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Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey
"No Fault" Grounds

Irreconcilable Differences - This new ground for divorce allows either husband or wife to file a complaint (formal written request for a divorce) without any specific reason or complaint. The filing party must state that they have lived in New Jersey for 12 consecutive months before the filing of the divorce complaint and there has been a breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months.

18 Month Separation - Neither spouse is required to offer evidence of fault or wrongdoing. The complaint must state that you and your spouse have lived in different houses for 18 months or more and that the months have been consecutive. You must state that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Living in the same house in different bedrooms does not fulfill the requirement. You do not have to file any documents to start the running of the 18 months. At the end of 18 months you will file a Sworn Statement that you and your spouse have been separated, living separate and apart, in different houses for 18 months or more and you do not expect to reconcile.

"Fault" Grounds

Mental Illness - If your spouse has been in an institution for 24 months or more, you are entitled to a divorce. The institutionalization must be for 24 consecutive months and the entire 24 months must be after the wedding ceremony.

Imprisonment - If your spouse has been in a prison for 18 months or more, this ground for divorce applies to you. The imprisonment must be for 18 consecutive months. The entire 18 months must be after the marriage began. The Complaint for divorce should be filed while your spouse is in prison. If the imprisoned spouse is released and you resume living together, you no longer qualify for a divorce under this ground.

Willful and Continued Desertion, Physical - If your spouse moved out of the marital home and has been gone for at least 12 months, desertion applies. The desertion must be for 12 consecutive months. If you and your spouse agreed to live separately, you may still file a Complaint based on desertion.

Willful and continued Desertion, Sexual - Sexual desertion is a persistent refusal by your spouse to engage in sexual relations with you for a period of 12 months or more. This type of desertion cannot be by mutual consent. Your spouse must refuse to engage in relations you desire and would engage in if he were willing.

Voluntary Induced Addiction - If your spouse is an alcoholic or drug addict this grounds applies. The alcoholism or drug abuse must be for 12 consecutive months or more. This ground is usually used in connection with extreme cruelty.

Adultery - If your spouse is having an affair and you know the name and address of the "other person," you may file for a divorce based on adultery. You can rely on circumstantial evidence to prove adultery and don't need pictures in a hotel room.

We have all heard of a person being accused of murder and convicted of murder where there is no body and no murder weapon. The person may be convicted even though no one saw him fire the gun. This conviction is based on circumstantial evidence. You can prove adultery the same way.

These are a few of the documents that would be used:

  • Credit card bills for hotel rooms where the hotel register lists "Mr. and Mrs."
  • Credit card bills for jewelry where you can prove that you did not receive it.
  • Love notes and cards.
  • Pictures of your spouse holding hands with, kissing or just standing a "little too close" to the "other person."
  • Private detective report - a private investigator may be hired to follow your spouse.

Unlike the previous categories there are no requirements that the behavior continue for some minimum period of time.

A copy of the complaint, which states that adultery is the ground for divorce, must be sent by certified mail to the "other person" The legal term for the "other person" is a corespondent. A correspondent may answer and say that he/she is not involved with your spouse. The concept of serving the "correspondent" came into being when being accused of having an extramarital affair would ruin a person's reputation. The courts still require notification to the correspondent even though the stigma has weakened considerably.

Extreme Cruelty - This is the most commonly used ground for divorce. More than one-half of the divorces in New Jersey are based on extreme cruelty. This ground includes all acts of physical violence and acts of mental cruelty, which endanger your safety or health, or which make continued living together unreasonable or improper. There is no waiting period.


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New Jersey has five types of spousal support. Rehabilitative alimony is a short-term monetary award that allows a spouse to go back to school or obtain training to re-enter the workforce. Limited duration alimony is awarded in cases of a short marriage when rehabilitative alimony doesn't apply. Reimbursement alimony is awarded when one spouse makes a personal sacrifice so that the other spouse could receive professional or career training. Alimony pendente lite is awarded when a divorce is pending so that both parties can maintain their current standard of living until a final judgment is made. Finally, there is permanent alimony which is usually appropriate in long term marriages and typically terminates upon the death of either party or remarriage.
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