Divorce FAQ's

A Guide to the Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

1. What are the two no-fault grounds for divorce?

There are two major no-fault grounds for divorce in New Jersey;

 a. Irreconcilable Differences  This is a relatively new no-fault ground for divorce in New Jersey. This cause of action allows either a husband or wife to file a divorce complaint without providing any specific reason. Basically, neither spouse has to provide the court with any “dirt” to justify the divorce. The only statements the party filing for divorce must make are; a) there has been a breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months; which makes it appears that the marriage should be dissolved; and b) there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

b. Eighteen Month Separation Neither spouse is required to provide any evidence of fault or wrongdoing. The complaint only must state that you and your spouse have lived in different houses for 18 months or more and that the months have been consecutive. Moreover, you must state that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Living in the same house in different bedrooms does not fulfill the legal requirement to file for separation. You do not have to file any documents to start the running of the 18 months. At the end of 18 months you will be required to file a sworn statement that you and your spouse have been separated, living separate and apart, in different houses for 18 months or more and you do not expect to reconcile.

2. What are the other fault-based grounds for divorce?

a. Mental illness  If your spouse has been in an institution for 24 months or more, you are entitled to file for divorce. The institutionalization must be for 24 consecutive months and the entire 24 months must occur be after the wedding ceremony.

b. Imprisonment If your spouse has been locked up in a prison for 18 months or more, then this ground for divorce may also apply to your case. The term of imprisonment must be for 18 consecutive months. Moreover, the entire 18 month prison term must be served after the marriage commenced. Finally, the complaint for divorce should be filed while your spouse is in prison. If your spouse is released and if you resume living together, then you may no longer qualify for a divorce under this ground.

c. Willful and continued desertion (Physical Category)  If your spouse moved out of the marital home, and if he has been absent for at least 12 months, then he has deserted you. The desertion must be for 12 consecutive months. If you and your spouse agree that you will separate and that he will move out, then you may still file a complaint based on desertion.

d. Willful and continued desertion, (Sexual category)  The sexual desertion must be a persistent refusal by your spouse to engage in sexual relations with you for a period of 12 months or more. This type of desertion can’t be by mutual consent. Your spouse must refuse to engage in relations you desire, and would engage in if he were willing.

e. Voluntarily inducted addiction If your spouse is an alcoholic or drug addict then you may have grounds. The alcoholism or drug abuse must be for 12 consecutive months or more. This ground is often used in connection with extreme cruelty.

f. Adultery If your spouse is engaging in an adulterous affair, and if you know the name and address of the other cheating person, then you may file a complaint for a divorce based on adultery. You can rely on circumstantial evidence to prove adultery, and you don’t need the actual pictures of the adulterous affair in a hotel room.

3. How can I prove the grounds of adultery in court?

You can prove adultery by circumstantial evidence. Here are a few of the documents that can be used to prove that your spouse was a cheater:

a. Credit card bills for hotel rooms where the hotel register lists “Mr. and Mrs.”

b. Credit card bills for woman’s jewelry where you can prove that no female member of your family received it.

c. Love notes and cards.

d. Pictures of your husband holding hands with, kissing or just standing a little too close to another woman.

e. A private detective report a private investigator may be hired to follow your husband and track his activities.

There are no legal requirements that the adulterous behavior must continue for a minimum period of time. A copy of the divorce complaint based on adultery must also be sent by certified mail to the other cheating person. The legal term for the other cheating person is a co-respondent. A co-respondent may answer the complaint, and simply deny any allegations that he or she was cheating. The concept of serving the co-respondent came into being when being accused of having an extramarital affair would ruin a woman’s reputation. The courts also still enforce the legal requirement that a co-respondent must receive service of the divorce complaint. This rule is still enforced even though the stigma of committing adultery has lessened considerably in this day and age.

4. What are the common factors that are used to base a complaint for divorce on extreme cruelty?

Extreme cruelty is a very commonly used ground to file for divorce. However, with the advent of the recent ground for divorce of irreconcilable differences, it is not used as much as it was before. This ground includes all acts of physical violence and acts of mental cruelty which endanger your safety or health or which make continued living together unreasonable or improper. There is no waiting period to file for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

The common factors to base a divorce complaint on the grounds of extreme cruelty are as follows;


* too tight denial of necessities

* too extravagant

* too much credit use

* refusal to use credit

* neglect monthly payment

* unreasonable spending habits on himself, wife, children

* disputes about control

* erratic employment

b.  EMBARRASSING, humiliating experiences (public and private)

c.  ALCOHOL, drugs, gambling and related activities

d.  SEXUAL problems

* inconsideration

* refusal of sexual intercourse

* sexual excess

* unreasonable demands

* perversion

* impotence

* homosexuality

* psychological, dating other persons (but no adultery or deviant sexual     conduct).

e. DOMESTIC irresponsibility

* chores not done

* not fulfilling role as father, husband, supporter

f. LYING, fraud

g. SOCIAL activities

h. Offensive LANGUAGE (in public or private)

i. Physical ABUSE, violence

j. Lack of PERSONAL HYGIENE, cleanliness

k. Lack of initiative, AMBITION

l. PERSONALITY hang-‘ups’ and conflicts

cold shoulder treatment,  domineering spouse

m. ARGUMENTS caused by husband

n. THREATS, of violence, desertion, etc.

o. JEALOUSY, false accusations


q. MENTAL ILLNESS, neurotic behavior, emotional stability

r. CRIMINAL tendencies, convictions

s. RELIGIOUS abuses

t. POOR DRIVING habits; accident

u. UNREASONABLE OBSESSIONS with the occult, gurus, psychics, meditation

v. PROVOCATION and retaliation


x. Lack of AFFECTION


z. Refusal to have CHILDREN

To file a complaint based on extreme cruelty you must state in writing that your husband is guilty of conduct which you find unreasonable. The standard for determining whether his conduct is unreasonable is subjective. Subjective is what you find to be unreasonable, not what someone else would find unreasonable.

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