New Jersey State Bar Association
Bergen County Bar Association

Causes of Divorce

Family Law Attorney Guiding Bergen County Residents Through the Legal Process

Divorce is usually the last resort for couples experiencing problems in their marriage, but when one or both of the spouses conclude that there is no possibility of reconciliation, they often find it difficult to pinpoint the reason for getting a divorce. If you would like to understand more about the appropriate grounds to cite in filing for a New Jersey divorce, or if you need help initiating divorce proceedings, contact Bergen County divorce lawyer Howard B. Leopold. For over two decades, he has assisted clients throughout Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic Counties in family law matters.

Understanding the Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

Historically, marriage has been regarded as fundamentally indissoluble. Divorces traditionally were not available unless there was some serious basis for terminating the marriage. Consequently, when state divorce laws were enacted, they required one or both spouses to plead and prove a substantial reason for the divorce. While some states have departed from these traditions, other states, including New Jersey, still require that a person filing for a divorce (the petitioner) plead a specific cause when initiating divorce proceedings.

Currently, New Jersey law recognizes the following grounds for divorce:

  • Extreme cruelty: While this sounds harsh, it is actually one of the most common grounds cited in New Jersey. The phrase “extreme cruelty” encompasses a broad spectrum of mental or physical behavior that makes one spouse feel that they cannot cohabitate with the other spouse. It need not be behavior that is objectively “cruel,” as that word is normally understood.
  • Adultery: This applies if one spouse rejects intimacy with the other spouse and enters into an intimate relationship with any other person.
  • Desertion: In the case of desertion, the parties must not have lived as man and wife for at least 12 months. The deserting party need not live separately. Desertion means that one party has abandoned the other party in terms of marital relations.
  • Addiction: The petitioner must show that the other spouse has, for a period of at least 12 months, been addicted to a controlled substance or been habitually drunk. The use of the substance (drugs or alcohol) must be persistent and substantial.
  • Institutionalization: This may be asserted if one of the spouses has been institutionalized for mental illness for at least 12 months during the marriage, and the institutionalized spouse is unable to function as a marriage partner.
  • Imprisonment: This applies if one spouse has been imprisoned for 18 months or longer during the marriage, as long as the couple did not resume a marital relationship subsequent to the imprisonment.
  • Deviant sexual conduct: This is when one spouse engages in deviant sexual conduct without the consent of the other spouse.

In addition to these grounds, New Jersey also recognizes two “no fault” grounds. Separation may be pleaded if the spouses have lived separately for at least 18 consecutive months, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. Irreconcilable differences form the ground that is the most recent addition to the law. The petitioner need only assert that irreconcilable differences have persisted between the spouses for a period of six months or longer, whether or not they have lived separately.

While it is necessary to plead a cause when filing for a divorce in New Jersey, the asserted cause generally will not affect the division of assets, any term and amount of alimony, or child custody and support. While extreme misconduct, particularly if it is related to financial matters or physical abuse, may affect the financial or custody arrangements that arise out of the divorce, the cause pleaded is not determinative. Instead, it is evidence of the specific misconduct that will affect the final judgment.

Contact Divorce Lawyer Howard Leopold in Bergen County or Surrounding Areas

It is prudent to investigate the potential legal and practical ramifications of how you plead your divorce case before you file any papers. To understand what your options may be in view of the particular facts of your case and your personal goals, you should seek advice from experienced Bergen County divorce attorney Howard Leopold. Call us at (201) 345-5907 or contact us online to make a free appointment with a family law attorney. Howard Leopold represents people throughout Northern New Jersey, including in Hackensack, Englewood, Bergenfield, Cliffside Park, Dumont, Edgewater, Elmwood Park, Fair Lawn, Fairview, Fort Lee, Franklin Lakes, Garfield, Glen Rock, Hasbrouck Heights, Hillsdale, Little Ferry, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Mahwah, New Milford, North Arlington, Oakland, Palisades Park, Paramus, Ramsey, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Ridgewood, River Edge, Rutherford, Saddle Brook, Teaneck, Tenafly, Wallington, Westwood, Wyckoff, Jersey City, Paterson, Newark, and other areas of Bergen, Hudson, Essex, and Passaic Counties.

Client Reviews
"I had a legal issue with a contract and Mr. Leopold was nothing but truthful, just and honest about how I should proceed with my case. The guidance I received was nothing short of exceptional. I would have no issue whatsoever with recommending him to anyone who needs legal advice or services. He is your man if you need a keen legal eye watching out for you." Iam E.
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