What are the grounds for divorce in New Jersey?

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By John Jones, Esq.

There are nine grounds for divorce in New Jersey! The grounds are:

  1. Adultery – Obviously, pictures of two people engaged in relations are extremely hard to acquire. Therefore, proof of the opportunity to have relations and the inclination to do so may be sufficient.
  2. Willful Desertion – The offender must be separated for twelve consecutive months, against the will of the deserted party. An unreasonable refusal to engage in marital relations for one year may also be considered desertion, even if the parties continue to live together.
  3. Extreme Cruelty – The acts can be physical or mental. They must endanger the mental or physical health of the filing party or make it improper or unreasonable to expect the filing party to continue in the marriage.
  4. Voluntary addiction to drugs or habitual drunkenness for no less than twelve consecutive months – This may be difficult to prove, since most people will not abuse drugs or get inebriated in the presence of witnesses for a whole year.
  5. Institutionalization for a mental illness for no less than twenty four consecutive months – The institutionalization can be voluntary or compelled.
  6. Imprisonment for no less than eighteen consecutive months – If the action starts after the person is released, the parties cannot have resumed living together as husband and wife.
  7. Deviant Sexual Conduct – Again, difficult to prove.
  8. No less than eighteen consecutive months of separation – The parties must live in separate habitations and there must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
  9. Irreconcilable differences – The differences must cause the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months before the filing.

Many folks would say that alcoholism, drug addiction or mental illness do not require the person to be at fault, as these conditions are more like a disease. However, the last two grounds are generally referred to as the “no fault” grounds. Regardless, our society has gotten to the point where fault plays no significant role in divorce. It is clearly disregarded for division of property or child support. It can be considered for alimony, but the fault must be very egregious. For example, terrible physical abuse or the intentional or grossly negligent complete dissipation of all financial assets. Of course, there are some cases where marital fault spills over into another issue; most notable in a custody dispute.

Based on my personal experience and anecdotal evidence, I believe the vast majority of divorces in New Jersey are actually granted on one of the two no fault grounds. The initial filings may contain fault allegations, but almost all cases settle. When they do, the divorce may be “put through” based on a no fault ground.