Causes of Action and Grounds for a Divorce Complaint
When people get married, they intend to love each other and live in harmony “until death do they part.” In reality, life does not always go as planned. As time unfolds, a relationship changes, and the status of marriage may change accordingly. When one or both spouses decide to end a marriage in New Jersey, one person must file what is called a complaint for divorce. The complaint for divorce contains biographical information about the spouses and also must state the grounds for divorce. The grounds for divorce, commonly referred to as the Cause of Action, is a statement outlining what has changed in the marriage prompting a request for a divorce.
Biographical information in a Divorce Complaint
A complaint for divorce is a legal document that is filed with the court to institute the divorce proceeding. The party who does the initial filing of the complaint will list certain information in the complaint and certify to its truth or veracity. Generally, the information includes: 1) the date and location of the marriage, 2) the names of the parties, 3) whether the ceremony was religious or civil, 4) any children born of the marriage, 5) where the parties resided prior to the separation and, 6) the reason(s) or cause of action for the divorce.
What is a Cause of Action?
A cause of action is the reason that the person is seeking a divorce. The cause of action serves as the basis for the complaint and advises the court and the other party as to the “grounds” for which they are seeking a divorce. Essentially, it is a statement informing the court of what has happened to cause you to believe that marriage is no longer salvageable. It is a justification for being released from the bonds of the marriage. While providing grounds for divorce may sound difficult or arduous, it is relatively simple. There are more complicated causes of action, but the most easily plead and generically used cause of action is called “irreconcilable differences.”
Irreconcilable Differences and Separation
Irreconcilable differences means exactly what it says: You and your spouse are having differences that you cannot “reconcile.” Most married people go through trying times, but in some cases, there is no resolution to the difficulties between the spouses, and the marriage cannot be repaired. This inability or lack of desire to continue the marriage can be cited in the divorce complaint as irreconcilable differences.
The irreconcilable differences is what is referred to as a “no-fault” cause of action. This pleading requires only that you have not gotten along for at least six months prior to the divorce, and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. It avoids publicly assigning blame to either party and allows for a dual judgment of divorce.
Separation is also a no-fault cause of action. This requires you to state in your divorce complaint that you have lived separate and apart from your spouse for 18 months. It is not required that you live in a separate residence but instead, that you have lived “separate” in the sense that you do not live as married spouses traditionally would.
Other Causes of Action Defining Grounds for Divorce
In some causes of action, the person filing for the divorce wishes to assign responsibility to the other person. In these situations, the particular reasons for the divorce must be set forth in the pleading. Under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2, there are many causes of action that can be pleaded in a divorce complaint, including:
- Extreme Cruelty
- Voluntarily induced addiction to a narcotic drug or habitual drunkenness
- Institutionalization for mental illness
- Imprisonment; or
- Deviant sexual conduct.
Contact an experienced Divorce Attorney
It is important to note that in filing for a divorce in NJ, whether it is based on cause or irreconcilable differences, you must reside in the state of New Jersey for at least one year before filing. Divorce can be complex. The consequences could have a strong impact on you and your children. That is why it is highly recommended to retain the best possible advice and representation from an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer.
Experienced family law and divorce attorneys at Jacobs Berger can help you determine and establish what claims should be made within the divorce. Contact our office to schedule a Strategic Planning Session to discuss filing for a divorce and all available causes of actions. Call (973) 710-4366 today or fill out the contact information form.