Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

New Jersey allows both no-fault and fault-based divorce. Learn about your options and how your choice will affect the divorce process.

By , Legal Editor
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To get a divorce in any state, you must have a legally accepted reason (or "ground"). Before filing for divorce in New Jersey, you should understand what the state's grounds for divorce are, how to decide which one applies to your divorce, and the consequences of your decision.

Is New Jersey a No-Fault Divorce State?

New Jersey is a hybrid divorce state—meaning that the state allows you to choose either a no-fault or fault-based divorce. When you file for a fault-based divorce, you'll need to claim (and prove) that your spouse was to blame for the end of your marriage by engaging in a certain kind of misconduct. That's not necessary with a no-fault divorce.

Whether you file for a no-fault or a fault-based divorce, you'll also have to meet New Jersey's residency requirement. The general rule is that you or your spouse must have been a state resident for a year just before you file the divorce papers. The only exception is when you're filing based on your spouse's adultery. In that case, one of you must have lived in the state since the adultery happened. (N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-10 (2023).)

No-Fault Divorce Grounds in New Jersey

New Jersey has two no-fault divorce grounds:

  • Irreconcilable differences: You and your spouse can no longer get along, your differences have caused the breakdown of your marriage for at least six months, and there's no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
  • Separation. You and your spouse have lived apart (in different homes) for at least 18 consecutive months, and there's no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. A New Jersey judge will presume that you aren't likely to get back together if you've been separated for the required amount of time.

(N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-2(d), (i) (2023).)

You'll need to claim a no-fault ground if you want the time- and cost-saving advantages of uncontested divorce in New Jersey. But you should know that a no-fault divorce isn't necessarily the same as an uncontested divorce. Even if you and your spouse have been separated long enough or agree that you have irreconcilable differences, your divorce will be contested if you aren't also able to agree about all of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, including property division, alimony, and, if you have kids, child support and custody.

    Fault-Based Divorce Grounds in New Jersey

    In New Jersey, you also have the option of filing for divorce based on any of the following types of misconduct:

    • adultery
    • desertion for at least 12 months or more
    • extreme cruelty—acts of physical or mental abuse that happened at least three months before you start the divorce process and that endangered your health or safety, or have made it unreasonable to expect you to keep living with your spouse
    • drug or alcohol addiction
    • deviant sexual behavior without your permission, and
    • imprisonment for at least 18 consecutive months during your marriage.

    Although it's not misconduct, mental illness is also allowed as a fault-based divorce ground, as long as your spouse was institutionalized for at least two consecutive years just before you started divorce proceedings. (N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-2 (2023).)

    Is Filing for a Fault-Based Divorce Worth It?

    If you pursue a fault-based divorce, you'll have to attend a court hearing and present evidence proving that:

    • your spouse engaged in the misconduct, and
    • the behavior was the reason your marriage ended.

    You'll most likely need to hire an attorney to help you gather the right kind of evidence and to argue your case before the judge. All of this means more time and more expense.

    If you're considering filing for a fault-based divorce, you should at least speak to an experienced family lawyer who can evaluate your situation and help you decide whether there would be any benefit that would outweigh the added cost and stress that come with this type of divorce.

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