As a New Jersey Divorce Attorney for nearly two decades, I have met many folks who are confused between the differences of a ”No Fault” New Jersey divorce and a “uncontested” divorce. While they may sound similar, the two are radically different. Let’s explore.
A. NJ No Fault Divorce :
When I first opened my law firm in 1996, Irreconcilable Differences could not be used as grounds for a New Jersey Divorce. In turn, each party would have to allege fault against the other for the demise of the marriage. For much of my career the most common ground for divorce was Extreme Mental Cruelty.
Now if the NJ divorce was one of high conflict, nobody asked any questions. However, in cases in which the parties desired a peaceful resolution to their divorce, they would be unhappy when I had to explain that that the Irreconcilable Differences bill was frozen in the legislature. I would further explain that while we could not file under Irreconcilable Difference, we would make the specific allegations as non-confrontational as possible in order to avoid causing unnecessary conflict. However, it was virtually guaranteed that the other spouse would get upset when they would read the words, “Extreme Mental Cruelty.”
Then in 2007, New Jersey finally established Irreconcilable Difference as grounds for divorce. I would say, in my experience as a busy New Jersey divorce lawyer, approximately 90% of New Jersey divorces are now filed as a “no-fault” a/k/a Irreconcilable Differences.
Many of my fellow New Jersey divorce lawyers and I are very happy that may now commence with the N.J. divorce action without trashing the other party straight out of the gate;
B. NJ Uncontested Divorce:
An Uncontested Divorce is exactly what it sounds like it means. The parties are divorcing without fighting over their children or finances. A great example is when the parties engage in mediation prior to filing the divorce. Once they have a tentative settlement, each side shall have a N.J. divorce lawyer review a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) that contains the general terms of the settlement. Provided the MOU is a fair one for my client, I recommend entering into a Property Settlement Agreement and filing a Complaint for Divorce for Irreconcilable Differences. This is a true uncontested divorce.
In light of the foregoing, the differences between a No Fault divorce and an uncontested divorce are clear. First, you can have a No Fault divorce yet still fight over custody, support and other financial issues. Therefore, the No Fault divorced is obviously “contested.” Second, the New Jersey Supreme Court has made it clear that, absent very few exceptions, non-economic fault is not relevant with respect to alimony. In fact, another appellate case states that a woman who beat her 14 year old son to death during an alcohol fueled rage STILL had a right to alimony.
All told, I am happy that NJ finally embraces No Fault divorces when Irreconcilable Differences became the law in my state. However, I truly understand why many of my client’s do not believe it is fair that “fault” (such as adultery) does not affect most issues in their case, especially alimony. In any event, I trust that this piece has explained the difference between No Fault and uncontested New Jersey divorce. Of course, if you ever have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a call to discuss further.