An archaic law known as "divorce from bed and broad" could be costing New Jersey taxpayers big bucks. 

Flickr User Linda Tunner

Stemming from a time when divorce carried a social stigma, "divorce from bed and board" allows a limited divorce procedure in which legally-separated couples remain technically married. Assemblyman Ron Dancer says this loophole is often used by savvy divorce attorneys to keep the dependent spouse covered under his or her spouse's health plan.

"It is now becoming very prevalent," said Dancer. "When I spoke to the New Jersey Division of Pensions they have no way of tracking the data because it's a legal procedure that has never, never been revised."

Dancer is proposing legislation to close what he calls the archaic, but legal, loophole that allows people who are no longer dependent on a public employee to receive taxpayer-funded health benefits.

"Taxpayers never vowed 'Till death do us part' with respect to people who for all intents and purposes are divorced," said Dancer. "If a marriage comes to an unfortunate end, taxpayers should not be obligated to continue to pay for someone who is not a public employee, nor married to one in the way we commonly think of marriage."

The Assemblyman's bill would make it illegal to provide publicly-funded healthcare benefits plans to a public employee's spouse who is subject of divorce from bed and board.

Dancer explained, "If the federal Internal Revenue Service does not allow couples divorced from bed and board to declare dependency, then neither should New Jersey. While there is a 'divorce from bed and board,' that should not mean a 'honeymoon period' when taxpayers pay for the benefits."