How to Begin the Divorce Process in New Jersey

Waiting Periods Before Filing a Complaint for Divorce

How to Start a Divorce in New Jersey

The decision to begin the divorce process is never an easy one. Imagining the life changes that will follow a divorce are daunting alone. But when you have exhausted all other options and know you are ready to make that change, it is helpful to know how to proceed. Hopefully this helps you understand how and when you might begin the divorce process in New Jersey.

All divorce proceedings in the state of New Jersey begin with a document called a Complaint for Divorce.  Depending on the reasons for seeking a divorce, however, there are varied waiting periods you must fulfill.


If filing for a divorce because of adultery (if your spouse has cheated on you), there is no waiting period.  You may immediately file your Complaint for Divorce.

Extreme Cruelty

Extreme Cruelty includes all acts of physical violence, and any acts of mental cruelty.  This includes badgering or verbal abuse that endangers your health or safety, or makes living together unreasonable.  More than half of NJ divorces stem from extreme cruelty making this the most common ground for divorce.  There is no waiting period for filing a Complaint for Divorce after an act of extreme cruelty.  You may file your complaint up to three months after the latest act.


If your spouse has left your marital home, you may file for divorce based on grounds of desertion.  You may file a Complaint for Divorce after 12 months from the time your spouse left. Desertion can also include sexual desertion, which means your spouse persistently refused sexual relations for 12 months.  This period cannot be by mutual consent, but must be a refusal by your husband or wife to engage in sexual activity that you have desired and would willingly engage in.

“No Fault” Divorce

If both parties agree to seek divorce without evidence of fault or wrongdoing, a couple has two options.  The first option follows an 18-month Separation. Your Complaint for Divorce must state that you and your spouse have lived in different places for a minimum of eighteen consecutive months. Separate bedrooms in the same house does NOT constitute legal separation. You must also include that there is likelihood of reconciliation.

If both parties are willing to seek divorce with no fault, but the 18-month separation is not reasonable, you may file a Complaint for Divorce based on grounds of Irreconcilable Differences.  There is no waiting period to file, but you must make a sworn statement that the breakdown of the marriage has existed for more than six months.  You must state that there is agreement that the marriage should be dissolved and that reconciliation is unreasonable.

As with any divorce proceedings, it is highly recommended that you seek an attorney to represent you. Here are Castronovo & McKinney our New Jersey Divorce Attorneys have experience with Divorce and Divorce proceedings. We can help guide you through the process with the best possible outcome.

New Jersey Family Law

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From Divorce to Prenuptial agreements, our attorneys at Castronovo & McKinney have experience with all types of New Jersey Family Law. Our goal is to serve our fellow New Jersey residents with the best possible legal representation for their family law needs.