New Jersey Grounds For Divorce
Divorce proceedings in New Jersey are handled by the Superior Court of each county (Middlesex, Monmouth, Union, etc) and the procedures and forms are standard across the state. The process starts by filing a complaint for divorce. This legal document informs the court that one spouse would like to divorce the other. When filling out the complaint you must indicate the grounds (the reason why) on which you would like to divorce. Your decision could have consequences on how lengthy the divorce process is and how much work is required to complete it. Your options are grouped under two major headings: No-fault divorce and Fault based divorce. This decision can be made with the help of your attorney.
New Jersey No-Fault Divorce
In a no-fault divorce matter, there is no blame placed on either party of the marriage. The benefit is that you do not need any proof or support that one spouse was responsible for the marriage ending. No-fault divorces can be based on irreconcilable differences or separation.
Since becoming an option in 2007, a majority of divorces are filed under Irreconcilable differences. To file a complaint based on irreconcilable differences those differences need to have existed for six months or more and again, caused the demise of the marriage, and you and your spouse have no chance of getting back together. The benefit of filing under irreconcilable differences is that there is no residency requirement so couples who choose to live together (or need to for financial reasons) may do so. Irreconcilable differences does not require any specific or significant allegations or accusations be waged removing animosity from the divorce process.
To qualify for separation, the couple has not shared a primary residence for at least eighteen (18) months and has determined there is no chance of future reconciliation.
New Jersey Fault Based Divorce
Filing a fault based divorce requires proof and testimony of the grounds for divorce. These proceedings can be lengthy and divorcing parties should prepare to spend significant time building a case and presenting it in court. If you are going to file a fault based divorce, you have to be specific for the reason. In New Jersey there are several options.
Extreme cruelty N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(c).
You can base your divorce on extreme cruelty if you have suffered psychological, emotional and/or physical abuse at the hand of your spouse. The abuse does not to be physical abuse and can include belittling and controlling behavior. You need to convince the judge that abuse has occurred within the three months before you filed your complaint and that the cruel actions are impossible to live with on a daily basis.
Desertion N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(b).
You can file based on desertion if your spouse leaves your marriage for 12 months or more against your wishes and there has been no physical intimacy during that time. Interesting note that you may still live in the same house, just no longer as husband and wife.
Addiction, Habitual Drunkeness, drug Habituation N.S.J.A 2A:34-2(e)
This fault claims that the marriage was destroyed due to one partner’s persistent, habitual and substantial intoxication and addiction for a period of 12 months prior to the filing of divorce
Imprisonment: N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(g)
If one spouse has been incarcerated for at least 18 months. Divorce can be filed once the spouse is released and the parties do not live together after release.
Institutionalization N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(f).
When one spouse suffers from mental illness and has been institutionalized for a period of 12 or more consecutive months you can file for a divorce for institutionalization.
Deviant sexual conduct N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(h).
If one spouse engages voluntary in deviant sexual conduct without other spouse’s consent.
Adultery (infidelity) N.J.S.A. 5:4-2
Here, one partner of the marriage was unfaithful and is defined by the court as “adultery exists when one spouse rejects the other by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person, irrespective of the specific sexual acts performed; the rejection of the spouse coupled with out-of-marriage intimacy constitutes adultery.” When filing for adultery the name of the paramour must be stated.
In our office we always work with clients to find the absolute best path of action given their personal circumstances. There are many implications depending on which grounds for divorce you decide to pursue. You should explore the legal requirements of proving each scenario and how they relate to the details of your case. You should discuss these options as well as the impact on the speed in which your divorce will be handed with an experienced NJ Divorce Attorney.