Without a doubt, no-fault divorce laws made ending a marriage for men and fathers in New Jersey simpler, less soul-crushing and often much less expensive then when somebody had to have their fault proven to a judge. While there remain grounds for assigning fault, they are difficult – and, often, painful to prove so it’s natural that nearly all of our clients opt for no-fault divorce.
A no-fault divorce Laws has many things going for it but there are negatives, as well. I thought it would be useful for men and fathers in New Jersey – or if you know someone who is unhappy – and are contemplating leaving their spouse to understand the pro’s and con’s.
Benefits of No-Fault Divorces
Having practiced divorce and family law both before no-fault came into being and since, there are at least five key reasons why the process is beneficial to both parties.
1 – Faster process. No-fault divorce has shortened the time it takes to complete the divorce process.
2 – Easier settlement negotiations. The shorter process means that, often, the settlement negotiation can go more smoothly and are less contentious so the cost for attorneys is less and there are fewer court filing fees.
3 – No need to fabricate evidence. In a no-fault divorce, neither the husband or wife feels a need to fabricate evidence or search for some kind of wrongdoing just to make a case for the judge.
4 – Shorter waiting times for a hearing. Because no-fault divorces streamline the entire process, the court calendar isn’t crowded with requests for relatively simple motions that can get worked out between the parties so a final divorce hearing doesn’t linger for years waiting for a trial date.
5 – Greater privacy for everyone. Even if infidelity is one of the reasons for a separation, you and your wife can maintain your privacy by using the no-fault process rather than having to disclose – and be questioned about – the details of an affair in open court.
The Downside of No-Fault Divorces
While the benefits are obvious, there are three negatives to the process that you need to consider.
1 – Some facts may not be introduced at trial. There are occasions when bringing the wrongdoing of your spouse to the attention of a judge may help him or her decide on things such as custody and child support, and spousal support. In a no-fault divorce, it may not be possible to introduce this evidence at trial and draw the judge’s attention to it.
2 – No “day in court.” Some men and fathers want to have their day in court to inform a judge why the marriage deteriorated and led to a divorce being sought. But this can be a two-edged sword as taking the witness stand opens you up to questioning by your wife’s lawyer.
3 – Easy divorces make it easy to undermine marriages. I’m not certain I agree with this because many of the clients I have helped over the years have been torn by very mixed feelings about the end of their marriage.
In New Jersey, men and fathers seeking a divorce can cite specific causes for the breakdown. Some of them are easy to demonstrate but most require getting over a very high burden.
Imprisonment or Institutionalization – If your spouse was incarcerated for 18 months or more, or the time you lived apart after her release combined with their sentence equalled 18 months, this can be used as the grounds for a divorce. Likewise, if your spouse was committed to an institution for a mental illness for 24 consecutive months after you were married, this can be used in your filing.
Extreme Cruelty or Deviant Sex – Extreme cruelty can include either physical or emotional abuse, or if your wife has threatened your life or the life of your children, it can be the basis for a man or father in New Jersey filing for divorce; it helps a lot to have a police report to use as evidence. Deviant sexual behavior is more difficult to establish since the law does not define what it is.
Adultery or Addiction – Now the hurdles get raised considerably. Adultery requires absolute proof that your wife had an affair; merely saying “I know she’s fooling around” isn’t enough. If your wife is a habitual drinker that affects her and your family, or you have evidence she has been abusing substances, this can also be cited if you can demonstrate this has been going on for 12 months or longer.
Ask for Guidance
If you or somebody you know is contemplating leaving their wife and want to discuss whether no-fault is the right path to take, feel free to call me or any of the experienced family law and divorce in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey divorce law firm focusing on family law for men and fathers. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has experience working with high asset divorce. You can read more on this topic by visiting our divorce blog.