The Journey from Finding Fault to No Fault
New Jersey has become one of the easiest states in which to get divorced. In our last alimony-related blog post, we discussed the origins of divorce law, along with the fact that, for most of American, history, one of the parties had to do something “wrong” for a divorce to be granted. Historically, there were only two causes of action for divorce: adultery and desertion. It was not unusual for substantial time to be spent on private investigators and testimony calculated to demonstrate that a cause of action had taken place. Much has changed. New Jersey now has nine grounds (or “causes of action”) upon which someone can successfully file for divorce under New Jersey Statute 2A:34-2. (Causes for divorce from bond of matrimony). They are as follows: a. Adultery; b. Willful and continued desertion for the term of 12 or more months, which may be established by satisfactory proof that the parties have ceased to cohabit as man and wife; c. Extreme cruelty, which is defined as including any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the defendant; provided that no complaint for divorce shall be filed until after 3 months from the date of the last act of cruelty complained of in the complaint, but this provision shall not be held to apply to any counterclaim; d Separation, provided that the husband and wife have lived separate and apart in different habitations for a period of at least 18 or more consecutive months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation; provided, further that after the 18-month period there shall be a presumption that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation; e. Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug as defined in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, P.L.1970, c. 226 or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the complaint; f. Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the complaint; g. Imprisonment of the defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after marriage, provided that where the action is not commenced until after the defendant's release, the parties have not resumed cohabitation following such imprisonment; h. Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff. i. Irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. 60 years ago, getting a divorce was very difficult and if you could not prove adultery or dissertation, you were stuck in a bad marriage until death did you part. Today, being granted a divorce is the “easy” part for most litigants. The vast majority of married individuals who want to terminate their marriage can find a reason in the litany above and get divorced provided that they meet jurisdictional requirements. The hard part, of course, is determining what happens to your stuff. Equitable distribution is another favorite topic here at our blog. Who gets what and, most importantly, where do the kids go? DeMichele and DeMichele legal bloggers will continue to provide you with the historical context under-girding the legal concepts that affect your family life and bottom line. In the interim, if you or a loved one have questions regarding alimony, the enforcement of alimony orders, or the modification of alimony orders contact us or call us at (856)546-1350 to schedule a consultation with our experienced New Jersey alimony attorneys.