When parties have decided that they no longer wish to remain married, they will seek the dissolution of their marriage. Generally, the terms dissolution and divorce may be used interchangeably as ultimately the court will be dissolving the marital relationship by entering the final judgment of divorce.
WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR THE DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE?
There are many potential grounds for the dissolution of marriage. Your attorney will assist you in identifying which grounds for dissolution might be the best option for you based on your specific facts and circumstances. In New Jersey, there are both fault based and non-fault grounds for the dissolution of a marriage. The non-fault causes of action include irreconcilable differences and separation for 18 months. When filing for dissolution under irreconcilable differences, a party will simply have to certify that there has been a breakdown of the marriage for a period of at least six months and that there is no reasonable expectation that the breakdown can be healed. Separation for 18 months is exactly as it sounds- that the parties have been living separate and apart for a period of 18 months. The fault based grounds for dissolution of a marriage are more specific and fact sensitive. For example, when filing under adultery, you are to name the party with whom your spouse is having an affair and identify the time and place of the affair if it is known to you. Extreme cruelty requires that you outline that specific events in the complaint or an attached schedule that substantiate your claim. If you are seeking a dissolution of marriage based on addiction to drugs or alcohol, you will need to make allegations, and be prepared to support same with proof, that your spouse has been addicted to drugs or alcohol for at least one year prior to filing the complaint. With the exception of adultery, all grounds for dissolution require that you have been a residence of New Jersey for at least one year prior to filing the complaint for divorce.
DISSOLUTION VS DIVORCE & ANNULMENT
You can also file for a dissolution of your marriage by filing for an annulment rather than a divorce. While a divorce terminates a marital relationship, an annulment will make it as if a marriage never existed. Similar to a divorce, there are many grounds for the dissolution of the marriage via annulment. These include if one or both parties was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage and did not ratify the marriage after turning 18, one or both parties being under the influence of drugs or alcohol such that they were unable to consent to the marriage, and fraud. The process of dissolving the marriage is much the same as a divorce action, but you file a complaint to annul the marriage rather than a complaint for divorce. If the annulment is granted by the judge, a judgment of nullity will be entered and it will be as if the marriage never existed. A common misconception about annulment, however, is that it is available to a couple simply because they have not been married for a long time. This is inaccurate, however, and you would only be entitled to an annulment if your marriage qualifies under one of the factors.
WHAT IS THE DISSOLUTION OF A MARRIAGE KEY TAKEAWAYS
Here are some key takeaways regarding the dissolution of marriage in New Jersey:
- You will need to have lived in New Jersey for at least one (1) year prior to filing your complaint for divorce, except in very limited circumstances
- Filing under a fault provision does not mean that you will receive any more or less from the dissolution of your marriage. Specifically, because your spouse cheated on you and you file under adultery does not mean that you are entitled to a greater share of the assets or more alimony.
- The length of your marriage has no impact on your ability to file for an annulment versus a divorce. You must have other qualifying facts to be able to have your marriage annulled.
If you’d like to discuss the dissolution of your marriage with an attorney, give us a call today!