The decision to pursue divorce is never easy. It can be even more difficult when no one is especially at fault – when there is no infidelity, no abuse. What happens when you have just grown apart? Does the law still allow you to get divorced? The answer is yes. In fact, most couples divorcing in New Jersey choose not to use fault as the basis for their divorce at the advice of their attorneys.
The rise of no-fault divorce
In the past, married couples had to prove a legal reason to get divorced. A marriage was viewed as a legal contract and breaking it could only be done if you could show evidence of one of the specific causes listed in statute.
This approach to divorce began to change in the 1970s, when states began to adopt no-fault divorce laws. Under no-fault laws, married couples could simply cite the differences in their relationship as a reason for their divorce. No-fault divorce has been the standard in New Jersey now for decades. The breakdown of the relationship is sufficient legal grounds for divorce, regardless of whether there was any particular wrongdoing by either spouse.
The ability to cite irreconcilable differences as the grounds for divorce significantly simplifies one aspect of the divorce process. Often, divorcing couples have much to deal with in the divorce from the care and support of children to dividing up assets and debts. Eliminating the need to prove a spouse’s bad behavior with convincing evidence means there is one less hurdle to overcome to finalize a divorce.
In some cases, the fault in the divorce is important to the other issues, such as when bad behavior of a spouse affects the wellbeing of the children or resulted in the loss of joint assets. The rise of no-fault divorce does not prevent someone from raising these important issues in the divorce. New Jersey law still allows couples to cite cause for the divorce if necessary, or to show the impact of the bad behavior on the family even when citing irreconcilable differences.
It is important to get advice from an experienced family law attorney who can offer insight on what to cite as the grounds for divorce in your unique situation, and how to handle the actions of a spouse which have affected children or finances.