What is a No-Fault Divorce?

If you ask someone going through a divorce what their partner did wrong, most will have a laundry list of misdoings they can mention. But under no-fault divorce law, it is not necessary to prove your spouse did anything wrong to end the marriage.

Instead, you would cite irreconcilable differences, which is a fancy way of saying you just do not get along and there is no hope of getting back together. This discussion explores the benefits of a no-fault divorce, if you are eligible, and how to start the process in New Jersey.

Advantages and Disadvantages of No-Fault Divorce

Although some divorces are quite bitter and contentious, many are not. The reality is some couples just gradually grow apart or realize one day they are no longer compatible. In some cases, one partner wants out even if their spouse is still invested, even if they have not technically done anything harmful or malicious. These are some common scenarios in which a no-fault divorce makes sense. 

If you decide to end the marriage, there are some advantages to no-fault divorce:

No worries about fabricated evidence. You might be surprised just how many married partners lie or make up evidence about a spouse to make the divorce go in their favor. Without allegations of wrongdoing, neither spouse has to worry about defending themselves against fabricated evidence.

Shorter wait time for a hearing. Because a no-fault divorce comes with fewer motions, the process tends to move faster overall. There is no need to dispute allegations of fault, which saves time and money.

Smoother settlement negotiation. There is no need to disparage a spouse because fault does not matter. That means fewer legal actions and a smoother, shorter, and more peaceful path to settlement.

More privacy than fault divorce. The no-fault divorce option offers more privacy without details of infidelity and other issues being disclosed in open court.

Less stressful for the children. In a no-fault divorce, the children are less likely to hear the gritty details of their parents’ divorce and who did what to whom, which, it is hoped, makes an already difficult process a bit less difficult for them.

However, there is one disadvantage for which you should be aware if you are contemplating no-fault divorce. Going the no-fault route may prohibit you from mentioning things in court that can potentially influence child support and child custody matters in your favor. Not only can this change the outcome of your case, but also it leaves some spouses who have been victimized by their partner missing that sense of justice or closure.

Requirements for No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey

You can file for a no-fault divorce in New Jersey if you and your spouse meet the following requirements:

  • At least one spouse has lived in New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months before filing.
  • You and your spouse have experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months or more.
  • Those irreconcilable differences led to the breakdown of the marriage to the point at which it should end.
  • There is no reasonable chance for reconciliation.

Couples in New Jersey can also file for divorce on the grounds of separation, provided they have been living separate and apart for at least 18 months without the chance of reconciliation.

Does My Spouse Need to Agree to a No-Fault Divorce?

Laws on this issue vary from state to state. If you are getting divorced in new Jersey, you do not need your spouse’s consent to proceed. If one decides to file, the other has no say in the matter.

Once the legal papers are filed, the divorce has an official docket number and begins proceeding through the courts. If one spouse refuses to accept or respond to legal documents, the divorce will still happen, by means of a default judgment.

What is a Fault Divorce?

Although New Jersey allows no-fault divorce, it is not strictly a no-fault state. Couples divorcing in the state also have the option to divorce based on fault.

As mentioned above, there are cases in which one spouse is blatantly responsible for the end of the marriage, and this information is relevant to the case. These issues are especially important when children are involved and may be in danger while in the other parent’s company.

Grounds for Fault Divorce in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the grounds for fault divorce include:

  • Abandonment/desertion for at least 12 months
  • Adultery
  • Alcohol/drug abuse for at least 12 months
  • Deviant sexual conduct
  • Extreme mental or physical cruelty
  • Incarceration
  • Institutionalization

How Do I Know if Fault or No-Fault Divorce is Right for Me?

When deciding whether to file for fault or no-fault divorce, keep in mind it will not have any impact on how your property will be divided. However, it may play a role in alimony, for example, increasing spousal support for the person who has been deserted or cheated on. Dangerous behaviors will likely affect issues involving children, particularly visitation and custody.

If you decide to file for a fault divorce, it is your responsibility to present evidence and even witnesses to back up claims of abuse, cruelty, addiction, and other behaviors. Because every case is unique, it is always best to discuss your circumstances with a reputable divorce lawyer who can go over the benefits and drawbacks of both options.

How to File for No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey

If after discussing your options with your divorce lawyer, you have decided that no-fault divorce is the most sensible route for you and your family, the first step is to make sure you meet the basic requirements.

Check requirements. Have you, the petitioner, or your spouse, the respondent, lived in the state of New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months prior to filing? Have you experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months? Or have you lived apart for at least 18 months without any hope of reconciliation? You can proceed if you answered yes to these questions.

File the petition and other forms. The next step is filling out the proper paperwork, including a Petition-Marriage form and a Summons Form. Couples who have children will need to complete several additional forms. It is always a good idea to make several copies of each completed document and store them in a safe place.

Your divorce lawyer will walk you through the process, make sure everything is completed properly, and file them per state and local laws.

Serve your spouse and await a response. Next, you give your spouse a copy of all the paperwork and file a proof of service with the court showing you gave them a copy of the petition. This is where legal assistance is critical. If this step is not completed correctly, the judge will not move forward with the process.

Your spouse has a certain amount of time to respond and dispute allegations in a fault divorce or disagree with issues related to property, support, and custody, among others.

Negotiate a settlement. At this stage, both parties discuss the terms of the divorce, including how marital assets will be distributed, if and how much alimony is appropriate, and who will have custody of the children. Some couples can successfully work out these details through mediation.

Without grounds for fault, it is more likely that divorce negotiations can proceed fairly smoothly. Both spouses acknowledge that divorce is inevitable, and they are willing to help the process move along without costly and time-consuming legal maneuvers to stall the process.

For other couples, negotiations break down despite their best efforts. They must turn to the courts for assistance, and a divorce trial takes place. Finally, through mediation or litigation, a divorce settlement agreement is finalized.

Although this discussion provides a brief overview of the divorce process in New Jersey, in reality divorce is much more complex. No two divorces are alike. Therefore, what worked for your sister, or your friend, may not be the best path for you. To protect your interests and increase your chances of a favorable outcome, hire a seasoned divorce lawyer to manage your case.

Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. are Committed to Achieving Positive Results for Their Clients

If you are considering divorce but do not know which type of divorce is right for you, the Somerville divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can lead the way. From your first consultation to the time your case is final, and after, you will notice our compassionate and confident approach to family law. We take the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and work together to build a solid case from start to finish. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.