Spanish and Arabic translation available | 

Grounds For Divorce In New Jersey

NJ Grounds for Divorce Attorneys

Divorce Lawyers Serving Clients in Morris County and across New Jersey

Grounds For Divorce

Before 2007, a spouse petitioning the court for a divorce in New Jersey had to prove some type of marital fault, such as extreme cruelty or adultery, or they had to undergo an 18-month period of separation prior to filing for divorce. In 2007, New Jersey divorce law was amended to include “irreconcilable differences” as one of the grounds for divorce. With the passage of the new statute, New Jersey joined the ranks of “no-fault” divorce states. This means that the fact that one spouse is seeking to divorce provides sufficient evidence that irreconcilable differences exist. The no-fault option provides some couples with a more cost-effective, time-efficient alternative to a litigated divorce. However, in other situations, the behavior of one spouse significantly contributes to the disintegration of the marriage. If this applies to your case, you may have grounds for a fault-based divorce.

At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our talented New Jersey divorce attorneys represent clients in contested and no-fault divorces across the State, including in Morris, Somerset, Bergen, and Passaic counties. With extensive experience handling both types of proceedings, our skilled lawyers will listen to the specific circumstances of your case and educate you about all of your options. It is our purpose to ensure that you are in a position to make the most informed decisions that serve your best interests. In a contested divorce case alleging fault on the part of a spouse, we use our ferocious trial skills to protect the rights of our clients and achieve their goals. On the other hand, we have also had a great deal of success using negotiation, mediation, and collaborative law techniques to obtain positive results for clients in no-fault divorces. To discuss your unique needs and priorities with one of our highly knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorneys today, contact us for a cost-free initial consultation.

Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

If you intend to file for a fault-based divorce, you will be required to substantiate your claim with evidence and testimony, which must then be presented in court. Your divorce attorney can help you to gather relevant information and construct the most compelling case on your behalf. New Jersey law recognizes any of the following as grounds for a fault-based divorce:

Extreme Cruelty

In New Jersey, extreme cruelty can refer to any form of physical, mental, or emotional abuse. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(c) defines it as: “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.” Obviously, extreme cruelty includes physical acts of violence and domestic abuse. However, it can also include financial abuse (i.e. excessive depletion of your shared assets, gambling), public or private humiliation, controlling behavior, offensive language, neurotic behavior, and many others.


In this situation, your spouse commits infidelity. New Jersey law defines adultery in section N.J.S.A. 5:4-2(a), stating: “adultery exists when one spouse rejects the other by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person, irrespective of the specific sexual acts performed; the rejection of the spouse coupled with out-of-marriage intimacy constitutes adultery.” When filing on the grounds of adultery, you must name the person with whom your spouse committed adultery in your initial complaint for divorce. This individual then becomes the co-respondent and he or she must be served the initial divorce documents along with your spouse.

Abandonment or desertion

In this situation, your spouse has deserted you in one of two ways: by leaving your residence, or by remaining in the same household but not participating in a physical relationship with you for a period of 12 or more months. New Jersey law defines desertion in section N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(b) as the “willful and continuous desertion by one party for a period of twelve or more months, and satisfactory proof that the parties have ceased to cohabit as man and wife.”

Willful addiction to alcohol or drugs

In this situation, your spouse’s addiction to alcohol or a controlled dangerous substance has contributed significantly to the demise of your relationship. This grounds for fault is outlined in section N.S.J.A 2A:34-2(e), and encompasses “Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic or other controlled, dangerous substance, or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months”


In this situation, your spouse has been incarcerated for a minimum of 18 consecutive months. The incarceration must have began after you were married and you must not have resumed cohabitation after he or she was released. (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(g))


In this situation, your spouse has been institutionalized for a mental illness for a minimum of 24 consecutive months. The institutionalization must have commenced after you were married. (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(f)).

Deviant sexual conduct

In this situation, your spouse must have engaged voluntarily in deviant sexual conduct without your consent. (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(h)).

Will Proving Grounds for Divorce Work in Your Favor?

Many divorcing individuals assume that filing for a fault-based divorce will skew court determinations on key issues such as alimony and division of assets in their favor. Unless exceptional circumstances exist, the court does not consider fault when making these determinations. There are several exceptions, however. For example, if your spouse engaged in marital misconduct by misappropriating marital assets, you may receive a more favorable award in the division of assets process. Second, if you suffered physical abuse during your marriage, this will be considered during child custody determinations. Our highly experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers have represented numerous clients on both sides of such disputes.

Contact Our Morris County NJ Divorce Attorneys to Learn More

The New Jersey divorce attorneys at Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark will work tirelessly to protect your rights and interests and to obtain the best possible outcome for you. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our offices in Morris County, New Jersey at 973-840-8970 today.