Can I Get Divorced If My Spouse Does Not Want To?

In many situations, one spouse believes that the marriage has deteriorated to the point of no return while the other spouse wishes to continue to be married and does not want to move forward with a divorce proceeding. Fortunately, according to New Jersey law, you can request a divorce from the court despite your spouse’s objection. 

In 2007, when New Jersey law was revised to include a cause of action for divorce based upon irreconcilable differences, the necessity was eliminated for proving a “fault ground” such as extreme cruelty or adultery. Prior to that date, most divorce complaints were based upon either separation (living separate and apart for 18 months) or extreme cruelty, which requires the spouse to allege claims of specific acts of cruel behavior. As New Jersey is a “no fault” state, it is only necessary to prove the ground of irreconcilable differences, which requires the complaint for divorce to be based upon the parties experiencing irreconcilable differences for a period of six months prior to the filing and that there is no prospect of reconciliation. In addition, one of the parties must have lived in New Jersey for twelve consecutive months prior to the filing of the divorce complaint.

If your divorce complaint is filed and properly served upon your spouse, after such service, your spouse has a period of 35 days to file a responsive pleading, known as an answer and counterclaim. In the event your spouse does not respond, you can request that the court enter a default against him/her and proceed in accordance with New Jersey law. The court will schedule a default hearing and it is possible to obtain your divorce without your spouse’s participation. The spouse seeking the divorce must submit a detailed certification with exhibits regarding all of the outstanding issues in the marriage, serve the document on the other spouse and provide proof of service to the court. Often after default is entered and your spouse receives your filed submission and notice of a court date for the default hearing, that spouse will request that the court vacate the default and then contest the issues regarding child support, custody and parenting time, spousal support and equitable distribution of the marital assets. 

It is important to file comprehensive documents with the court and to receive advice from experienced attorneys who are familiar with the process. The attorneys at Cohn Lifland Pearlman, Herrmann & Knopf, LLP can assist you in proceeding in the proper manner and advise you as to how you can best navigate the divorce process. Contact the experienced family lawyers at Cohn Lifland to discuss your specific circumstances to enable you to be divorced and move on with your life.