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What Does No Fault Divorce Mean in New Jersey?

By Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri da Costa LLC on August 08, 2023

To obtain a divorce in New Jersey, you must state a reason for the divorce that is recognized by New Jersey law. (These are called “grounds” for divorce). New Jersey recognizes 9 different “grounds” for divorce, some based on fault while others are considered no fault.

  • Adultery (fault based)
  • Willful and continued desertion for 12+ months (fault based)
  • Extreme cruelty for 3+ months (fault based)
  • Voluntarily induced addiction for 12+ consecutive months (fault based)
  • Institutionalization for mental illness for 24+ consecutive months (fault based)
  • Imprisonment for 18+ consecutive months (fault based)
  • Deviant sexual conduct (fault based)
  • Separation for 18+ consecutive months (no fault based)
  • Irreconcilable differences for 6+ months (no fault based)

(See N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2)

The last two of these grounds are what is considered a “no fault” divorce, with irreconcilable differences being the most common. These are often used when there is no legal wrongdoing by either party, but the relationship has reached a point where it is unlikely to be repaired. However, even when there is legal wrongdoing by one party, it may still be a wise tactical decision to use a no fault ground for divorce.

While there is no legal wrongdoing required to obtain a divorce in New Jersey on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, there are still requirements which must be met. These include:

  • You or your spouse must have lived in New Jersey for 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce;
  • You or your spouse must have experienced irreconcilable differences for 6+ months, and;
  • The irreconcilable differences are a reason that the marriage, civil union or domestic partnership should be dissolved; and
  • There is no reasonable prospect of reconciling.

(See, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(i)). Advantages of utilizing “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds for your divorce include a shorter required time span of separation (6 months instead of the 18 months required to utilize separation as grounds for a divorce). (See, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(d)).

Additionally, each ground for divorce has its own set of requirements that must be met. For example, to utilize adultery as the grounds for a divorce, the divorcing party must show that “one spouse reject[ed] the other by entering into a personal intimate sexual relationship with any other person...” (See, S.B. v S.J.B., 258 N.J. Super. 151, 157 (Ch. Div. 1992)).

In determining whether fault is a consideration when establishing alimony, the jurisdiction's identified rationale behind alimony is closely connected with whether fault should be considered. (See, Mani v. Mani, 183 N.J. 70, 80 (2005)). New Jersey has long expressed the view that alimony is neither punishment nor reward, and as such, does not consider fault when establishing. Id. While there is an exception to this when “the fault has affected the parties’ economic life”, in practice this is very narrow. Mani, supra, 183 N.J. at 72. For example, fault may be considered should one spouse gamble away all savings and retirement funds. Id. at 90. However, absent egregious conduct such as this, fault is not a consideration in alimony. Fault also has no impact on court determinations regarding child support or equitable distribution. (See, Chalmers v. Chalmers, 65 N.J. 186 (1974); Kinsella v. Kinsella, 150 N.J. 276, 314 (1997)).

Filing for divorce is a big step in anyone’s life. Allow our experienced divorce attorneys at Snyder Sarno Macelli D’Aniello and da Costa LLC help you cultivate your case to ensure the best outcome.

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