A divorce from bed and board (also known as “Legal Separation”) is not a true divorce since it does not dissolve the bonds of matrimony but merely decrees a judicial separation.
Upon later application to the court, either party has an absolute right to convert the bed and board divorce into an absolute divorce; i.e., a divorce from the bonds of matrimony. In order to remarry after having obtained a judgment of divorce from bed and board, the parties must apply to the court for conversion of the bed and board divorce to an absolute divorce.
The primary purpose for obtaining a divorce from bed and board is to terminate the marital obligations of cohabitation and support. Also, for and during the time that any judgment for divorce from bed and board shall remain in force and effect all property rights of the parties shall be as though a judgment of absolute divorce or dissolution had been entered. In other words, while they are divorced from bed and board, each party may acquire property free of the rights that the other party would have in that property if they were not divorced. Likewise, a divorce from bed and board precludes a spouse from inheriting the other spouse’s property when he or she dies intestate.
A married couple might choose to obtain a judgment of divorce from bed and board rather than an absolute divorce for religious reasons. They may no longer wish to live together, but their religious faith may prevent the couple from officially dissolving the bonds of matrimony.
Parties divorced from bed and board continue to be legally “married;” however, for federal income tax purposes, they are “unmarried.” A person who is divorced from bed and board may be entitled to benefit from their spouse’s employer provided “family” or “spousal” health insurance coverage, and from the survival benefits from a spouse’s employer provided pension plan; HOWEVER, the terms of the insurance and pension plan need to be checked carefully, as some have exclusionary language, such that they may not be applicable to individuals who obtained a “legal separation.”
To discuss your specific situation, please call me, Paul G. Kostro, Esq., to schedule an appointment: 908-486-2200 or Paul@Kostro.com
Also, you may find the following Blog Posts helpful: Divorce From Bed and Board