Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey in 2014

In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:34-4-2, there are several “grounds” for divorce that remain alive under New Jersey Law, including:

a.  Adultery;

b. Willful and continued desertion for the term of 12 or more months, which may be established by satisfactory proof that the parties have ceased to cohabit as man and wife;

c. Extreme cruelty, which is defined as including any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the defendant; provided that no complaint for divorce shall be filed until after 3 months from the date of the last act of cruelty complained of in the complaint…;

d. Separation, provided that the husband and wife have lived separate and apart in different habitations for a period of at least 18 or more consecutive months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation…;

e. Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug as defined in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances ACt or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the Complaint;

f. Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months….;

g. Imprisonment of the defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after marriage, provided that where the action is not commenced until after the defendant’s release, the parties have not resumed cohabitation following such imprisonment;

h. Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff;

i. Irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Brief Analysis of the Above

Irreconcilable Differences is highlighted because, in my opinion, it is the only ground needed in at least 80% of cases.  We are essentially a “no-fault” state in every sense of the word (and certainly with regard to equitable distribution and the like.)  In this modern era of divorce, there is generally no reason to air “dirty laundry” in divorce pleadings.  Although it could conceivably be useful in a protracted custody battle or the like, generally it will not hurt you to leave extreme cruelty and the like out of the pleadings and bring up those facts at another time.  It should be noted that every case is different and the preference for irreconcilable differences I express here is extremely general in nature.  Other family law attorneys and litigants are sure to have different theories and views.  Also, sometimes it might be necessary for timing or jurisdictional purposes to include different grounds.  You can also include counts outside the “grounds for divorce” such as spoilation of evidence and marital torts.  As with anything, it’s important to review your case and its specific facts with a New Jersey Divorce attorney.


Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.