Divorces in New Jersey are filed as "fault" or "no-fault", depending on the circumstances. Within each of these categories are "grounds", or legal reasons under which the court would grant the divorce. No-fault is the easier category since it only encompasses the grounds of separation or irreconcilable differences. In order to file under separation, spouses must have been living apart for at least 18 months, and neither party blames the other one for causing the marriage to fail. Irreconcilable differences also indicate that neither spouse is faulty, but this is different from separation in that it only requires spouses to have lived apart for 12 months. In addition, spouses must agree that these differences existed for at least six months, that divorce appears to be the only option, and that there is no reasonable chance for reconciliation.
Most divorces in New Jersey are filed as no-fault, even if a spouse is technically at fault. No-fault divorces are normally resolved quicker than fault-based divorces, since they're less likely to end up in litigation. This allows the couple to move on with their new lives as quickly as possible, without spending large sums of money on court and legal fees. However, fault based divorces may be the better choice in situations where you need to protect your children and/or assets. Below are some of the most common fault grounds and their possible advantages:
- Adultery: The first advantage is that there is no waiting period to file under adultery. It doesn't automatically negate a spouse's right to alimony and equitable distribution, but there have been cases where circumstances resulted in more favorable settlements for the wronged spouse. However, these are extreme circumstances, such as a case where one spouse goes through a couple's entire savings in order to provide for his or her lover.
- Extreme Cruelty: This category includes any type of physical or mental abuse that endangers one's life, which is why most filings center around incidents of domestic abuse. Under such sensitive conditions, you may wish to file for sole or primary custody of your children, in which case it may be in your best interest to file under extreme cruelty.
- Desertion: This is a common filing among couples where one spouse walks out on the other one and has not returned for 12 or more months. However, it can also be filed by spouses who live together, but have had no physical intimacy for at least 12 months. In the case where a spouse walks out, you may have an advantage when it comes to alimony and property division if he or she has refused to contribute to the household expenses.
There are additional fault grounds which may be better suited to your situation. Grounds for special cases including addiction, incarceration and mental illness may be your best option depending on what you want to achieve from your divorce. Make sure to discuss all your available options with an experienced family law attorney before you file.