Irreconcilable Differences Available as a Grounds to Dissolve Civil Unions

Many people do not know where to begin when contemplating divorcing their spouse or dissolving their civil union partnership. The grounds for Divorce in New Jersey can be based on, among other causes, adultery, imprisonment, or most commonly, irreconcilable differences. However, the New Jersey statute stating the grounds for dissolution of Civil Unions does not include irreconcilable differences. The civil union law lists several grounds for terminating a civil union including: extreme cruelty, drug addiction, habitual drunkenness, or 18 months’ separation, but not irreconcilable differences.

Even though New Jersey’s civil union statute does not list irreconcilable differences as grounds for dissolving a relationship, Ocean County Family Judge Lawrence Jones recently held in Groh v. Groh that a gay couple could rely on that basis to sever their legal ties. Jones based his decision on the state Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Lewis v. Harris which held that same-sex couples should have the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples, who can obtain a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage” for six months and “which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and there is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.”

Jones said that “No-fault resolution is preferable because it potentially saves people time, money, stress, anxiety and embarrassment in family court and is far more likely to bring about an amicable settlement than litigation, where each party has to accuse the other party of wrongful acts and misconduct in order to legally terminate an emotionally dead relationship.”

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