New Jersey has both no-fault divorce and fault divorce, although fault grounds are rarely used anymore. The causes of action for a no-fault divorce are either irreconcilable differences or separation (living apart for at least 18 months). The grounds for fault divorce include addiction, adultery, extreme cruelty, mental illness, imprisonment, or deviant sexual conduct.
As noted, most New Jersey divorces are no-fault, which is generally the best way to go if you have children. It’s hard enough for children to deal with a split; it is even more difficult if fault is alleged and things get nasty. In a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to air your dirty laundry in public; you simply state in your petition that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
However, even in no-fault divorces, fault can be argued by one party to gain an advantage. If one spouse has wasted marital funds, incurs debts without the other spouse’s knowledge, or mistreats the other spouse or children, a court may weigh this when determining alimony, distribution of marital assets, and visitation plans.
Infidelity is one of the most common reasons why couples split, and in most cases, the court will not hear evidence of infidelity unless it has had a negative effect on the couple’s financial circumstances. If a cheating spouse has depleted marital funds by extravagant spending on a lover, a court may award additional marital assets to the non-cheating spouse to compensate him or her for the imbalance.
Cheating does not generally affect child custody unless there are extenuating circumstances — for example, if the cheating spouse’s lover is a sex offender or addict. In these cases, visitation may be restricted so as to not expose the children to an objectionable person.
As you can see, fault does sometimes matter even in no-fault divorce. This is because New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means that a judge will decide financial issues based on fairness. Bad actions by one spouse that negatively affect marital assets can lead to the other spouse receiving more than half of the assets or of the offending spouse being responsible for more of the marital debts.
By handling cases with the dignity and respect they deserve, we have helped many families in New Jersey civilly resolve their divorce, rebuild a satisfying life, and confidently step into the next chapter of their lives. Contact us today for your free consultation.