Know the Laws: New Jersey
UPDATED June 8, 2012
Basic information about divorce in New Jersey.
back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in New Jersey?
You can file for divorce in NJ based on any of the following grounds (reasons):
- Adultery - when your spouse cheats on you.
- Abandonment - when your spouse left your house for 12 months or more.
- Extreme cruelty - when your spouse treated you in a way that endangered your life or health or made it unbearable for you to live with him/her (such as physical or mental cruelty). (Note: If you are filing for divorce based on this, you have to wait at least 3 months after the last incident of cruelty. If you are including this ground in your counter-claim to your spouse’s divorce petition, you do NOT have to wait those 3 months; you can include this ground even if the last cruel incident happened yesterday.)
- Separation – when you and your spouse don’t live together anymore in the same house for a term of at least 18 consecutive months or more and there is no reasonable belief of reconciliation between you both.
- Addiction to drugs or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months after marriage and prior to filing for divorce.
- Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months after marriage and prior to filing for divorce.
- Imprisonment - Your spouse was sentenced to go to jail for 18 or more consecutive months after marriage. If you file for divorce after your spouse has been released from jail, you also have to show that you and your spouse have not lived together after s/he was released from jail.
- If your spouse commits "deviant sexual conduct" on you without your consent. (Note: This term is not well-defined in NJ law - if you are unsure if you meet this ground, please talk to an attorney for advice.)
- Irreconcilable differences – When there has been a breakdown of the marriage based on a failure to get along for a period of 6 months or more and there is no reasonable belief of reconciliation.*
* N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-2
back to topWhat are the residency requirements to file for divorce in New Jersey?
In order to file for a divorce in New Jersey, either spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. The only exception to the one-year residency requirement is when the grounds for divorce are for adultery. In cases of adultery, the requirement is that at least one spouse must be a New Jersey resident for any amount of time, which can be less than 1 year.*
* N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-10
back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling his/her side, which is known as “contesting the divorce.” If s/he contests it, then you will have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then s/he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this is called an “uncontested divorce.” Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce).
- Fifth, if there is property that you need divided or if you need financial support from your spouse, then you will have to work that out either in an out-of-court settlement or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
back to topIf I get a lawyer, can the judge order my spouse to pay my attorney fees?
Possibly. The judge has the authority to order that the either party pay the attorney fees of the other party in any claim for divorce, dissolution of civil union, termination of domestic partnership, nullity, support, alimony, custody, parenting time, equitable distribution, separate maintenance, enforcement of agreements between spouses, domestic partners, or civil union partners and claims relating to family type matters. The judge can make this order while the case is pending (known as pendente lite) or at the end of the case. The judge will have to determine if an award of attorney fees is appropriate in each situation.*
* NJ Court R. 5:3-5(c)
back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce?
We hope the following links to outside sources may be helpful.
Legal Services of New Jersey ("LSNJ") has information about divorce, including property division and alimony. LSNJ also publishes a self-help divorce guide for people who are filing on their own.
The Hudson County Family Division of the New Jersey Courts website has extensive information about divorce, legal separation, the grounds for divorce, and much more.
WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.
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