Scutari Bill Would Expand ”no Fault” Divorce

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari to amend current divorce laws and protect the privacy of divorcing couples was approved by the full Senate today by a vote of 30 to 5.

“The end of a marriage is always a sad and difficult occasion, and our legal system should not be compounding that burden,” said Senator Scutari, D-Middlesex, Somerset, and Union. “By establishing ‘irreconcilable differences’ as grounds for divorce, we will allow couples to move forward with their lives in a civil and amicable fashion, without undue emotional stress and anguish.”

The bill, S-1467, would require couples to demonstrate that irreconcilable differences have caused their marriage to “break down” for a period of at least six months, and make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no prospect for reconciliation. Currently, in order to seek a no-fault divorce, New Jersey law requires married couples to be separated for 18 months, at the end of which there is no prospect for reconciliation. Married couples may also seek divorce based upon certain grounds, including emotional and physical cruelty, alcoholism, adultery, drug addiction, imprisonment, institutionalization for mental illness, desertion, or deviant sexual conduct, Senator Scutari said.

“Couples trying to move on with their lives expeditiously often seek to divorce on the grounds of mental or physical cruelty, even when no such conditions exist,” explained Senator Scutari “They are then forced to recount the most intimate details of their private lives in court records, injecting needless acrimony and embarrassment into an already difficult process. My legislation will allow couples to retain their dignity and privacy while making a deeply personal choice about their future.”

Senator Scutari stated that the New Jersey Bar Association reported that the experience of other states shows that divorce is not any more common in jurisdictions where the cause of irreconcilable differences is available.

Senator Scutari noted that, the Legislature passed an irreconcilable differences bill in 1999 that was conditionally vetoed by Governor Whitman. The Legislature did not take any action on her conditional veto.

The Assembly approved an Identical Bill on October 23rd.

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