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The Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey
How long do I have to live in New Jersey before I can file for divorce here?

It is important to be educated that with one exception, a complaint for divorce cannot be filed in New Jersey, unless one of the spouses has been a resident of New Jersey for at least one year prior to filing. The only exception for the one year rule is for adultery. If you are a resident of New Jersey and if your spouse is committing adultery, then there is no one year residency requirement before you can file.

How many grounds for divorce are there in New Jersey?

New Jersey now recognizes nine grounds for divorce. The grounds of separation and of irreconcilable differences are considered to be "no-fault" grounds. Meanwhile, the remaining seven grounds involve allegations of "fault."

What are the no fault grounds for divorce?
  • Irreconcilable Differences

    The ground for divorce of irreconcilable differences was recently established in 2007. Many people who filed for divorce got "bugged" out if they had to file for extreme cruelty. Therefore, the grounds of irreconcilable differences were designed to try to make the divorce process somewhat less adversarial. The complaint based on irreconcilable differences must allege that the parties have had a) irreconcilable differences; b) which has caused the breakdown of the marriage; c) the breakdown must have been for a period of six months; d) the marriage should be dissolved; e) and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Under this new ground for divorce, married couples can still file for a divorce even if they continue to live together in the same household.
  • Separation

    The parties are required to have lived separate residences for at least eighteen consecutive months immediately before filing the complaint. Moreover, there must be no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

What are the grounds for divorce based upon fault?
  • Extreme Cruelty

    The ground of divorce for extreme cruelty is also a very popular one. Extreme cruelty includes any physical or mental cruelty which makes it improper or unreasonable to expect one spouse to cohabitate with the other spouse. Although this ground appears very harsh, it is simply a legal "term of art." The courts of New Jersey liberally interpret what constitutes extreme cruelty. In my twenty years of practice I have never seen a court deny a divorce for the reason that a spouse was not able to prove extreme cruelty. In my put thru hearings, the court simply asks the complaining spouse if he or she has read the allegations of extreme cruelty, and if they are true and correct. Nonetheless, in the more nasty cases, some spouses really over do it, and they list pages and pages of allegations of extreme cruelty. I don't believe in the merits of this type of strategy. If you encounter a divorce complaint with pages and pages of allegations of extreme cruelty, then that spouse has an "axe to grind." The case will not be a simple one, and for any young lawyers reading this article, get a decent sized retainer before you accept the case.
  • Adultery

    Another popular ground for divorce is for adultery. The New Jersey courts have defined adultery as one spouse's rejection of the other, by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person, regardless of the specific sexual acts performed. If it is known, the divorce complaint must state the name of the adulterer or the paramour. The cheater is also referred to as a co-respondent. A copy of the divorce complaint must be served on the cheater or the co-respondent. The cheater does not have to file an answer to the divorce complaint.

    The ground of adultery does not require that the spouse who filed for divorce be a resident of New Jersey for at least one year prior to the filing of the complaint. Instead, the filer must only be a resident of New Jersey at the time he or she files the complaint.
  • Desertion

    Desertion is defined as the willful and continuous desertion of one spouse against the other. The parties must have stopped living together as husband and wife for at least the twelve consecutive months immediately prior to the filing of the complaint. Under the grounds of desertion, the parties may still live in the same household, as long as the one spouse party has willfully withheld sexual relations for the requisite time period.
  • Addiction

    Addiction is defined as the habitual drunkenness or a persistent and substantial dependence on a narcotic or other controlled dangerous substance subsequent to the marriage. Moreover, the addiction must have lasted for at least the twelve consecutive months immediately prior to the filing of the complaint.
  • Institutionalization

    This ground requires that a spouse must have been institutionalized for mental illness for twelve or more consecutive months, before the marriage and before filing the complaint.
  • Imprisonment

    Imprisonment is a ground for divorce in New Jersey when a spouse has been imprisoned for eighteen or more months after the marriage. Moreover, the parties can't resume living together once the jailed spouse is released from prison.
  • Deviant Sexual Conduct

    Deviant sexual conduct is the final ground for divorce in New Jersey. I have never seen this ground for divorce filed. Deviant sexual conduct simply requires that the sexual conduct must have occurred without the other party's consent.

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If the divorce is being filed under one of the seven fault grounds (including extreme cruelty, adultery, abandonment, substance or alcohol addiction, institutionalization, deviant sexual conduct and incarceration), the 18 month separation period, required for a no-fault divorce, is waived. However, each ground for divorce has its own stipulations.
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