There has been a great deal of publicity lately over the Bill recently introduced in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate seeking to add irreconcilable differences as a cause of action for divorce in the State of New Jersey. As these Bills works their way through the Legislature, it is important to bear in mind what it is, what it accomplishes, and most importantly, what it cannot and does not do.
First and foremost, should the Bill be passed, it will provide an additional grounds or basis for a party to file a divorce to the eight already available under New Jersey law. The benefits to the irreconcilable differences cause of action is that it would eliminate the need for a divorce litigant to allege certain acts or conduct on the part of their spouse that has necessitated the divorce. Such a practice is necessary using all but one of the currently available grounds for divorce. It is hoped by divorce attorneys, divorce litigants, and other professionals that eliminating the “dirty laundry” from the initial filing will help minimize the emotion and hostility that often arises in divorce proceedings. Many litigants are uncomfortable identifying such conduct and often times the issues between spouses does not constitute “extreme cruelty.”
There have been repeated representations that utilizing irreconcilable differences will make a divorce easier, faster, or less expensive. While they are laudable goals, there is nothing about the proposed cause of action in and of itself that would yield these results. Adopting this Bill would not make divorce easier as many of its critics claim. The length, cost, and emotion experienced during divorce proceedings are the result of the approach chosen by the litigants and the complexity of the issues involved in a particular case. A divorce filed under the irreconcilable differences cause of action may be just as time consuming and contentious as a divorce filed under the current grounds, and litigants should not proceed under the false assumption that by selecting one grounds for divorce over another they have material affected the course their case will take through the legal system.
The availability of the irreconcilable differences cause of action would be a welcome change to the current state of New Jersey divorce law. Its adoption by the Legislature would acknowledge the reality that many marriages break down not due to infidelity or egregious conduct, but simply due to personal differences that have developed between the partied throughout the history of the marriage.