No Fault Divorce
Traditionally, one of the hurdles in filing for divorce was the need to show a “cause” or fault. In other words, a couple could not obtain a divorce without one of the spouses asserting that the other party was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage through marital misconduct. Today, however, New Jersey allows couples to obtain a divorce on no-fault grounds. If you need legal advice or representation in a no-fault divorce, Bergen County divorce lawyer Howard B. Leopold can assist you. For over 25 years, Leopold Law has represented people throughout Northern New Jersey in the full range of family law matters.Pursuing a No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey
In 1970, California was the first state to allow for “no-fault” divorce. Since then, nearly every state has enacted a no-fault law. While it is still possible to file for divorce in New Jersey on fault grounds, such as adultery, abandonment, physical or mental abuse, drug addiction, or incarceration, these grounds are often not appropriate.
A spouse filing for a no-fault divorce in New Jersey must plead either of two grounds: separation or irreconcilable differences. In order to file for a no-fault divorce within the state, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of New Jersey for one year prior to filing for divorce. If the claimant is asserting separation, the pleadings must establish that the spouses have lived separately (that is, in different residences rather than merely apart) for a minimum of 18 consecutive months, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. If irreconcilable differences are asserted, the papers must allege that the spouses have experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months, that these differences have caused the breakdown of the marriage, and that there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
It may seem unproductive to quibble over the causes of a divorce, but if the couple simply cannot get along, or there has been misconduct on the part of both spouses, a no-fault claim allows a couple to obtain a divorce without publicly airing each other’s failings. This is especially important when there are young children, for whom the divorce may be emotionally traumatic. Even when parents cannot get along, they often recognize that their relationships with their children may suffer irreparable damage if the parents do not work together to preserve for their children a positive impression of both parents.
Keeping any allegation of fault out of the case may also make the proceedings more amicable and less stressful. It is generally counterproductive to become preoccupied with the reasons why a marriage failed, and a no-fault divorce may eliminate the temptation to focus on blame. Instead, the couple can focus their energies on settling the matters that are at the heart of divorce proceedings, such as asset and debt division, child custody and visitation, and alimony, and they can perhaps reach a settlement more quickly.
Even if fault exists, it usually will not affect the division of property or even child custody, except when the grounds are relevant to the children’s interests, such as abuse, addiction, or incarceration. While egregious fault may affect an alimony award, it is not the common practice. Alimony awards are not about getting even but about making practical provisions for support.
There may be other advantages to pleading a no-fault divorce, since fault grounds usually require some evidence. If a spouse decides to contest these grounds, the divorce proceedings may become lengthy, costly, and unpleasant.Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Bergen County or Beyond
Before deciding how to proceed through a divorce, you should obtain the advice of an experienced family law attorney on your options. To find out more about no-fault divorce, contact Bergen County divorce attorney Howard B. Leopold at (201) 345-5907 or contact us online to make a free appointment. Leopold Law represents people throughout Bergen, Essex, Passaic, and Hudson Counties.