Experienced Divorce Attorney Advice on the Grounds for Divorce in the State of New Jersey

There are many decisions to be made including if you have grounds for divorce or the kind of separation you and your spouse will choose.

Do I Have Grounds for Divorce in NJ?No one gets married with divorce in mind. Divorce can be extremely stressful and confusing. It is imperative that you lay out a plan of action before you make any decision.  It is helpful to choose an attorney to help you through this painful process.

New Jersey is a Hybrid Divorce State

What is a hybrid divorce state?  Some states, like California and Michigan, are purely no-fault divorce states, which means that a court will not inquire as to why the marriage ended, only that at least one spouse wants the divorce. But in New Jersey, you have the choice of requesting a no-fault or fault divorce.

If you and your spouse have lived separately for at least the last 18 consecutive months, you can pursue a no-fault divorce based on separation. The courts in New Jersey presume that if you have been living apart and not as a married couple for this amount of time—and you have not already worked it out on your own—there’s likely nothing a judge can do to encourage you to save your marriage.

Living apart for 18 months used to be the only way you could file for a no-fault divorce in New Jersey. However, the courts have broadened the no-fault grounds. Today, you can file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, which basically means that you and your spouse cannot get along anymore, and there is no hope you will be able to save the marriage. If you can prove irreconcilable differences for a period of at least six months, you may qualify for a no-fault divorce.

A fault divorce is based on one spouse’s “fault.” In other words, one spouse must show that the other spouse’s misconduct caused the divorce. The fault grounds that must be proven in New Jersey include:

1.   Separation

There is no such thing as “legal separation” in New Jersey. When one pleads this reason for divorce, one must allege that the couple has lived separately for over 18 months. What “separated” means is open to interpretation, but at the very least, the couple must have ceased cohabiting for a year and a half to cite this as grounds for divorce.

2.   Adultery

If your spouse has cheated on you, you have strong grounds for divorce. But know that a mere accusation will not suffice; the court will require some proof. At present, with email, text messages, and social media, it has become much easier to prove adultery. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to prove.

3.   Desertion

If a couple has not cohabitated for more than twelve months, New Jersey permits them to divorce. The one who abandoned the home would be the defendant.

4.   Addiction

If your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can strain your relationship and your finances. If you can prove the addiction has lasted more than a year and is harming your relationship, this is grounds for divorce.  Typical examples include illicit substances and gambling.

5.   Deviant Sexual Conduct

This is loosely defined by statute as, “conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff.” New Jersey criminalized marital rape in the 1990s, and this may be a more appropriate claim than extreme cruelty if filing for divorce as a result.

6.   Imprisonment

If a spouse is imprisoned for more than 18 months after they’ve married, New Jersey allows the other spouse to request a divorce. If the spouse was only a convict before the marriage, imprisonment does not apply.

7.   Extreme Cruelty

In New Jersey, cruel behavior which makes it unreasonable to continue to cohabitate with a spouse is grounds for divorce. New Jersey provides broad protection to domestic violence victims; both physical and emotional cruelty is recognized as grounds for divorce.

8.   Institutionalization

One may file for divorce if the spouse has been committed to an institution for mental illness. To prevent divorce actions over a minor mental health crisis, this reason can only be invoked if the other spouse has been institutionalized for a period of more than two years from the start after the date of marriage.

For whichever cause of action you decide to bring, you will need to prove the elements involved. Therefore, it may be more difficult to prove the causes of action for a fault-based divorce, as you will need to prove to the court that your spouse is at fault. Further, filing for a fault-based divorce will not necessarily provide you with a better outcome than filing for a no-fault divorce. The court does not generally take fault into consideration when determining the financial issues between the parties, except when one party is responsible for a negative economic situation, for instance, if one spouse gambled away the couple’s money. Therefore, your prospects of being ordered to pay or receive alimony are no better if you file for a fault-based divorce as opposed to a no-fault divorce.

If you are considering filing for divorce or know of someone who is, all your rights must be protected.  You need someone in your corner to support you doing this difficult time.

At Edward Cooper Law Firm, we take pride in successfully representing clients in Summit, Scotch Plains, Linden, Elizabeth, and the greater Union County area. Whether you have yet to fully decide your next steps or are ready to move forward immediately, our knowledgeable team of attorneys is only a phone call away.

To schedule a consultation with a member of our firm today regarding your marital agreement, please contact us online or through our Linden, NJ office (908) 481-4625.