Fault vs. No Fault Divorce in New Jersey

Hackensack NJ Divorce Attorney

Under New Jersey law, your Complaint for Divorce requires you to cite some grounds for divorce, which is essentially the reason why your marriage is ending. Prior to 2007, divorcing couples in New Jersey had options solely related to marital fault, meaning someone must be to blame for the dissolution of the marriage. The only alternative to a fault-based divorce was first to enter into a period of separation for 18 months during which the spouses lived separately before filing for divorce based on separation. Now, spouses have the option to cite “irreconcilable differences.” which essentially means that no one is at fault but the marriage has experienced a breakdown that is irreparable. When beginning the divorce process, understanding all of your options with regard to fault vs. no fault divorce is absolutely essential. An experienced New Jersey divorce attorney can evaluate your specific circumstances, thoroughly explain all of your options, and assist you through the divorce process from beginning to end. Rosa Rickett is a highly skilled NJ divorce lawyer who fashions a divorce strategy based on the unique needs of her clients. At The Elfant Rickett Law Firm, we understand that your individual circumstances require a plan of action that best serves you and we work with you to achieve your goals. Our priority is to ensure that every client feels heard, understood, and aggressively advocated for. One client described her experience this way:

“If you would like for someone to fight for you with their teeth, then choose Rosa Rickett. Rosa is very sharp, thinks on her feet, knowledgeable, and a professional family lawyer. Rosa thinks through each and every complex situation. And when you feel stressed and overwhelmed, she has got your back and you won’t have to worry about a thing. She was able to get me what I wanted in a short period of time. I am happily divorced because of Rosa Rickett!” – Irina

To read more of our client reviews, visit our Client Reviews Page and please feel free to contact our office in Hackensack at 201.968.5700 to schedule a consultation about your specific divorce case.

No Fault Divorce Options in New Jersey

If neither you nor your spouse want to pursue a fault-based divorce, you have two potential options for a no fault divorce in New Jersey. First, you can undergo an 18-month period of separation during which you live in separate households before filing for a no fault divorce. Notably, the 18 months must be consecutive, after which there is a presumption that there is “no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.” The second avenue is to file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, which became an option for divorce filing in 2007. Before the law was changed, couples had to undergo an 18-month separation or cite some form of marital fault in order to proceed with the divorce process. Now, spouses can choose to avoid allegations of any kind, acknowledging that they may have seen a change in the relationship over time that is no longer working for them. Irreconcilable differences simply means that there has been a breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months, which makes it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. If you wish to file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, you and your spouse must have lived in New Jersey for at least one year consecutively and your irreconcilable differences must have existed for at least six months.

Grounds for a Fault-based Divorce in New Jersey

Section 2A:34-2 of the New Jersey Statutes “Causes for divorce from bond of matrimony,” addresses the specific grounds that New Jersey Courts acknowledge as the basis for a fault-based divorce. Note that the person filing for divorce and citing grounds is referred to as the “plaintiff,” while the person who allegedly committed any of the following acts is referred to as the “defendant.” The grounds for a fault-based divorce in New Jersey include:

  • Adultery;
  • Abandonment, 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;
  • Extreme cruelty, 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;
  • Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug as defined in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, P.L.1970, c.226 or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the complaint;
  • Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the complaint;
  • 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;
  • Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff;

Options for No Fault vs. Fault Divorce in NJ

Sometimes, couples who choose to go the route of no fault divorce find that Alternative Dispute Resolution such as mediation or collaborative divorce is a desirable way to resolve issues of child custody, division of assets, spousal support, etc. On the other hand, spouses who cite specific grounds for a fault-based divorce may need to proceed with divorce litigation if issues cannot be resolved through negotiation among their respective divorce attorneys. When you are considering what grounds to cite when filing for divorce and wondering what strategy may best meet your needs, consulting a knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorney is highly advisable.

Contact a Teaneck NJ No Fault Divorce Lawyer to Discuss Your Case

If you are filing for divorce or you have already submitted your Complaint for Divorce in New Jersey, an experienced NJ divorce lawyer can ensure that you understand all of your options with regard to grounds for divorce and assist you in formulating a strategy for the divorce process. At The Elfant Rickett Law Firm, our practice is dedicated entirely to divorce and family law matters and we are passionate about helping clients through this often challenging time. Contact our offices in Bergen County at 201.968.5700 or submit an online contact form to schedule a consultation about your divorce case. We assist clients throughout New Jersey, including in Essex County, Passaic County, Hudson County, and Morris County.

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The Elfant Rickett Law Firm Serves Clients throughout New Jersey, including in: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County.

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