New Jersey allows no-fault divorce, where the couple cites “irreconcilable differences” with no chance of reconciliation as the grounds for the split. But the state also allows so-called “fault” divorce, where one spouse claims the other has done something to cause the marriage to end.
One advantage of a fault divorce may be obvious. When one spouse cheated or is abusive, citing fault may seem like just a matter of being truthful. There just might be other advantages as well. But there are significant and lasting disadvantages to a fault divorce. It never hurts to consider some pros and cons before making a decision.
Looking for advantages of a fault divorce
New Jersey grants New Jersians the right to a divorce based on nothing but irreconcilable differences, so there is no need to cite other grounds, even if one spouse wants a divorce and the other does not. That irreconcilable difference is itself usually enough.
Also, when a judge considers alimony, child support, visitation, property division and the like, a spouse can raise any issues relevant to those decisions. Being the official grounds for divorce does not give them greater weight in that context.
However, it may feel momentarily fair to point the finger at the person who is at fault. A divorce involving grounds that the other spouse denies may require the accusing spouse to prove their case publicly and at significant expense. This is very rare today, but it is possible to imagine a spouse who wants this to play out. But remember that charges often bring counter-charges.
Possible disadvantages of a fault divorce
No-fault divorce has become the most common way to break up a marriage in recent decades, and for good reasons.
Court fights are always much more expensive and time-consuming and can injure the reputations of both spouses. They raise already high tensions and aggression, and the emotional effects on children often last a lifetime.
The most common ways to arrive at workable post-divorce arrangements like custody, visitation, property disputes and support payments involve mediation, arbitration or other so-called alternative dispute resolution.
These are usually faster and cheaper and they also result in generally more sustainable and realistic decisions. They more often leave two co-parents better able to put their differences behind them, at least enough to make the lives of their children happier and more successful.