When You Want to File for an At-Fault Divorce

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More than likely, you’ve heard that New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state. You’re not exactly sure what that means and don’t really like how it sounds. As far as you’re concerned, your spouse was absolutely to blame for the demise of your marriage. And, you want it made clear to the court and anyone else that will listen. So, can you file for an at-fault divorce?

As you look back, you’re sad that you didn’t pick up on the hints before you even married. Your wife gave everyone the impression that she was sweet and demure. She also appeared devoted to you.  Nevertheless, in private, she was prone to rages. She would throw things at you and even physically assaulted you.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t all. At first, you were amused when your wife flirted with other men. After all, you knew she was coming home with you. You were secure as far as her fidelity. Unfortunately, it took a few years for you to realize she was not true to you. When you come home from work early one day, you find your wife in your marital bed with another man.

The fact that you restrain yourself from physically attacking both parties is remarkable. As soon as possible, you make an appointment with an experienced family law attorney. You demand that the divorce complaint cite your wife’s adulterous behavior….and make a note of her acts of extreme cruelty. After all, revenge is sweet, and you intend to take her for every penny.

At-Fault Divorce: What It Means

In New Jersey, filing for divorce based on fault has always been an option. The concept is based on the fact that the marriage is irreparably broken and that it was the fault of your spouse. Meanwhile, a no-fault divorce allows you to tell the court that the marriage has broken down and cannot continue without you having to make the reason for the split public.

New Jersey law outlines several specific causes that can lead to an at-fault divorce, but two of the most common are extreme cruelty and adultery. Despite the harsh name, extreme cruelty is broad enough that it can often include some behavior that is less extreme than the other causes.

Extreme cruelty is defined as any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the defendant. A complaint for divorce based on extreme cruelty cannot be filed until three months of the most recent act of cruelty.

Adultery is another common at-fault cause for divorce. While the statute doesn’t define adultery, the term is commonly defined as a sexual act between a married person and another outside the marriage. According to New Jersey Court Rule 5:4-2,  if a divorce complaint is based on adultery,  it should contain “the name of the person with whom such conduct was committed, if known, and if not known, shall state any available information tending to describe the said person.”  This individual is known as the Corespondent, who will also be served with notification of the proceedings.

A Complaint for Divorce may also be filed based on drug addiction or habitual use of controlled dangerous substances. Institutionalization for mental illness is another grounds for divorce, as is imprisonment.

Are There Advantages to an At-Fault Divorce?

You’re outraged. You’re disappointed. You’re hurt.  And, in some cases, the reasons for filing for an at-fault divorce are based on retaliation.

You may decide that filing for an at-fault divorce will embarrass your spouse. And, you may also want to make sure his or her paramour suffers well-deserved humiliation.

Back to the idea of filing for an at-fault divorce because you think it works to your financial advantage. The bottom line is that it doesn’t. The court isn’t going to punish your spouse for infidelity. There are formulas for child support and spousal support.  New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. Any proceeds of the marital estate will not be apportioned differently because of fault.

There are clear downsides to an at-fault divorce filing as well. For most people, airing dirty laundry in a public forum will only make a bad situation worse. The possibility of a divorce becoming more acrimonious is enough for many to choose a no-fault divorce.

Like any other legal proceeding, it takes time and money to end a marriage. Your attorney can help you decide what type of complaint works best for you.

Contact Us

There is a lot to consider when weighing what type of divorce you should file. The experienced professionals at the Law Offices of Samuel Stoia can help guide you navigate the divorce process with as little delay and conflict as possible. Contact us today for your free consultation.