bed and board does offer unique benefits. If, after a judgment for divorce from bed and board is granted, the parties reconcile, they can simply make an application to the court to revoke or suspend the judgment of divorce. Ibid. Such an option is not available with an absolute divorce. However, with a divorce for bed and board, if either party later decides that he or she wants an absolute divorce; either party can make an application with the court to convert the divorce from bed and board to an absolute divorce, which the Court will grant “as a matter of right.” Ibid.
A divorce from bed and board also presents some limitations that do not exist in an absolute divorce. For example, in a divorce from bed and board, a court will not grant a wife’s request to change her name back to her maiden name because the martial bond still exists in the eyes of the law. See Leggio v. Leggio, 436 N.J. Super. 641, 643 (Chan. Div. 2014).
Whether you are considering a Divorce from Bed and Board or an absolute divorce, our skilled and knowledgeable divorce lawyers in New Jersey are available to speak with you and answer any questions that you may have. We welcome you to reach out to Lyons & Associates by calling our office at 908-575-9777 or submit an online inquiry to schedule an appointment.
Written by: Joanna Adu, Esq.