Extreme cruelty is the most common ground for divorce that we plead before our state New Jersey allowed parties to divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Extreme cruelty is essentially the claim that somebody is at fault for the divorce, and they’ve done things that have injured the spouse. But what often happens is attorneys will plead what has happened in the marriage and harmed the spouse as also demonstrating that it would have harmed the children, and thus would impair one party’s ability to be a fit parent. We have several examples of how we use extreme cruelty in custody cases. We will often see litigants claim that there’s a list of mental health issues that have adversely impacted the marriage as well as the children such as depression or anxiety, and those sorts of things will often cause withdrawals from engagement with the children. Sometimes it can even be something more severe like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.
One of the most common allegations of domestic or extreme cruelty is domestic violence, and with domestic violence we have in our state the prevention of domestic violence act, which includes legislative findings that actually say that domestic violence against a spouse has a correlation with the negative impact on children. If you’re claiming domestic violence, that would give you a presumption that one parent is more fit to be the custodial parent and that would be the non-abusing spouse.
We often see addiction raised as a concern for parenting including addiction to any number of substances, alcohol, and drugs. It could be behaviour patterns such as gambling or pornography, or even addictions to some things that are more benign like work or food. When we start to see addictive behaviour, we often will see that pattern of conduct making it hard for a parent to engage appropriately with the children as well as to exercise good judgment with the children. We see that cause of action, that addiction is one of the reasons why a parent believes that the other parent is not fit to have access to the children.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com