Unequal Rights For Civil Union Couples- No Irreconcilable Differences Grounds For Dissolution
- September 26, 2013
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It may come as quite a surprise to some that irreconcilable differences is not a ground for civil union dissolution in the state of New Jersey. This means that same sex couples who wish to dissolve their civil union must file under one of the statutory grounds for divorce. According to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2.1 (2012) the only grounds that gay or lesbian couples seeking to dissolve their civil union can file under are the following: 1) voluntary sexual intercourse between a person who is in a civil union and a person other than the person’s partner in a civil union; 2) willful and continued desertion for a period of 12 or more consecutive months; 3) extreme cruelty, which is defined as including any physical or mental cruelty that endangers the safety or health of the plaintiff; 4) separation, provided that the partners in a civil union couple 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; 5) voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug; 6) institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months subsequent to the establishment of the civil union; or 7) imprisonment of the defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after the establishment of the civil union. The aforementioned grounds are analogous to the grounds that can be filed for married couples who wish to end their marriage, except for the fact that irreconcilable differences is clearly not an option for couples in a civil union. This dramatically effects the dissolution process for same sex couples. Many married couples willingly choose to file for divorce under the ground of irreconcilable differences because it is a much more expedited process as neither party will bear the burden of having to prove the truth of one of the aforementioned grounds – which also leads to a much more emotionally-charged and contested process. Couples in civil unions do not have that luxury and therefore will have to prove the truth of one of the other grounds in order to dissolve the civil union which will complicated the process dramatically. This compels the party who wishes to dissolve the civil union to choose from those enumerated statutory grounds. For instance, if a party chooses to file for dissolution based on extreme cruelty, that party will have to present the court with evidence that he or she was mentally and/or physically abused by the other party. This may prompt the other party to defend him or herself thus igniting emotions and complicating and lengthening the duration of the litigation. Although gay couples may not have equal rights when it comes to marriage in NJ, they still face the same issues when a relationship ends including child custody, child support, alimony, equitable distribution and more. If you are considering or facing dissolution of your civil union you should consult an experienced civil union attorney to protect your rights and help you navigate the process. For more information regarding same-sex civil union dissolution,custody, alimony, divorce or other family faw matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.