The New Jersey legislature is joining other northeastern states in how it handles family law matters. Within the last few months, not only has New Jersey passed a civil union statute, but it has added irreconcilable differences to its causes of action for divorce.
It has always been that a person wanting a divorce had to establish fault, or live separate from their spouse for 18 months to be granted a no-fault divorce. Now, the legislature has created a new no-fault cause of action, without the 18 month requirement- irreconcilable differences.
N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2 now reads:
Divorce from the bond of matrimony may be adjudged for the following causes heretofore or hereafter arising:
b. Willful and continued desertion for the term of 12 or more months, which may be established by satisfactory proof that the parties have ceased to cohabit as man and wife;
c. Extreme cruelty, which is defined as including any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the defendant; provided that no complaint for divorce shall be filed until after 3 months from the date of the last act of cruelty complained of in the complaint, but this provision shall not be held to apply to any counterclaim;
d. Separation, provided that the husband and wife have lived separate and apart in different habitations for a period of at least 18 or more consecutive months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation; provided, further that after the 18-month period there shall be a presumption that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation;
e. Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug as defined in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, P.L.1970, c. 226 or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the complaint;
f. Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the complaint;
g. Imprisonment of the defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after marriage, provided that where the action is not commenced until after the defendant’s release, the parties have not resumed cohabitation following such imprisonment;
h. Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff;
i. Irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
The major benefit of alleging irreconcilable differences is the relief it gives New Jersey residents that they do not have to allege wrongdoing on their spouse’s part, which oftentimes, further exacerbates an acrimonious situation.