No-Fault Divorce:
Can Divorces Avoid the Question “Whose Fault Is It?”

In New Jersey, the causes of action for divorce are listed in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2. There are two grounds for no-fault divorce and seven grounds for fault divorce. However, fault grounds are rarely used in New Jersey. The no-fault causes of action are separation and irreconcilable differences. For a divorce on the grounds of separation, you must prove that you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for at least 18 consecutive months and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. For a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, you must prove that you and your spouse’s marriage have been irreconcilably broken down for at least six months and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. In other words, these no-fault grounds provide an avenue to end your marriage without placing the blame on your spouse.

The fault-based grounds for divorce are adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, voluntarily induced addiction to a narcotic drug or habitual drunkenness, institutionalization for mental illness, imprisonment, or deviant sexual conduct. Each one of these grounds requires you to prove each element of the cause of action, showing that your spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

For whichever cause of action you decide to bring, you will need to prove the elements involved. Therefore, it may be more difficult to prove the causes of action for a fault-based divorce, as you will need to prove to the court that your spouse is at fault. Further, filing for a fault-based divorce will not necessarily provide you with a better outcome than filing for a no-fault divorce. The court does not generally take fault into consideration when determining the financial issues between the parties, except when one party is responsible for a negative economic situation, for instance, if one spouse gambled away the couple’s money. Therefore, your prospects of being ordered to pay or receive alimony are no better if you file for a fault-based divorce as opposed to a no-fault divorce.

If you are looking to file for divorce and would like to speak with one of our experienced divorce lawyers, contact Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC and set up an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your options for filing for divorce. If you have any general questions regarding divorce or other aspects of family law, check out our blog and articles on our website.