Irreconcilable Differences in New Jersey One Year Later: What Was the Fuss About?

Over a year ago, New Jersey recognized irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce. So, what can New York lawmakers, who have been struggling to enact a no-fault grounds for divorce, learn from New Jersey’s experience?

According to the New Jersey Lawyer, “The law stands as a classic case of a proposal lingering for years in the state legislature based on opposition from religious groups and, when finally enacted, is actually heaped with praise.”

In the absence of a no-fault or irreconcilable differences ground for divorce, the parties need allege and prove marital fault. Prior to the enactment of New Jersey’s irreconcilable differences grounds for divorce, extreme cruelty was a common ground for divorce.

“All attorneys interviewed agreed that a detailed filing under extreme cruelty had the potential to create an especially combative and mean-spirited divorce proceeding.” The new no fault law has effectively defused some of the animosity.

“Unlike the extreme-cruelty standard, an irreconcilable-differences filing "starts the litigation off on a positive note; you don't have to start the litigation with smearing the other party," added Paterson lawyer José I. Bastarrika.”

The attorneys and judges interviewed, not surprisingly, acknowledged a drastic reduction in cruelty filings.

Perhaps one day, New Yorkers, after enacting a no-fault divorce law, will like our New Jersey neighbors, will look backward and wonder, what was all the fuss about.

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