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New Jersey grounds for Divorce

March 23, 2015

In New Jersey, there are several different causes of action (aka grounds to file for Divorce).  

 

The most frequently used Cause of Action is irreconcilable differences.

Irreconcilable differences simply requires that 1) irreconcilable differences exist in your marriage; 2) they have existed for at least 6 months prior to the filing of the Divorce Complaint; and 3) there is no prospect of reconciliation.  Although this Cause of Action requires these differences exist for 6 months prior to the filing of the Complaint, that does not require any of the following:  1) that you have lived separate from the other spouse for 6 months (i.e. many people still live together during the Divorce process due to the current state of the economy); 2) that there was some big, huge fight and one of you stated “that’s it, it’s over; or 3) that you have not had any contact with the other spouse for 6 months.  

 

So you may be confused as to what the purpose of this 6 month requirement is and how exactly you can meet it.  The answer is its quite simple.  This particular Cause of Action is the most frequently used reason for divorce because it is so easy to satisfy.  You and your spouse may simply have not been getting along for years but there was never a big huge fight.  That would not prevent you from filing for Divorce.  The Court does not do an in depth evaluation of what these “irreconcilable differences” are so it could be something as simple as you just don’t get along anymore and want to file for divorce.  

 

A second Cause of Action recognized in New Jersey is no-fault separation.

This Cause of Action actually requires that you and your spouse be physically separated for a period of eighteen (18) consecutive months prior to the filing of the Divorce Complaint.  This means:  1) you cannot live together at all during that 18 month period and 2) it must be a consecutive 18 months so you cannot be separated for 6 then reconcile for 6 and then separate for another 6.  Once you reconcile and end this consecutive period of 18 months, you must start over at month 1.  Also with this Cause of Action, there must be no prospect of reconciliation.  

The following Causes of Action are referred to as fault-based Causes of Action.  It’s important to note that despite you having the option of filing for Divorce based upon one of these fault-based Causes of Action, New Jersey is a no-fault State, which means that you will not receive additional spousal or child support if you successfully prove a fault-based Cause of Action.  

 

A third Cause of Action in New Jersey is adultery.  

In order to prove adultery, you must prove that your spouse rejected you by entering into an intimate relationship with another person.  If you file for Divorce based upon adultery, Court Rule 5:4-2(b) requires that you include the following information in your Complaint:  

state the name of the person with whom such conduct was committed, if known, and if not known, shall state any available information tending to describe the said person, and shall also state such designation of the time, place and circumstances under which the act or series of acts were committed as will enable the party charged therewith and the court to distinguish the particular offense or offenses intended to be charged.  The Rules further require that you serve this person with a copy of the Divorce Complaint.

 

A fourth Cause of Action in New Jersey is extreme cruelty.  

You can prove extreme cruelty by demonstrating physical or mental cruelty that makes it extremely difficult and/or unreasonable to continue living with the other spouse.  The Courts tend to be liberal with what conduct constitutes extreme physical or mental cruelty.  However, the Divorce Statute (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2) requires that you wait three (3) months after the last cruel act before filing for Divorce.  

 

A fifth Cause of Action in New Jersey is desertion.  

This requires that your spouse deserted you for twelve (12) consecutive months.  In order to prove this Cause of Action, you must prove that you two have failed to “cohabit as man and wife” during that time period.  This does not require physical desertion and could be proved by establishing that you two have not had sexual relations for 12 consecutive months.  

 

A sixth Cause of Action in New Jersey is institutionalization.  

This allows you to file for Divorce if you can prove that your spouse has been institutionalized for mental illness for 24 months since the date of marriage.  

 

A seventh Cause of Action in New Jersey is imprisonment.  

This allows you to file for Divorce when your spouse has been imprisoned for eighteen (18) consecutive months.  If you wait until after your spouse is released from imprisonment to file for Divorce, you cannot begin residing with your spouse prior to filing for Divorce.  

 

An eighth Cause of Action in New Jersey is deviant sexual conduct.  

This requires that your spouse engage in some deviant sexual conduct without your knowledge or consent.  If you file for Divorce based upon this Cause of Action, you must include that information in the Complaint as with adultery.  Specifically:

state the name of the person with whom such conduct was committed, if known, and if not known, shall state any available information tending to describe the said person, and shall also state such designation of the time, place and circumstances under which the act or series of acts were committed as will enable the party charged therewith and the court to distinguish the particular offense or offenses intended to be charged.  The Rules further require that you serve this person with a copy of the Divorce Complaint.

 

A ninth Cause of Action in New Jersey is addiction.  

This permits you to file for Divorce if your spouse is habitually under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol for a period of at least twelve (12) consecutive months.  

In order to qualify for a New Jersey divorce based upon any of the above causes of action, you must also satisfy other legal requirements:  1) you must have lived in the State of New Jersey for 12 months before filing the Divorce Complaint; 2) there must be no prospect of reconciliation.  

 

 

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