When you file for divorce, the state of New Jersey requires that you give a reason why you want to end your marriage. The state has a number of acceptable reasons for obtaining a divorce.
The first two reasons qualify spouses for a “no-fault divorce.”
If you and your spouse agree that there is no way the marriage can continue, and if you have lived in different residences for at least 18 months or longer, you can file for divorce on grounds of separation. However, you must live in separate dwellings, and you will need to be able to prove this. Living in separate bedrooms of the same house does not qualify. This qualifies you for a no-fault divorce.
If you cannot wait for 18 months, and you both agree that the marriage cannot be saved, you may file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. You have to prove that you have tried to save the marriage for at least six months prior to filing the divorce complaint.
At Fault Grounds for Divorce
There are also several reasons that qualify as at fault divorces. For any of these, you have to prove that the reason you are divorcing is because of one of these. The spouse doing the complaining is the plaintiff, and the one who the complaint is lodged against is the defendant. In all but the most extreme of cases, these reasons do not affect distribution of marital property (everything accumulated during the marriage) or child support.
If you can prove your spouse has cheated on you, you can file on grounds of adultery.
If your spouse has left you and your home or has refused to have sexual relations with you for at least 12 months or more, you may file based on grounds of desertion.
You can file for divorce on the grounds of addiction, but you must be able to prove that your spouse has had this addiction to drugs or alcohol for 12 months or more before filing.
If your spouse has performed any “deviant” sexual act on you without your consent, you may file for divorce based on this ground. This can be extremely hard to prove.
If your spouse has made it extremely difficult or impossible to live with him or her, or has endangered your safety or health in any way, you may file based on extreme cruelty. This includes physical abuse and mental cruelty. If you are filing as the plaintiff, you must wait at least three months from the date of the last alleged act of extreme cruelty. There is no waiting period if you are using extreme cruelty as your counterclaim as a defendant.
You can file for divorce based on imprisonment if your spouse has been sentenced to jail for 18 months or more. If your spouse’s sentence was less than 18 months, and you can prove that you did not live together after his or her release so that the time of the sentence and time of separation equal 18 months, you can file based on imprisonment.
If you can prove that your spouse has been in a mental institution for 24 months or more after the start of your marriage, you can file for divorce based on institutionalization.
In most (but not all) circumstances, we recommend filing on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, even though you may have one of the other “at fault” grounds to go on as well.
Contact the law firm of Sara Sencer McArdle at 973-366-5244 for a free consultation, during which we will help you determine exactly which of the above grounds is the most appropriate for your particular case.