Irreconcilable Differences

Knowledgeable Divorce Lawyer Guiding Residents of Bergen County

One of the decisions that must be made in each New Jersey divorce is the ground—that is, the reason—for the divorce. Today, spouses may obtain a divorce on fault or no-fault grounds, but many couples prefer to use the no-fault ground of “irreconcilable differences.” If you have questions about this phrase and would like legal advice on which ground to use in your situation, Bergen County divorce attorney Howard B. Leopold can help you. He has assisted many people in Northern New Jersey with the complexities that often arise in family law matters.

Pursuing a Dissolution on the Basis of Irreconcilable Differences

Starting in 1970 in California, the concept of “no-fault” divorce was created to enable spouses to obtain a divorce more easily. A no-fault divorce allows both spouses to “move on” without needing to shoulder blame or responsibility for the breakdown of their marriage.

Until 2007, the only no-fault ground available in New Jersey was “separation.” However, separation required a couple to live apart for 18 consecutive months. In citing separation as the basis, a couple needed to file a sworn statement that they had been living in separate residences for 18 months and that there was no reasonable prospect of reconciling.

But in 2007, New Jersey added the additional no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences. Under this new ground, the complaint for divorce must allege only three elements. First, for a period of at least six months, the spouses must have experienced irreconcilable differences. Also, these differences must indicate that the marriage should be dissolved, and there must be no reasonable prospect that there will be a reconciliation. This new ground simplified the process of obtaining a no-fault divorce in New Jersey.

There are many reasons why a couple might choose to cite irreconcilable differences, such as:

  • For marriages in which neither party has committed any bad act, it shortens the period of discord. The couple need not wait 18 months and live separately in order to file for a divorce.

  • It allows an amicable divorce to remain amicable. There is no reason to revisit the issues that led to the divorce.

  • If there are children involved, it allows both parties to keep recriminations out of the proceedings even if bad acts have been committed, so children will not see either parent in a bad light.

  • If bad acts occurred, it may help divorce proceedings move along more civilly and smoothly, especially since fault grounds usually do not alter the ultimate outcome.

  • When irreconcilable differences are cited, there is no need to provide evidence of any particular conduct.

Given all of these positive reasons to cite irreconcilable differences, it may be difficult to see why other grounds would be utilized. However, there are times when fault grounds are appropriate, particularly if the bad act that is alleged will have a direct impact upon the outcome of the divorce proceedings.

For example, if one of the spouses is physically abusive, it might be better to allege “extreme cruelty” as the basis to create a record for the future, or if the abusive behavior will affect a child custody determination. Similarly, addiction or habitual drunkenness would also likely affect child custody issues and may affect financial allocations, particularly if one of the parties has dissipated marital funds in the process of supporting a habit. In other words, although citing irreconcilable differences has advantages for many couples, there are cases in which it may not be ideal.

Contact an Experienced Bergen County Attorney During a Divorce

If you need help framing your complaint for divorce, and if you want to understand more fully the grounds for divorce allowed by New Jersey law, contact Bergen County divorce lawyer Howard B. Leopold. You can call us at (201) 345-5907 or use our online form to set up your free initial appointment. Howard B. Leopold represents people who need a family law attorney throughout Bergen, Essex, Passaic, and Hudson Counties, 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, and Newark.

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