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Grounds for divorce in New Jersey

Those in Paterson looking into ending their marriages may come across two distinct divorce-related terms that may seem contradictory: “no-fault divorce” and “grounds for divorce.” The former gives the impression that one need not cite fault when seeking a divorce, while the latter implies that there does indeed need to be a reason for a couple to divorce. While outwardly confusing, these two legal principles actually complement each other.

According to the Cornell Law School, a no-fault divorce occurs when the petitioning party does not recognize fault in either side for the deterioration of a marital relationship, yet rather simply admits that the couple no longer gets along. Both sides may contribute to the marital tension, yet its source need not be traced to either party.

The legal term defining such strain is “irreconcilable differences,” and Section 2A.34-2 of New Jersey’s Revised Statutes lists this among the valid grounds for divorce that the state recognizes. In this context, one can see how this relates to the concept of no-fault divorce. In citing irreconcilable differences, one states that the marital relationship is broken and that reconciliation is unlikely, yet does not attribute fault to anyone. New Jersey state law does require, however, that this relationship status must be in place for at least six months before irreconcilable differences can be viewed as grounds for divorce.

The law also recognizing the following as valid grounds for divorce: 

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Alcohol or drug addiction
  • Institutionalization or imprisonment
  • Deviant sexual behavior

In these scenarios, while one might not necessarily be assigned fault technically, their actions may come into consideration when dealing with issues such as spousal maintenance or property division.


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