Divorce FAQ's

The Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

1. How long do I have to live in New Jersey before I can file for divorce here?

It is important to be educated on the fact that with only one exception, a complaint for divorce cannot be filed in New Jersey, unless one of the spouses has been a resident of New Jersey for at least one year prior to the filing. The only exception for the one year rule is for the grounds of adultery. If you are a resident of New Jersey, and if your spouse has committed adultery, then there is no one year residency requirement before you can file.

2. How many grounds for divorce are there in New Jersey?

New Jersey now recognizes nine grounds for divorce. The grounds of separation and of irreconcilable differences are considered to be “no-fault” grounds. Meanwhile, the remaining seven grounds all involve allegations of “fault.”

3. What are the no fault grounds for divorce?

A. Irreconcilable Differences

The ground for divorce of irreconcilable differences was recently established in 2007. Many people who filed for divorce got “bugged” out if they had to file for extreme cruelty. Therefore, the grounds of irreconcilable differences were designed to try to make the divorce process somewhat less adversarial. The complaint based on irreconcilable differences must allege that the parties have had a) irreconcilable differences; b) which has caused the breakdown of the marriage; c) the breakdown must have been for a period of six months; d) the marriage should be dissolved; e) and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Under this new ground for divorce, married couples can still file for a divorce even if they continue to live together in the same household.

B. Separation

The parties are required to have lived in separate residences for at least eighteen consecutive months immediately before filing the complaint. Moreover, there must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

4. What are the grounds for divorce based upon fault?

A. Extreme Cruelty

The ground of divorce for extreme cruelty is also a very popular one. Extreme cruelty includes any physical or mental cruelty which makes it improper or unreasonable to expect one spouse to cohabitate with the other spouse. Although this ground appears very harsh, it is simply a legal “term of art.” The New Jersey family courts liberally interpret what types of marital conduct constitutes extreme cruelty. In my twenty years of practice I have never seen a court deny a divorce for the reason that a spouse was not able to prove extreme cruelty. In my put thru hearings the court simply asks the complaining spouse if he or she has read the allegations of extreme cruelty, and if they are true and correct. Nonetheless, in the more nasty cases, some spouses really over do it, and they list pages and pages of allegations of extreme cruelty. I don’t believe in the merits of this type of strategy. If you encounter a divorce complaint with pages and pages of allegations of extreme cruelty, then that spouse has an “axe to grind.” The case will not be a simple one, and for any young lawyers reading this article, get a decent sized retainer before you accept the case.

B. Adultery

Another popular ground for divorce is for adultery. The New Jersey courts have defined adultery as one spouse’s rejection of the other, by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person, regardless of the specific sexual acts performed. If it is known, the divorce complaint must state the name of the adulterer or also known as  the paramour. The cheater is also referred to as a co-respondent. A copy of the divorce complaint must then be served on the cheater or the co-respondent. The cheater does not have to file an answer to the divorce complaint.

C. Desertion

The willful and continuous desertion of one spouse by the other spouse, such that the parties have ceased to cohabit as husband and wife for at least the twelve consecutive months immediately prior to the filing of the complaint, constitutes desertion under New Jersey divorce law. It is important to note that the parties can still live in the same household while going through the divorce process. However, one spouse must willfully withhold sexual relations for the twelve month time period.

D. Addiction

Under New Jersey divorce law, addiction is defined as the habitual drunkenness or a persistent and substantial dependence on a narcotic or other controlled dangerous substance after the marriage. The addiction must be for at least the twelve consecutive months immediately prior to the filing of the complaint.

E. Institutionalization

This ground requires that a spouse to have been institutionalized for mental illness for a period of twelve or more consecutive months after the marriage, and before the filing of the complaint.

F. Imprisonment

Imprisonment can also be a ground for divorce in New Jersey. The jailed spouse must be imprisoned for eighteen or more months after the marriage. Moreover, the parties can not resume living together once the jailed spouse is released from prison.

G. Deviant Sexual Conduct

Deviant sexual conduct is the final ground for divorce in New Jersey. This ground simply that the deviant sexual conduct must have occurred without the other party’s consent.

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