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Does New Jersey Require Separation Before Filing for Divorce?

New Jersey was among the last states in the country to include a true no-fault divorce option. In 2007, the state added irreconcilable differences as a no-fault ground for divorce (§ 2A-34).

Irreconcilable differences does not require either party to blame the other for the marriage’s demise. The two people simply can’t get along. The law requires, however, that the couple experience at least six months of irreconcilable difference before filing under this no-fault option.

No matter the reason you want to file for divorce in New Jersey, you should first speak with a knowledgeable attorney about the various grounds and your options. At Lane & Lane, LLC, our 60 years of combined experience allows us to see how family law can be applied to the goals of your post-divorce life.

Divorce Grounds Requiring Separation in New Jersey

Before reconcilable differences was an option, the Garden State did have a divorce ground that didn’t require one spouse to make allegations against the other. Couples could divorce on the grounds of living apart for at least 18 months. This separation-based ground still exists.

New Jersey does not recognize legal separation (although it does provide for divorce from bed and board). Couples can follow informal or formal separation agreements that cover such issues as child custody and support and alimony.

To file for a divorce based on separation, the following must be true:

  • You or your spouse lived in New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months preceding the filing of the divorce complaint.
  • You and your spouse must have lived apart – in separate residences – for at least 18 consecutive months before filing for divorce.
  • There is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.

Time Requirements Vary in Fault-Based Divorces

Like the no-fault grounds, at least one spouse must have lived in New Jersey for at least 12 months in most circumstances before filing for divorce. The only exception to this residency rule is the fault-based ground of adultery. In this case, one spouse must have lived in the state for any amount of time before filing.

Fault-based grounds requiring 12 months of residency are as follows:

  • Desertion (when one spouse leaves against the wishes of the other spouse)
  • Extreme Cruelty (ranges from unpleasantness to emotional abuse to physical violence)
  • Deviant Sexual Conduct
  • Habitual Drunkenness/Drug Addiction
  • Institutionalization for Mental Illness
  • Incarceration

There are other time requirements, not involving separation, for some fault-based grounds:

  • Desertion must be willful and continuous for at least 12 or more months,
  • Addiction requires dependence on drugs or alcohol for at least 12 months.
  • Institutionalization must have occurred for at least 12 months before filing for divorce.
  • Imprisonment is a viable ground if the spouse has been incarcerated for at least 18 months.

Filing a No-Fault Divorce Even Where Fault Exists

Many people choose to file for divorce using irreconcilable differences even when a fault exists. No-fault divorces tend to be less adversarial and less stressful on all parties, including minor children. A fault divorce typically does not impact child support, property division, and alimony. There are certain situations when filing under a fault is appropriate. One of these circumstances is when there is a history of domestic violence. When extreme cruelty is proven, the judge presumes the non-abusive spouse should be awarded full custody of the children.

Ask Us About New Jersey Divorce Requirements

Anyone considering divorce should first talk to a skilled attorney about the different grounds, residency, additional time requirements, and other issues related to the dissolution of the marriage.

During a confidential consultation, we can walk through the divorce process and explain your options.

Contact our trusted attorneys in Somerset County to learn more about divorce requirements and rights. Submit our online form or call us at (908) 259-6673.