Prior to 2007, the state of New Jersey didn’t offer the option to use irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce. Instead, couples who wanted to end their marriage needed to file based on the fact that they were living apart or faced with extreme cruelty in the marriage relationship. 

While those options are still available as grounds for divorce in Bergen County and throughout New Jersey, simple irreconcilable differences have been added to the list.

You may have heard several terms related to ending a marital relationship, like divorce, dissolution, and legal separation—what’s the difference between them?

Divorce

A divorce is final in every legal way. When couples end their marriage through divorce, they no longer have legal obligations towards each other. Each party can legally marry someone else, file their taxes individually, and own property or assets without the other party having a claim.

Either spouse can file for divorce. The other spouse may choose to contest it or not, but they cannot prevent it from happening.

When filing for divorce in New Jersey, you must list a reason on the paperwork. The reason is referred to as “grounds.” When neither party is blamed for the divorce, couples can cite irreconcilable differences. 

However, couples must meet certain criteria to qualify to cite this reason for the divorce.

The following must be true:

  • One or both parties must have lived in New Jersey for the 12 consecutive months prior to filing for divorce
  • The differences must have existed between the couple for a minimum of six months
  • The couple believes that there is no way to reconcile 

When these requirements are met, neither party needs to prove there was any wrongdoing.

Three other grounds for divorce can be used in New Jersey: separation, cruelty, and “other.”

For separation to be approved as grounds for divorce, the couple must have lived apart for at least 18 months. 

The “other” reason includes incarceration or institutionalization of a spouse. 

Dissolution

In some states, dissolution is a faster, simpler form of divorce. This type of divorce is reserved for couples who have little or no assets, few or no debts, and no children. Spouses must also be in agreement on the divorce terms.

In New Jersey, dissolution and divorce are the same. The closest form of simple dissolution in New Jersey is an uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties come to a mutual agreement.

Prior to filing, they have determined:

These agreements are signed and notarized, then presented to the court along with applicable filing fees.

In many states, a legal separation is a prelude to divorce. With this arrangement, the couple is still tied legally. All laws regarding taxes, Social Security, inheritance, and so on remain intact, although the couple lives as unmarried individuals. 

New Jersey does not offer or recognize legal separation, but a similar option might be settlement or mediation.

This approach has benefits that are similar to an uncontested divorce. However, it uses outside professionals to help mediate and negotiate between the parties. 

Mediation is useful when the relationship is not ending amicably and the parties disagree about common issues, including:

  • How to divide the marriage assets
  • Who deserves support and how much
  • How child custody and parenting time will be shared

Couples choose this route when they need help coming to an agreement, but they don’t want the added time and expense associated with going into litigation. When couples choose this option to end their marriage, they often consult with multiple specialists, including counselors, financial planners, and lawyers.

Ending a Marriage

It can be difficult to know which path to pursue when two spouses decide to terminate their relationship. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you to explore your options for ending your marriage.