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What are Grounds for a Divorce in New Jersey?

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Some states have no-fault divorce, which means you need no other reason than irreconcilable differences to get a divorce.  In some states, you have to have a reason, such as adultery. New Jersey is a combination of the two. That makes it easier for some people, but it is more complicated for others. If you are getting a divorce, it is in your interest to contact Hackensack divorce lawyers, who can help you negotiate the legal system.

The courts in new New Jersey recognize that divorce is an emotional matter and that a lot is at stake when you get a divorce as far as property or money. The state recommends you have an attorney to represent your interests and that you do not try to be your own lawyer.

In New Jersey, no-fault divorce is available, but it takes some effort. You and your spouse must have been living apart for 18 months in a row, and have no reasonable prospect of getting back together. It is possible to get a divorce for essentially no reason – no fault – but it takes some time.

In recent years, states have been moving towards more no-fault divorces, which some say makes them easier to get.  Some say this makes divorce too easy and they want to re-institute needing a reason for divorce – which is an at-fault divorce.

Grounds for divorce

There are also grounds for divorce in New Jersey, where you can legally end a marriage for specific reasons.

  • Irreconcilable differences as long as the differences have existed for six months or more.
  • Extreme mental or physical cruelty. This would come under spousal abuse and could be criminal in nature. It also requires proof and certain conditions must be met.
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Constructive desertion – when one spouse forces the other one out of the home, or to move out.
  • Imprisonment. If your spouse is in jail, you have a right to file for and get a divorce.
  • You may get a divorce if your spouse is institutionalized.
  • Drug or alcohol addiction or abuse.
  • Deviant sexual behavior, which can be difficult to define.
  • Divorce from bed and board. In these cases, people stay legally married but are economically separate.  It is similar to separation. They may not remarry until they get the final divorce.

In states that have an at-fault system, you must prove your spouse did something wrong, such as one of the things in the above list. In the no-fault states, you can divorce without placing blame on either party. Sometimes people get amicable divorces when they both agree it is the best thing to do.

In New Jersey, either spouse may file for divorce. They may also use the no-fault clause as the easiest way to get a divorce. If you claim one of the legal reasons, you will have to prove it in court, which is not always easy. That will also make your legal expenses go up as your attorney will have to investigate to gather evidence to prove what you are alleging.

The divorce process

While one party may sue for divorce, the other party may not want a divorce. You cannot legally prevent your spouse from divorcing you, but you can slow the process down and make it much more expensive. You may have to go to court a few times, but eventually, they will get their legal divorce.

If one files for divorce and the other either agrees or is not going to fight it, there is an uncontested divorce. In this case, the one filing for divorce is the plaintiff, and the other spouse is the defendant. There is a filing fee. The defendant must also sign paperwork saying they do not contest the divorce. They also agree to appear in court if there are any issues that have to be resolved concerning property or children.

In these cases, both parties prepare a joint property settlement agreement which the court will very likely approve.

A contested divorce does not necessarily mean the defendant does not want a divorce. It means the defendant denies or objects to allegations in the divorce papers. Some reasons a person might contest a divorce include:

  • Denying the allegations in an at-fault case
  • Custody of children
  • Parenting time
  • Alimony
  • Splitting up the assets or property
  • Other legal matters.

There will be a few court appearances and conferences scheduled to work out the various issues. This gives the couple time to work out agreements, or to negotiate settlements that are agreeable to both sides. The judge can decide issues, but the courts would rather couples work this out themselves so no one feels unfairly treated. The judge will eventually decree the divorce, however.

You must file for a divorce in the county where you lived when you separated. There can be some issues if you live in a different state than the one you lived in when you got married, but these issues can be worked out by attorneys as part of the case. Also, to file for divorce in New Jersey, you must have lived in the state for 12 consecutive months. Irreconcilable differences must have existed for six months, and you must feel certain they cannot be resolved.

You may also file for divorce if you have been separated for 18 months. There can be a lot of reasons this could happen. Sometimes it results from abandonment and you don’t know where your spouse is.

How attorneys help

There are several legal steps to be taken when you file for divorce. This is why it is a good idea to have an attorney working with you. There is a lot of paperwork and filings that must be made. You must also complete a divorce summons, and include the current address of your spouse or partner.  You will need three copies of each form you fill out.

After the paperwork is done and you have filed for divorce, your spouse must be served a summons, which is just a legal notification that you are seeking a divorce. You may do this yourself, have the local sheriff do it for you, or hire a process service.

If you are the defendant, you must respond to the summons. You have a set amount of time to respond, and you should get an attorney before doing so. If you do not respond, the court will likely grant the divorce in favor of the plaintiff. It is in your interest to get an attorney to help protect your rights and your share of the property you have together as a couple.

You may file an answer, even if your answer is to not contest the divorce. If you do that, and you still want to be heard on issues such as child custody, you will have to file a form for that as well.  If you want to contest anything the plaintiff alleged, you may also file those counterclaims with the court.

If both parties want the divorce, they can hire separate attorneys to work out the details of the distribution of property, child support, child custody, and so forth. This way, all the details are worked out when the divorce case gets to court. The judge then only has to grant the decree making the divorce final.


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