If you make a decision to file for a divorce in a New Jersey court, you and your spouse must resolve numerous issues pertaining to property division, child custody and support (if applicable) and other important financial matters. Whether you file a “no fault” or “at fault” petition could have a significant impact on your settlement.

Understanding the Difference Between “No Fault” and “At Fault” Divorce

Perhaps you and your spouse have been having marital problems for a long time. You may have determined that you’d rather go your separate ways rather than remain in an unhappy relationship. You may have irreconcilable differences between you without contention, meaning that you don’t hate each other, you simply no longer want to be a married couple. In such cases, it’s typical for a spouse to file a “no fault” divorce petition.

If this is the route you choose, you’re basically telling the court that you and your spouse have grown apart and decided to move on in life without each other, although no specific misconduct occurred that prompted your decision to end the marriage. On the other hand, if your spouse did something that directly prompted your decision to file for divorce, you might decide to name the fault in your petition. Not all states allow an “at fault” divorce but New Jersey does, and a New Jersey family law attorney can explain the process.

Issues That Constitute Grounds for Fault in a New Jersey Divorce

If you plan on accusing your spouse of fault during the trial, the court will want to know exactly what type of misconduct occurred. New Jersey is one of several states that continue to operate under “at fault” guidelines in a divorce. Each of these states has its own rules regarding the topic. The following lists shows examples of issues that a New Jersey family court judge might consider cause for requesting an “at fault” divorce:

  • Willful abandonment
  • Adultery
  • Substance abuse
  • Physical or emotional abuse

There may be stipulations regarding each of these issues. For instance, if you and your spouse have an argument and they storm out of the house without coming home for three days, that doesn’t necessarily mean the court will consider that to be “willful abandonment.” However, if your spouse leaves you (especially if you have children) for 12 months or longer, you may be able to file an “at fault” divorce petition.

How Fault May Affect Your Settlement

As an experienced New Jersey family law attorney can tell you, filing for an “at fault” divorce may have settlement implications that are different from a “no fault” divorce. Most family court judges will not consider fault when determining equitable distribution in property division proceedings. However, if you or your spouse are requesting child support or alimony, the fault aspect of the proceedings might be a central focus.

If you have evidence to prove that your spouse abandoned you and your children, the court might decide to increase the amount of child support or alimony your ex should pay because of their misconduct. To the contrary, if you are the one paying alimony or child support but are the innocent party concerning fault in your divorce, the judge might lower your payments.

Fault Divorce Issues On the Rise During Coronavirus Pandemic

The past year of lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic have sparked an increase in domestic violence cases throughout the country. This particular issue is often listed as a reason for fault in divorce. Sadly, while being prohibited from leaving their homes, many spouses and children have fallen victim to physical and emotional abuse from their partners or a parent.

In fact, there has been as much as a 75% increase in searches regarding support for victims of domestic violence. The issue is not isolated to the United States, however, as data shows similar statistics occurring in other countries, as well. It’s understandable that a spouse might file for an “at fault” divorce in response to a domestic violence situation.

Support Is Available for Spouses Filing “At Fault” Divorce Petitions

Morgenstern & Rochester, who can be reached by dialing their Cherry Hill, New Jersey office at (856) 489-6200, provide experienced legal support to spouses seeking “at fault” divorce because of domestic violence or other issues. Divorce is never easy, and when fault is implicated, it can be especially stressful and complex, which is why it helps to build a strong support network from the start. Acting alongside experienced legal representation in court can help alleviate stress and provide much needed support to families who are trying their best to cope with divorce-related changes in their lives.