by Lina Guillen, Attorney
Is New Jersey a No-Fault State?
New Jersey allows “no-fault” divorces, but it is not a pure “no-fault” state. Divorcing couples in New Jersey also have the option of seeking a fault-based divorce.
What is a No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, a “no-fault” divorce is based on “irreconcilable differences,” which is just a fancy way of saying a couple can’t get along anymore, and there’s no reasonable chance that they’ll get back together.
In a no-fault divorce, spouses don’t have to allege that the other spouse did something bad, which led to the divorce. Spouses can end their marriage without airing dirty laundry in court or being forced to defend against embarrassing accusations in public.
The no-fault process may help lessen the heavy burden a divorce places on kids. Even an “amicable divorce” is hard on children. Imagine how much harder it is when kids hear bad things about their parents in a “fault divorce” – that sort of ugly divorce battle can have lasting, negative effects on children’s emotional health and relationships with both parents.
How do I File for a No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey?
You may pursue a no-fault divorce as long as you meet all of the following requirements:
- you or your spouse have lived in New Jersey for 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce
- you and your spouse have experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months
- the irreconcilable differences caused the breakdown of your marriage and make it appear that the marriage should end, and
there is no reasonable chance for a reconciliation.
You can also base your New Jersey divorce on the ground of separation. If you’re seeking a divorce based on separation, you’ll need to show the court that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least 18 months, and there is no reasonable chance of reconciliation.
What is a Fault Divorce?
A fault divorce is based on one spouse’s “fault.” In other words, one spouse must show that the other spouse’s misconduct caused the divorce.
Although all states now allow couples to get divorced based on either the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences, or on grounds of separation, about two thirds of US states still recognize “fault divorces” and allow spouses to make fault-based allegations against the other.
Depending on the state, fault (or misconduct) may also impact a court’s decisions about alimony, the division of property, and child custody.
What are the Fault Grounds in New Jersey?
The fault grounds in New Jersey include:
- willful desertion (abandonment) for at least 12 months
- physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of one spouse, or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect that spouse to continue to live with the abuser, and continued drug or alcohol abuse for a period of at least 12 months.
For a complete list of all the fault grounds in New Jersey, see N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2.
In New Jersey, judges won’t consider fault or misconduct when determining how to divide property between spouses, but they can consider any evidence of fault or misconduct when deciding how much alimony is reasonable and just. So, for example, if a cheating spouse requests alimony, a judge may decide to lower the amount awarded, or may increase an amount given to an “innocent” spouse.
If you’re considering pursuing a fault divorce, or your spouse has filed for a fault-based divorce, you should contact an experience d family law attorney for advice on how to proceed.