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Divorce in New Jersey: Fault or No-Fault

No-Fault divorces in New Jersey first became an option in 2007, and since then have become the primary legal means of divorce for most splitting couples in New Jersey.

Choosing an experienced divorce lawyer is important, regardless of whether you are choosing a no-fault or fault based divorce. In fact, a free consultation with an experienced divorce attorney may help determine the best course of action in your particular circumstances.

No fault divorces in New Jersey will be filed under “irreconcilable differences.” Requirements include 12 months of New Jersey residency for you or your spouse; irreconcilable differences that make it appear the marriage should be terminated; and that there is no prospect for reconciliation.

Some confusion exists as many think they must wait 6 months before filing a no-fault divorce in New Jersey. That is incorrect. The law only requires that the irreconcilable differences have existed for six months or longer.

Prior to passing the no-fault option in 2007, most New Jersey couples divorced on fault grounds, based on either separation (after living apart or at least 18 months) or extreme cruelty.

Fault Divorce in New Jersey

Grounds for a fault based divorce are found in N.J.S.2A:34-2 and include:

  • Desertion: 12 months or longer.
  • Imprisonment: Where defendant is in jail 18 or more months after marriage and the couple has not resumed cohabitation.
  • Extreme cruelty: Covers many forms of abuse.
  • Addiction/Habitual drunkenness
  • Institutionalization: For mental illness suffered for at least 24 consecutive months.
  • Adultery/deviant sexual conduct

While most New Jersey divorces are filed under “irreconcilable differences”, there can be benefits to filing a fault-based divorce. While proving your case will be required (unlike “irreconcilable differences” used in no-fault divorces), an important advantage is a spouse’s conduct can be admissible in court and may influence the outcome of asset division, child custody, and other important decisions facing the judge.

Equitable Distribution of Property in New Jersey Divorce

Divorcing under fault grounds may be one way to influence property-division decisions, but the same is more common in cases of abuse, substance misuse or child endangerment. New Jersey is an equitable division state, meaning property divisions are to be fair, given the circumstances, but not necessarily equal.

Marital property, with few exceptions, will be considered all assets and debts acquired during the marriage – either individually or collectively.

Factors that may be considered when dividing property include length of marriage; age and health of both parties; income or property brought into the marriage; standard of living during the marriage; prenuptial or post nuptial agreements; each spouse’s economic position and earning capacity; career sacrifices made by a spouse; present value of all property and associated tax consequences; and any other factors deemed relevant by the court.

In many cases, filing a fault based divorce may not have the desired impact on a judge’s decisions, and thus may not be a client’s best option. Time and effort may be better spent in identifying marital assets and taking other steps to obtain the best possible financial settlement – rather than expending the energy and resources arguing fault.

Choosing an experienced divorce lawyer in East Brunswick is the best place to start.

Contact the New Jersey family law firm of Rozin-Golinder Law LLC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call (732) 810-0034.

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