If your marriage has reached the point of no return, divorce has likely become an inevitability. While New Jersey allows no-fault divorces, it is not a purely no-fault state. There is an option in New Jersey whereby you can seek a fault divorce. While the vast majority of New Jersey divorces are predicated on irreconcilable differences (and are, therefore, no-fault divorces), there are other specific fault grounds upon which your divorce can be based. If you are moving forward with a divorce complaint – or have been served with divorce papers – it's time to consult with an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney.
What Is a No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey?
When a couple pursues a no-fault divorce in New Jersey, it means that neither party cites the other as being at fault for the dissolution of the marriage. Instead, both parties admit to having irreconcilable differences, which is just legalese for being unable to get along – with no reasonable chance of reconciliation. To obtain a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences, the following points must be valid:
- One party to the divorce lived in New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months before filing.
- You and your spouse experienced irreconcilable differences for at least 6 months before filing.
- Your irreconcilable differences caused the breakdown of your marriage.
- There is no reasonable hope that you will reconcile.
A no-fault divorce can also be based on separation, which means that you and your divorcing spouse need to be separated for at least 18 months before filling. No-fault divorces are far less likely to become contested divorces that require the court's intervention.
Do You Have to Be Separated for a Year to Get a Divorce in New Jersey?
Many divorcing couples in New Jersey are confused by the separation requirement for no-fault divorces in the state. The fact of the matter is that New Jersey does not have a legal separation process – you are either married or divorced. Still, to obtain a no-fault divorce based on separation, you and your spouse must have lived separately for at least 18 months.
Fault and the Terms of Divorce
To obtain a divorce, you and your divorcing spouse will need to resolve specific issues, including:
- The distribution of your marital assets
- Your child custody arrangements
- Child support
Any terms that you cannot resolve between yourselves will ultimately require a court date and trial. The divorce related issues that are most likely to become contentious and make the court's intervention more likely include the division of marital property, child custody and child support.
Suppose your divorce is based on fault grounds. In that case, the judge will not factor the assessment of fault into the division of your marital property. Only in scarce circumstances can marital fault be considered in the determination of reasonable alimony. Adultery and the other fault-based divorce grounds generally have no impact on alimony.
There are a variety of grounds that the State of New Jersey recognizes for fault divorces, which generally require a trial before the court.
Abandonment means that your spouse left you and your shared home for at least 12 consecutive months during your marriage.
Addiction to Drugs or Habitual Drunkenness
Suppose your spouse was addicted to drugs or habitually drunk for 12 consecutive months after your marriage and before filing for your divorce. In that case, the grounds are met for a fault divorce.
Adultery refers to when your spouse cheats on you with another person. For example, suppose your divorce is based on the affair. In that case, the residency requirement that you (as the filer) must have lived in the state for at least 12 months before filing is reduced to a residency requirement of any amount of time. Adultery is one of the more common fault grounds sought in New Jersey.
Deviant Sexual Conduct
Deviant sexual conduct refers to engaging in deviant sexual conduct with you but without your consent. What constitutes deviant sexual conduct, however, is poorly defined by New Jersey law.
If your spouse engaged in mental or physical cruelty that resulted in any of the following, it fits the classification of extreme cruelty:
- Endangered your life
- Endangered your health
- Made it unbearable for you to live with them
Obtaining a divorce based on extreme cruelty requires specific time restrictions in relation to the last incident of cruelty.
To obtain a fault divorce that is based on imprisonment, your spouse must have been sentenced to at least 18 consecutive months behind bars after you were married and before you filed for divorce. If you file after your spouse is released from jail, you'll also need to demonstrate that you didn't live together post-release.
Suppose your spouse was institutionalized for mental illness for at least 24 consecutive months after marrying and before divorce. In that case, you can seek a fault-based divorce.
The Divorce Process
The basic divorce process in New Jersey includes:
- One of the parties seeking the divorce files the divorce complaint.
- The other party responds.
- Each party files a separate Case Information Statement (CIS) with the court addressing all relevant financial information.
- Both spouses attempt to reach a settlement agreement.
- If a settlement agreement proves unsuccessful, the couple moves forward to an Early Settlement Panel.
- Next is Economic Mediation, and if this fails to produce the necessary results, the couple will proceed to a trial date with the court.
Call Us Today to Speak with an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Attorney
The savvy New Jersey divorce attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C., have an impressive wealth of experience helping clients like you successfully resolve their divorce concerns, including issues related to fault-based divorce. To book your free legal consultation today, please don't wait to contact or call us at 732-709-7757.