What is a Dissolution?
The end to a civil union is accomplished through a “dissolution.” Under the Civil Union Act, when a civil union couple wishes to have their relationship legally dissolved, they must file a complaint for dissolution in family court. The dissolution process is controlled by divorce laws and principles—a civil union is dissolved in almost the same manner as a marriage is terminated.
Dissolution: A Process Similar to Divorce
Although New Jersey's civil union law states that the dissolution of civil unions are subject to the same rights and obligations involved in a divorce, the grounds available to civil union couples seeking a dissolution differ from those for married couples seeking a divorce. Nine grounds are available for divorce in New Jersey, while seven are available for civil union dissolution. Both married and civil union couples may file for termination of their relationships in New Jersey on grounds of:
- Extreme cruelty
- Separation for 18 or more consecutive months (the original no-fault divorce)
- Habitual drug addiction or drunkenness
- Institutionalization for mental illness for 24 or more consecutive months
- Imprisonment for 18 or more consecutive months
The following grounds are available to New Jersey married couples, but not to New Jersey civil union couples:
- Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff
- Irreconcilable differences
In the same way that alimony is a factor during divorce proceedings, civil union partners may be entitled to alimony or spousal support after dissolution. Additionally, whether or not to award equitable distribution upon dissolution will be decided in the same manner as during a divorce. Circumstances permitting, the court may award any of the four types of alimony: open durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony, and reimbursement alimony. New Jersey courts consider the following factors when awarding alimony:
- Actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
- Duration of the marriage or civil union;
- Age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
- Standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living;
- Earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
- Length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
- Parental responsibilities for the children;
- Time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
- History of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
- Equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
- Income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
- Tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment;
- The nature, amount, and length of pendent lite support paid, if any; and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Ending a Civil Union
The divorce and civil union dissolution laws in New Jersey share many similarities, making the procedure of ending a relationship easier to understand at a time of deep emotional strain. If you are considering a dissolution of your civil union or a divorce, you will need a divorce attorney who can help you through this process. The matrimonial attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. have the experience you need in order to get through your divorce or dissolution.