In New Jersey our legislator has engrafted a provision of the statute governing divorce to allow for no-fault divorce. We plead a cause of action for no fault on the grounds of reconcilable differences. There are times when we plead reconcilable differences and we plead a cause grounds cause for divorce i.e, extreme cruelty. At the end of the day if one party wants to get a divorce, it’s going to happen whether the other party consents or not. Typically that happens by way of the party who wants the divorce, filing the complaint and serving the other party. And if the other party doesn’t participate in the divorce action, by responding to the complaint within the 35 days that the person is allowed to or seeking additional time as may be necessary, then the person will be defaulted and the divorce can proceed without the person’s participation at all, simply on the testimony of the plaintiff, the person who filed.
There are other times where the person who is contesting the divorce will participate but only enough so that they can obstruct the process for the person who wants to get divorced. So, if the plaintiff files the complaint for divorce and the defendant really does not want to be divorced, he or she can drag his or her feet, cannot participate or can participate only so much as necessary not to be defaulted, can supply some information but not enough information to get the full picture to be able to divide assets equitably and determine spousal support obligations. And those cases are usually very difficult for the entire family, including the person who does not want to be divorced because then, that person is really just putting up a barrier and creating more friction in the relationship of two people who will often have to continue because there are children.
The addiction in and of itself is not a grounds to be able to put a ceasefire on the divorce. As I said earlier, you can have the court grant you additional time to file papers to participate in the process based on the fact that you are going to seek treatment for your addiction or based on the fact that you away at rehab and thus not able to speak with your lawyer and that sort of thing. But the fact that you are an addict does not give you an exception to not being able to participate in the proceeding. Nor does the fact that your spouse is an addict grant you the right to proceed without the person simply by virtue of the addiction. It’s a normal process, despite the addiction being there.
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