Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

When you file divorce paperwork in New Jersey, the key document that you will complete is called the “Complaint for Divorce.” In it, you will list biographical information about your family and asset information about your marriage. You will also need to complete a very important section in which you state your “grounds for divorce,” or the reason why your marriage has ended. The grounds you declare can have a significant impact on the course of your divorce. You will want to choose your grounds for divorce with care. Here is some information to help you make an informed decision.

Available grounds for divorce in New Jersey are:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Extreme Cruelty
  • Separation
  • Voluntary Addiction to Narcotic Drugs
  • Habitual Drunkenness
  • Institutionalization for Mental Illness
  • Imprisonment
  • Deviant Sexual Conduct
  • Irreconcilable Differences

Couples seeking a divorce in New Jersey have options.  They can file immediately for divorce using a ground such as extreme cruelty, irreconcilable differences or adultery. Alternatively, they can physically separate and live apart for 18 months and thereafter file under the ground of Separation.

In the first case, the client, with his or her New Jersey family law attorney, determines which ground (or grounds) for divorce is most appropriate. This ground is specifically stated in the Complaint for Divorce.

In the second case, the couple lives apart in different households for an 18-month waiting period. However, it should be noted that maintaining two households after living together in one can add a substantial financial burden to the process of getting a divorce.

Common Grounds for Divorce

Irreconcilable Differences

In 2007, New Jersey joined many other states by adding “irreconcilable differences” as a “no fault” ground for divorce. Using irreconcilable differences allows divorcing couples to begin their legal proceedings in a more civilized manner, without specific accusations that can often result in a more contentious divorce. Irreconcilable differences as a ground for divorce simply means that there has been a breakdown of the marriage and it has lasted at least six months.

Extreme Cruelty

A significant number of litigants tend to use “Extreme Cruelty” as their ground for divorce. Despite the harshness of the wording, Extreme Cruelty may very well be one of the mildest grounds that a party could file under. It is really up to the party filing for divorce to itemize what comprises the “cruelty” which they were subject to by their spouse. For instance, Extreme Cruelty could very easily be described by one party as daily physical and verbal abuse by their spouse, along with multiple pages of details included in the Complaint for Divorce. In contrast, Extreme Cruelty could also be used by a filing party if their spouse was not being emotionally supportive for the past several months. The Extreme Cruelty ground for divorce may be as expressive or understated as one would like it to be. However, it must offer enough detail to convince the judge that it would be unreasonable to expect the filing party to continue to live with and remain married to their current spouse


Using the ground “separation” is only allowable if the couple has lived apart for at least 18 months.

Multiple Grounds for Divorce

Sometimes, more than one ground for divorce is listed in the Complaint for Divorce. While this is allowed, having more than one ground for divorce will not necessarily carry any additional weight with the judge in the case. Only one ground for divorce is necessary for a New Jersey divorce to be granted.

What are the grounds for divorce in the State of New Jersey?

There are a number of grounds for divorce in the State of New Jersey. You need to choose at least one of the grounds in order to file a complaint to be recognized and be eligible for an ultimate judgment of divorce. The most common ground utilized today is irreconcilable differences. That merely indicates that there has been some type of breakdown of the relationship for a period of at least six months. You do not have to identify what constitutes the breakdown of the relationship, just merely that there has been one. It is one of the most respectful grounds that you can use. Even though it is difficult to receive a complaint for divorce in many cases, receiving one with irreconcilable differences as the ground for divorce is oftentimes the least offensive one that you can possibly receive.

Other grounds for divorce are adultery, extreme cruelty, separation. Legally speaking, separation means that you have been living in separate physical residences for a period of at least 18 months. There’s also the ground of desertion, which many people are confused by. It’s natural to be confused because the term of art sort of gives you the impression that your spouse would have abandoned you in some form or another physically by absconding to another state of leaving the home in some form or another. But the act of desertion actually means that there’s been a lack of physical intimacy for a period of at least 12 months. There’s also the ground of incarceration or habitual drunkenness. There are a number of grounds for divorce that you can utilize. Talk to a divorce and family attorney and find out which ground or grounds best meet your needs.

Infidelity, Adultery & Divorce FAQs

How do I find out if my spouse has cheated on me?

To find out if your spouse has been unfaithful to you, you may hire a private investigator who will assist you in that regard. In addition, during the discovery process of a divorce, your attorney will have the ability to make discovery requests including subpoenas, depositions, financial documents, etc. that may help to show adultery has occurred.

Does cheating affect equitable distribution, alimony or child support in a divorce?

In New Jersey, adultery committed by a spouse has no effect on equitable distribution, alimony or child support. However, if you spouse spent marital money on the affair, you may be able to be reimbursed for what was spent on the adulterous relationship.

Every divorce case is unique, so it is vital for anyone filing for divorce in New Jersey to be represented by an accomplished NJ Family Law attorney who appreciates the advantages and disadvantages of using certain grounds for divorce.  Only a prominent attorney who specializes in NJ family law has the expertise to guide you towards the most appropriate ground for your situation.

To learn more about starting the divorce process, divorce documents, or for general questions about divorce in NJ, please contact us.

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