If you are a resident of New Jersey and contemplating a divorce, among the things you may want to understand is what you will have to tell a court in order to allow you to dissolve your marriage.
First, it is a generally a requirement that either you or your spouse must live here for more twelve months before you file a complaint.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, you have the option to file a complaint for divorce without escalating your conflict by having to point your finger at your spouse and make claims about what may have happened which contributed to the failure of your partnership.
“No Fault” Grounds for Divorce
There are “no fault” options when you file a complaint. You only have to explain to a court that there have been Irreconcilable Differences between the two of you which have continued for a period of more than six months and there are no prospects of reconciliation. Irreconcilable Differences is the most common cause of action filed because it is easily shown and no blame is attached to either of you.
Prior to 2007, the only “no fault” option was if you and your spouse had been separated for a period of 18 months or more before a complaint was filed. If you have been living separate and apart in different residences for 18 months or longer, you can obtain a divorce for Separation, by stating those facts and that there is not a possibility of you reconciling.
“Fault” Based Grounds for Divorce
There are also causes of action which are “fault” based and historically, proving fault was necessary for a divorce to be granted unless there was the built-in 18 months of separation. It should be noted that these fault-based causes are not meant to help you gain an economic advantage with the court except in the most extreme cases. Courts tend to rely on facts as they are revealed as the case unfolds rather than look at a complaint that is filed at the beginning of a case.
That being said, you can tell a court that there has been Extreme Cruelty, which can refer to verbal or emotional acts, not solely physical, which are being alleged. Those acts must have preceded the filing of the complaint by a period of three months or more and make it improper or unreasonable for a judge to expect you to continue to reside with your spouse and stay married. If there is significant abuse and you have suffered harm that can be proven, a personal injury or tort action can be brought before the court along with your request to terminate your marriage.
Adultery can be the basis for a divorce if you can show that there has been infidelity. It may surprise you to know that a party will not be punished in the process even for having an adulterous relationship so there is no strategic economic advantage but there may be facts that could impact custodial concerns if actions are significantly outrageous. Adultery is an exception to the one year residency requirement and you can file a complaint as long as you or your spouse live in the state.
Other Fault-Based Causes of Action for Divorce
There are other less common fault-based causes of action for divorce. If there is willful Desertion during your marriage for a continuous period of twelve months or more and it can be proven that you did not live as man and wife, a court may grant you a divorce. A showing of Voluntary Addiction to narcotic substances or Habitual Drunkenness by your spouse for twelve months subsequent to the marriage and before the filing of the complaint can be the reason for a divorce. If your spouse has been in an institution for mental illness for twenty-four consecutive months during your marriage and before you file a complaint, Institutionalization may be the reason you are asking for a divorce. Imprisonment of your spouse for 18 months subsequent to your marriage is also a cause of action as long as your spouse is released prior to the filing of the complaint and you have not resided together at all after the release. Lastly, if you can show that you have experienced Deviant Sexual Conduct without your consent, a court may grant you a divorce.
These are the legal grounds for filing of a complaint for divorce and bring you to the attention of the court and are just one of the steps you may take to move you forward.
Beatrice Kandell is a Divorce Attorney at Skoloff & Wolfe.