To the relief of many and the consternation of a few, New Jersey law now includes "irreconcilable differences" as a ground for divorce. The bill, just signed into law by Governor Corzine, means that a Complaint for Divorce can assert the existence of irreconcilable differences which have caused a breakdown of the marriage for six or more months.
The legal impact is that persons may now file for divorce without having to allege marital fault against their spouse or await the expiration of eighteen months separation. The law will remove some but not all of the animosity in divorce since the great majority of cases are more vigorously contested with regard to such issues as custody, parenting time, alimony, child support and division of marital assets. Nonetheless, lawyers welcome the new law since we know that except in rare instances where egregious fault may be considered by the court, marital fault is not a factor in the financial aspects of divorce. Even in custody cases, the fact that one’s spouse has committed marital fault is not determinative. That person may at the same time have no parental faults, although there are situations where underlying problems such as anger may be important.
Finally, the new law does not replace other grounds for divorce such as adultery, desertion or extreme cruelty which still have their rightful place. The important thing is that each case is fact-sensitive. As a matrimonial attorney for thirty years, my advice to anyone considering divorce is to learn not only your legal rights but responsibilities, retain a specialized lawyer, discount advice from family and friends no matter how well-intentioned and, once armed with knowledge and guidance, prioritize your issues.