Cut marriage certificate

You’ve likely heard the term “Grounds For Divorce.”

In the old world of divorce you had to have a reason for the divorce, and it couldn’t just be that you don’t get along anymore, or you’ve fallen out of love.

As an example, here’s the list that was applicable in New Jersey:

As per New Jersey Rules of Court: 2A:34-2 Causes for divorce from bond of matrimony. 

a. Adultery

b. Willful and continued desertion for the term of 12 or more months…

c. Extreme cruelty, which is defined as including any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the defendant…

d .Separation, provided that the husband and wife have lived separate and apart in different habitations for a period of at least 18 or more consecutive months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation…

e. Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug as defined in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act…

f. Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months…

g. Imprisonment of the defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after marriage…

h. Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the defendant without the consent of the plaintiff…


On February 27, 2007 (ironically the morning of my final divorce),

the state of New Jersey added one more item to their grounds for divorce.

It’s actually the most common reason for divorce:

i. Irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Amended 1971, c.212, s.2; 1971, c.217, s.11; 2007, c.6.


Can you guess which option for grounds for divorce was used most often before irreconcilable differences was approved? Take a good look at the list.  

If you chose Extreme Cruelty, you’re right. If none of the others were applicable, Extreme Cruelty was the default for grounds for divorce. Imagine the reactions you would get when you publicly accused your husband of emotional cruelty! 

So in a nutshell, grounds for divorce have evolved from accusing your husband of aggregious wrongful acts against you to simply claiming that the “love light went out.”

*** Keep in mind that state laws apply and may vary. It’s best to check your own state court information.


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Ellen Wanamaker

Ellen Wanamaker is a Divorce Financial Specialist and Communications Strategist. She began helping women with uncoupling, after her own egregious divorce from which she created a step by step system. Post-divorce, she went on to become a Matrimonial Paralegal, Mediator and Divorce Financial Specialist. Ellen's divorce strengths stem from her financial background, being a federally licensed tax practitioner for more than 25 years,, and investment and insurance advisor. She has been helping women in many stages of divorce set up their finances on autopilot. Ellen is also the author of the popular book "Divorce Starter Tools Women Need."