Irreconcilable Differences: What it Means for My Divorce

Irreconcilable Differences: What it Means for My Divorce
Town Topics of Princeton
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New Jersey has established a new cause of action for divorce known as “irreconcilable differences”.  Prior to this new cause of action, a person wanting a divorce had to establish fault such as extreme cruelty or adultery.  The only no-fault alternative required spouses to live separate and apart for 18 months prior to filing a Complaint for Divorce.  Many people considering divorce felt uncomfortable alleging fault grounds necessary to be granted a divorce without a lengthy separation.  Now, the legislature has created a new no-fault cause of action, without the 18 month separation requirement known as “irreconcilable differences.” 

The new law means that a Complaint for Divorce can assert the existence of irreconcilable differences which have caused a breakdown of the marriage for six or more months.  This new law has no separation requirement, meaning that two people can file for divorce under this cause of action if they still live together.  This ground for divorce may be appropriate to allege in certain situations such as when two people have simply grown apart and wish to end their marriage, but still wish to reside together until the divorce is finalized.  The new cause of action brings a level of civility and practicality to marital dissolution in New Jersey since it eliminates the need for spouses to allege wrongdoing on their spouse’s part which often further exacerbates an already acrimonious situation.  Many attorneys and divorce professionals welcome the new law since if may help minimize the emotion and hostility that can arise when divorce litigants file an initial Complaint.   

Other Grounds For Divorce in New Jersey

Of course, the new law does not replace other grounds for divorce which still have their rightful place in the divorce process and may be appropriate to allege in certain situations.  Those grounds include:

a. Adultery;

b.  Willful and continued desertion for the term of 12 or more months;

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;

d.  18- month physical separation;

e.  Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug;

f.  Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months;

g.  Imprisonment of the defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after marriage, and

h.  Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff.

The new irreconcilable differences law does not relieve the parties of the New Jersey residency requirement.  Except for divorces filed on adultery grounds, one of the spouses in a divorce action must have resided in New Jersey for at least one year preceding the filing of a complaint for divorce. 

How do I Determine What Ground For Divorce to Allege In My Complaint?

Every divorce is different and fact-sensitive.  A family law attorney will be able to guide you through your specific case to determine which cause of action for divorce is appropriate for your situation.  For more information on the new irreconcilable differences law, contact a Riker Danzig Family Law attorney.