Divorce in New Jersey, Part 2

Continued from Divorce in New Jersey, Part 1

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Fault-based grounds for divorce

In Part 1, we explained the two no-fault provisions available through the New Jersey family law statutes. The following are fault-based, presumably leading to contested cases. Otherwise, the couple could use one of the no-fault provisions; however, it is possible that a couple could qualify under (1) the separation statute or (2) irreconcilable differences, yet not be in agreement on child custody or asset division.

Extreme cruelty

This probably sounds much worse than it is nowadays, having been watered down through the years, and is the least onerous of the fault-based grounds. In explication on the complaint, comments might be as benign as something like the other spouse refused to do laundry, anymore, and said divorce would be a good idea.

Adultery

In New Jersey, sex does not have to be involved (or proven). The criteria are rejection of the spouse and entering into “an intimate relationship” with another person, regardless of any, specific sex acts. If the third party is known, that party’s identity must be included in the complaint and service of same made upon that party.

(Also, recall from Part 1,  when complaining of adultery, the plaintiff need not meet the usual residency requirement of one year but must be instead merely a current state resident.)

Desertion

This, too, probably is beyond common perception: the first criterion is “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”; notice however the term cohabit: it could be that the parties continue to share a residence, but one party refuses sex.

Addiction

This refers to voluntary addiction or habituation to narcotics (defined in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act) or drunkenness for at least 12 months.

Institutionalization

If, once married, one spouse is institutionalized for 12 or more consecutive months before the complaint is filed, the question becomes whether the spouse can fulfill duties as a partner in the marriage and is grounds for divorce.

Incarceration

Similar to the preceding, except the spouse is imprisoned for criminal conduct, and the period is extended to 18 months. However, there’s a caveat: If the parties resumed cohabitation subsequent to the imprisoned spouse’s release, no grounds exist.

Deviant sexual conduct

The specified conduct could include a wide variety of behaviors, but the key to this statute is that the offending spouse engaged in such behavior without consent from the other spouse. If you intend to any fault-based grounds, you should consult an attorney–and especially so if you intend to file on the grounds of deviant sexual behavior.

Venue: Superior Courts, Family Law Division

The New Jersey Court system considers its structure to be “one of the simplest in the land.” Throughout the state, any divorce proceeding will be handled by the local Family Practice Division:

Overview of the Family Practice Division
The Family Practice Division is part of the Trial Court Services Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), New Jersey Judiciary. The primary function of this division is development and implementation of policy, procedures and best practice in the vicinages and the support of state-level committees to advance this process. Approximately 400,000 family related cases such as divorce, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, child support, foster-care placements, adoption, custody and visitation, kinship guardianship, and termination of parental rights are heard in the vicinage family divisions. The Family Practice Division coordinates a number of volunteer programs which allow citizen input into the Judiciary programs. Listed are some of the areas of focus, which are initiated and staffed through the many committees in the Family Practice Division of the AOC.

Litigant Inquiries
The Family Practice Division is staffed by attorneys, professionals and support persons, who respond to written and telephone inquiries from individuals, both in and out of state. Family staff is not permitted to represent litigants or legally advise them. They do, however, assist individuals who need guidance as to what procedural options may be available to them. Also, they answer questions of policy that may assist the litigant in better understanding the family court process.

Next: Divorce in New Jersey, Part 3

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