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Legal Information: New Jersey

New Jersey Divorce

Laws current as of
January 8, 2024

This section has basic information about divorce in New Jersey. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.

What 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 one year.1

1 N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-10

What are the grounds for divorce in New Jersey?

You can file for divorce in New Jersey based on any of the following reasons (grounds):

  1. 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.
  2. Adultery - when your spouse cheats on you.
  3. Abandonment - when your spouse left your house for 12 months or more.
  4. 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 three 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 three months; you can include this ground even if the last cruel incident happened yesterday.)
  5. 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.
  6. Addiction to drugs or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months after marriage and prior to filing for divorce.
  7. Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months after marriage and prior to filing for divorce.
  8. 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.
  9. If your spouse commits “deviant sexual conduct” on you without your consent. (Note: This term is not well-defined in New Jersey law - if you are unsure if you meet this ground, please talk to an attorney for advice.)1

1 N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-2

What types of alimony are there and how long can alimony last?

There are four types of alimony that a judge can grant: 1) open durational alimony; 2) rehabilitative alimony; 3) limited duration alimony; or 4) reimbursement alimony.1 To read the definitions of each type of alimony, go to our Selected New Jersey Statutes page.

For any marriage that lasts less than 20 years, alimony can only be ordered for the number of years that the marriage or civil union lasted unless there are “exceptional circumstances.” Exceptional circumstances which may require an adjustment to the length (duration) of alimony include:

  • the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage and at the time of the alimony award;
  • how dependent one spouse was on the other during the marriage and how long that dependency lasted;
  • whether a spouse has a chronic illness or unusual health circumstance;
  • whether a spouse has given up a career or a career opportunity or otherwise supported the career of the other spouse;
  • whether a spouse has received a disproportionate share of marital property or debt;
  • the impact of the marriage on either party’s ability to become self-supporting, including but not limited to either party’s responsibility as primary caretaker of a child;
  • tax considerations of either party; and
  • any other factors or circumstances that the court deems equitable, relevant and material.2

In determining the length of the a limited durational alimony award, the judge must consider the length of time it would reasonably take for the recipient to improve his or her earning capacity to a level where limited duration alimony is no longer appropriate.2

1 N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-23​(b)
2 N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-23​(c)

What factors will a judge consider when deciding if I can get alimony?

When deciding whether or not to issue alimony, the judge must consider the following factors:

  • the actual need for alimony and the ability of the paying spouse to pay;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • the age, physical health, and emotional health of both parties;
  • the standard of living established in the marriage and how likely it is that each party can continue to have a reasonably comparable standard of living;
  • the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of both parties;
  • how long you have been absent from the job market;
  • each party’s parental responsibilities for the children;
  • the time and expense necessary to get sufficient education or training to allow you to find appropriate employment and how available such training and employment is;
  • any opportunities that you may have to get money or property (assets) in the future;
  • the history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party, which includes contributions to the care and education of the children and the interruption of your personal career or educational opportunities;
  • the division (“equitable distribution”) of property that was ordered in the divorce and any payouts from the equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income;
  • the income available to either party through the investment of any assets held by that party;
  • the tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award;
  • the nature, amount, and length of temporary (pendente lite) support paid, if any; and
  • any other factors that the judge believes are relevant.1

1 N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-23​(b)

What 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. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.)
  • 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.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

If I get a lawyer, can the judge order my spouse to pay my attorney fees?

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.

When determining the amount of the fee award, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • the financial circumstances of the parties;
  • the ability of the parties to pay their own lawyer’s fees or to contribute to the fees of the other party;
  • the reasonableness and good faith of the positions put forth by each party during trial and before trial;
  • how much the fees are for each party;
  • any fees previously awarded;
  • the amount of fees previously paid to the lawyers by each party;
  • the results obtained by each party in the case;
  • the degree to which fees were incurred to enforce existing orders or to compel discovery; and
  • any other factor that relates to the fairness of an award of attorney’s fees.1

1 NJ Court R. 5:3-5(c)

Will my divorce case be sent to mediation if I am a domestic violence victim?

The judge may refer your divorce to mediation to resolve any financial issues, which does not include custody or parenting time. If you have a temporary restraining order against your spouse, however, the judge cannot send you to mediation. If you have a final restraining order, there is a Domestic Violence Economic Mediation Program designed to handle cases like yours, but you can only be sent to mediate the financial issues arising out of your divorce if you agree to it.1 This program can also be used if you and your spouse have mutual restraining orders against each other.2

If you request it, these mediation sessions must take place at the courthouse and will involve “shuttle diplomacy,” which means that you and your spouse stay in different rooms and the mediator moves between the rooms to carry out the negotiation. The mediators in this program are also required to take special domestic violence training before being assigned any cases. Your final restraining order will be modified to allow for this mediation to take place when you request it. However, you may end the mediation at any time if you do not feel comfortable.2 

1 N.J. Court Rules, R. 1:40-5(b)(1)
2  New Jersey Courts, Directive #06-20

Where can I find additional information about divorce?

We hope the following links to outside sources may be helpful.

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.

You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.