Bari Zell-Weinberger, a family lawyer in Parsippany, answers:
Whenever an initial New Jersey Complaint for Divorce is filed, the complaint will include the reason for the divorce, known as the “grounds.” In New Jersey, recognized grounds for divorce include:
- Irreconcilable Differences: New Jersey’s “no-fault divorce” ground designates that a marriage has been irretrievably broken for at least six months with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
- Adultery: When adultery is marked as the grounds for divorce, New Jersey law requires the complainant to state the name of the person with whom their spouse had the extramarital affair (if known). This person becomes known as “the correspondent” and will be sent a copy of the Complaint, which he or she can then dispute.
- Desertion: This ground refers to “willful cessation of sexual relations” for at least 12 months.
- Extreme Cruelty: This ground is highly subjective. Extreme cruelty can refer to a situation in which domestic violence is present, but can also apply if one spouse feels the other has shown a lack of emotional support.
- Separation: To choose this ground, a couple must live apart for 18 months before filing.
- Drug Addiction: Addiction is defined as a dependence on narcotics for a period of 12 or more consecutive months immediately preceding the divorce filing.
- Habitual Drunkenness: Similar to drug addiction, drunkenness and alcohol abuse may be used as grounds for divorce.
- Mental Illness: Under New Jersey law, this ground can apply when one spouse has been institutionalized for mental illness.
- Imprisonment: If one spouse is in prison at the time the divorce is filed, or the spouse has been released but the couple no longer lives together (and has no intent to reconcile), this ground may be appropriate.
- Deviant Sexual Conduct: This ground is open to interpretation, but generally refers to sexual conduct engaged in by one spouse without the other’s permission or consent.
Since being introduced in New Jersey in 2007, the “no-fault” ground of irreconcilable differences has become the most common ground cited in divorce papers. Filing on the grounds of irreconcilable differences does not require providing any further evidence as the “fault,” unlike many of the other grounds which require fault to be shown. For example, if adultery is cited as the grounds, evidence of cheating, including receipts and bank statements, may need to provided as proof of the claim. This is not the case with irreconcilable differences. It should also be noted that the terms of a final settlement are not necessarily determined based on fault or no-fault in a divorce.
Which grounds for divorce best applies in your case? Every divorce case is unique, making it vital for anyone filing for divorce in New Jersey to be represented by an accomplished New Jersey family law attorney who can offer professional guidance on choosing the right option for your matter.
Bari Zell Weinberger is the owner and managing partner of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group in New Jersey. She is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney.