For couples whose marriage is on the skids, the thought in each of the partner’s minds is “I’d be so much better if I could just leave and be rid of him/her”, even though the very finality of ending the marriage can be a scary prospect.  Unless each of the parties has a high-power job, and the financial ability to make it on their own, there is usually hesitation on either side.

Whether the marriage is of many years’ duration, or just recent, people often have a few spats, and it escalates a little further, and soon one of them threatens to end the marriage.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

There is some truth to the English proverb “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and marriage counselors will attest to that fact.  They suggest that the remedy post-spat, is that neither party should take leave of their senses, except one or the other needs to take a short walk to institute a “cooling off period”, come back with a “clear head” and reach out to the partner to repair the relationship immediately.  Stopping the blame game also stops the constant carping at one another in its tracks and maybe everyone sees things in a clearer light.

Relationship counselor’s further state that it is all too easy for people to decide that divorce is the answer to the crisis in their marriage, especially when there are no minor children involved.  Rather, marriage counselors suggest that if there appear to be reconcilable differences, why not just opt for a small trial separation so each party can sort out their feelings?  By trial separation, it is not meant that the next day, one of the parties secures a U-Haul truck to cart off all their personal belonging.  It means, that one of the parties should pack a small bag, depart the marital household and go somewhere for a few days, where some soul-searching may be done.   A review by each party of what attracted them to their spouse in the beginning, how far they have come in the relationship, and the importance of their significant other in their life to date, might just spur reconciliation in the short-term.

After a reconciliation, each party no doubt will be on their best behavior, walking on eggshells in an effort not to stir up any emotions or harsh words, or rehash the prior argument, all which will no doubt instigate another round of arguments.

If that separation becomes long term, and did not encourage reconciliation, then in the State of New Jersey, if the parties have been separated and apart for 18 consecutive months, they may seek a no-fault divorce citing no prospect of reconciliation.

The finality of ending a relationship

The above scenario is suggested if you have any inkling that you wish to preserve your marriage.  However, sometimes, there are other factors which make divorce a more ideal prospect than a mere separation.  Examples would be domestic violence, or addiction/dependency problems – all contentious issues that demand the intervention of more than just a marriage counselor, but rehabilitative efforts to get the offending party to a new and improved normal, one that hopefully mimics the person who was present and accounted for at the beginning of the relationship.

But, if marriage counselors, or a rehabilitative facility, are clearly not the answer to a crumbling marriage, then divorce might be the only option.

The long-term financial consequences

Legal separation is a good alternative for married couples who have uncertainties about the finality of divorce.  Couples should sit down and go over each aspect of how the divorce will affect their lives, especially financially.

For example, there are some benefits:

  • If you are married for ten years or more, couples qualify for certain Social Security benefits.
  • Post-divorce, taxes must be filed singly.


  • A spouse is able to retain the benefits of the couple’s healthcare plan, especially if it is under the name of the other party. Divorce will terminate the coverage, unless specific arrangements are made prior to the divorce decree.

Military spouses

  • Military spouses will glean benefits from the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, as long as they remain married for at least ten years.

Joint financial aspects of a separation can be tricky when a short-time separation becomes a long-time separation.  In some cases, couples even elect to live in the same house, even though they are legally separated.  If a legal separation agreement is obtained, special considerations can be made for loan or mortgage payments and joint savings/checking/asset accounts going forward.  Access to the couple’s bank accounts, or the need to close and/or open separate accounts, can also be defined.  Prior to deciding on a divorce it may be wise to consult with a divorce attorney to help answer all of your questions.  A top family law attorney in NJ who specializes in divorce will be able to help answer all of your divorce related questions.

If divorce is the only option

If a trial separation does not do the trick to repair the relationship and/or encourage reconciliation, then the sad truth may be that divorce is the only option.  Couples should discuss this step thoroughly, and set about retaining separate counsel.  If a discussion about the impending divorce can transpire without the need for counsel, perhaps an agreement can be made prior to filing for divorce and/or any divorce proceedings ever transpire.  By doing this, in a rational manner, not only will there be a possible chance for having a mediator preside over the proceedings, rather than the case going through the entire judicial process, and saving both parties any bickering and  heartache, not to mention significantly lower attorney fees.

To recap

If a marriage is faltering, there are two options:  separation or divorce.  Separation is merely a stepping stone, or a chance to recognize that there a relationship worth salvaging going forward.  Whether it is a temporary separation, or a decree of legal separation that is obtained, as opposed to the more-final divorce decree, separation will permit a couple to keep their married status, while acknowledging that they are no longer living together.

If you’d like to discuss the difference between legal separation and divorce, why not contact a family law attorney in New Jersey to help you get the facts and give you some peace of mind?