The Legal Grounds for Divorce in NJ

In New Jersey, there are 9 grounds for divorce that can be used.  A “ground” for divorce is the reasoning behind why a party filing a Complaint for Divorce is asserting that the couple’s marriage has failed.  The grounds for divorce are split into two categories: fault grounds and no-fault grounds, and are set forth in the divorce statute N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2.

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce in NJ

Divorce CakeNo-fault grounds for divorce don’t assign any fault to the defendant party to the divorce proceeding.  The two grounds for divorce under the no-fault category include irreconcilable differences and separation.  Under the irreconcilable differences ground, the most commonly asserted in New Jersey, differences have come up which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months or more and there is no foreseeable prospect of reconciliation between the parties.

Under New Jersey statute governing the valid grounds for divorce, separation requires that the spouses have lived separate and apart in different locations for at least 18 consecutive months and there is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation between the parties.

Fault Grounds for Divorce in NJ

In New Jersey, there are 7 “fault” grounds for divorcing a spouse.  These attribute a specific reason to the failure of the marriage and one party is generally to blame.  The following is an explanation of each fault-based ground for divorce in New Jersey.

  • Adultery – Adultery exists when one spouse rejects the other by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person.  The specific sexual acts performed do not matter in this case.
  • Desertion – The defendant party has deserted his or her spouse willfully and for a continued period of 12 months or more.  This ground can be established by proof that the parties have not cohabited as husband and wife for at least twelve months.
  • Extreme cruelty – The plaintiff has suffered physical or mental cruelty which has endangered his or her safety or health, making it improper or unreasonable to expect him or her to continue to cohabit with the defendant spouse.
  • Addiction – The defendant’s suffers from a voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug as defined by the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, or habitual drunkenness for a period of at least 12 months consecutively after the parties’ marriage and before the filing of the Complaint for Divorce.
  • Institutionalization – The defendant was institutionalized for a mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months after the marriage and before the filing of the Divorce Complaint.
  • Imprisonment – The defendant was imprisoned for 18 or more consecutive months after the marriage.  If the plaintiff filed the Complaint for Divorce after the defendant’s release from imprisonment, it is required that the parties had not resumed cohabitation since his or her release in order to assert this ground.
  • Deviant sexual conduct – This ground involves the defendant engaging in voluntary deviant sexual conduct without the consent of the plaintiff.

The Most Common Reason for Divorce

The ground for divorce of irreconcilable differences was not added to the Divorce Reform Act until 2007 when the law added the following provision as grounds for divorce: “Irreconcilable differences which have caused a breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months and which make it appear that the divorce should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.”  Irreconcilable differences continues to be the most common ground for divorce used in New Jersey.

Villani & DeLuca – Experience NJ Divorce Lawyers

Are you thinking about filing for divorce in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey?  You should consult with a divorce attorney to find out how to proceed.  If you have any questions about the divorce process or divorce mediation in New Jersey, please contact Villani & DeLuca today at 732-965-3350.  One of the firm’s experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers will answer all of your questions during a free, no obligation consultation.