New Jersey Law provides several causes of action when filing for divorce. These include:
- Nullity — A New Jersey court may determine a marriage to be either void from its inception (ab initio) or subsequently declared void (voidable). Some reasons for declaring a marriage null are the couple's incapacity to marry due to their age or the existence of a previous marriage that has not been dissolved.
- Adultery — Having committed adultery (voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than the person's spouse .) However, adultery is only a cause for divorce where reconciliation is not possible. It is frequently possible for parties to stay together after such reconciliations (e.g., Bill & Hillary Clinton.)
- Desertion — At the expiration of 12 months, a party may file for divorce if there is a persistent and willful refusal to engage in normal sexual relations.
- Extreme Cruelty — In the past, filing for divorce for "extreme cruelty" was limited to any actual or reasonably inferred act that endangered the life or the health of a party, or rendered his or her life one of such extreme discomfort and wretchedness as to incapacitate him or her physically or mentally from discharging the marital duties. Nowadays, "extreme cruelty" has been liberalized to include physical or mental acts of cruelty which render it improper or unreasonable to expect further cohabitation by the plaintiff with the defendant.
- Separation — A cause of action for divorce exists if the husband and wife have: (1) Lived separate and apart; (2) in different habitations; (3) for at least 18 consecutive months; and (4) there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Note that ALL four of these conditions must exist simultaneously. The reason for the separation is irrelevant.
- Drug Addiction and Drunkenness — Between "drug addiction" and "drunkenness" proving drug addiction is clearly the most difficult to prove. Especially when the addicted spouse shows they are undergoing voluntary treatment. Under such circumstances the court may decide that the treatment is succeeding and not grant the divorce. The court may also ask whether the party seeking divorce knew at the time of the marriage that their spouse was addicted to drugs prior to the marriage. Proving habitual drunkenness on the other hand is much simpler. New Jersey has determined that “habitual drunkenness” and “alcoholism” are not the same. While evidence of alcoholism can proove habitual drunkennes, the opposite it not necessarily true. In the case of habitual drunkenness, a person seeking a divorce may only need to show that their spouse is merely drunk four or five times a week on a regular basis at home and in public. Proof of alcoholism is not required.
- Institutionalization for Mental Illness — Even where a spouse is intitutionalized for reasons beyond their control, New Jersey has determined that the non-institutionalized spouse is entitled to a marital partner. Therefore, at the expiration of 24 months, the the non-institutionalized may have a cause of action for divorce. The 24 month period must run consequetively and must accrue prior to the filing of divorce.
- Imprisonment — Grounds for divorce exist where (1) one of the parties is (or was) imprisoned; (2) the imprisonment is (or was) for 18 or more consecutive months; (3) the imprisonment term started after the marriage; and (4) if divorce proceedings are commenced after the defendant’s release, cohabitation of the parties has not resumed.
- Irreconcilable Differences — Grounds for divorce exist where irreconcilable differences have (1) caused the breakdown of the marriage (2) for a period of six months and which (3) make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that (4) there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
A divorce does not always require a lawyer. However, when married couples attempt to handle their own divorce without a lawyer, emotions or unfamiliarity with the law often cause them to have unrealistic goals, priorities, and expectations. They overlook the complications and issues that often arise after filing for divorce. Unfamiliarity with procedural rules, substantive laws, or legal doctrine, may cause them to lose their rights, their ability to correct mistakes, litigate important issues, and even lose their case. For example, in a 1989 case, the Appellate Division held that pro se litigants must follow established procedures. The court stated that self-represented litigants are "free to represent themselves if they so choose, but in exercising that choice they must understand that they are required to follow accepted rules of procedure promulgated by the Supreme Court to guarantee an orderly process." The court further stated that "[s]uch litigants are also presumed to know, and are required to follow, the statutory law of this State." See Tuckey v. Harleysville Ins. Co., 236 N.J. Super. 221 (App. Div. 1989). More recently, in a 2014 unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division rejected a litigant's claim that he was entitled to "solicitude and indulgence" because he was acting pro se. See Guirguis v. TD Bank, No. A-2231-12T1, (App. Div. February 25, 2014).
For these and other reasons, divorcing couples eventually become overwhelmed, angry and emotional. Communications between them can stop completely or become ineffective. They soon realize their problems involve not only divorce, but custody of their children, division of property, and financial support. They realize their emotional and financial futures are at stake and at risk. During initial or post-judgment proceedings, one or both of them may begin to dig their heels, distrust the other, refuse to negotiate, or start acting vindictively toward the other. This often leads to one party deciding to get a lawyer. This changes everything because the party without a lawyer must now also get a lawyer or proceed at a great disadvantage.
As a family law attorney, I can provide you with the aggressive representation you need to protect your rights either during or after a divorce. Starting in 1997, I went through a divorce that, because of post-divorce proceedings, lasted 14 years. This experience allows me to understand what you are going through. It also taught me how New Jersey laws can effectively be applied to the unique facts of your case. I can help you to determine what your needs, goals, and priorties are. I strive to get the best possible understanding of all the facts of your case. I do my best to provide you with ongoing meaningful input into the outcome of your divorce making sure that you are treated fairly. I focus my energies on your needs, priorities and on working toward a sensible and just conclusion to your proceedings. I believe this is where I provide you with real value that surpasses the competition. As an attorney exlusively devoted matrimonial law, I can help protect you from the risks of a contested divorce. Please contact me at Sosis Law, LLC for a free initial consultation.