Grounds for Divorce in NJ
Section 2A:34-2 of the New Jersey Divorce Statutes outline the different causes of action available for a divorce. New Jersey recognizes no-fault grounds for divorce on the basis of separation or irreconcilable differences. The parties must live separately for at least 18 consecutive months with no prospect of reconciliation to succeed on the no-fault ground for separation as governed by 2A:34-2(d). A divorce complaint cannot be filed until the 18 month period of separation has elapsed with the presumption that no reasonable prospect of reconciliation occurs after that period. The parties must have experienced irreconcilable differences for six months or more with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation to obtain a divorce on the basis of irreconcilable differences pursuant to 2A:34-2(I). In the case of an irreconcilable differences divorce or one based on fault grounds, the parties do not need to actually separate prior to commencement of the action.
New Jersey also recognizes fault grounds for divorce including adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, voluntary addiction or habituation, institutionalization, imprisonment and deviant sexual conduct. Desertion must be willful and continued for a period of 12 months or more. Extreme cruelty can be mental or physical but must be to the extent that it makes it unreasonable to expect the parties to continue to reside together. The fault ground for voluntary addiction refers to addiction to any narcotic drug and/or habitual drunkenness for 12 months or more. Institutionalization for a mental illness must be of a period greater than 24 consecutive months. A divorce can be awarded on the basis of imprisonment for 18 months or more. If the divorce is not commenced until after the defendant’s release the parties cannot have resumed cohabitation. Finally, deviant sexual conduct is that which is voluntarily performed by the defendant against plaintiff’s will. Adultery can be established through circumstantial evidence and generally requires some corroboration. When raising a claim for adultery, the third party who participated in the adultery must be named as a co-defendant and has the right to intervene. There is generally no benefit to pursuing a fault based divorce over a no fault divorce.
All grounds for divorce require NJ residency for a period of at least one year with the exception of adultery. This is true as it relates to divorce from the bonds of matrimony, or absolute divorce, as well as divorce from bed and board, or limited divorce. In the case of a limited divorce the parties will still be legally married but are able to achieve separation financially. Just as with a divorce, the parties can enter an agreement to divide all their marital property or submit to the court for a decision on division. Alimony may also be awarded where appropriate. Health insurance may continue if covered by the other spouse and legal separation is not specified as a reason for termination. A divorce from bed and board can be converted to a divorce from the bonds of matrimony if the parties elect to go through with a full divorce. It can also be revoked such that the parties resume their marriage.