A man thinking about divorce in New Jersey might wonder whether his wife will have an advantage during divorce proceedings. Most marital and divorce rights apply to both spouses regardless of gender. New Jersey laws generally do not allow the state courts to make divorce or custody decisions in favor of the wife automatically; rather, the courts must consider the specific circumstances of each divorce case.
Right to Request Divorce
A man has the right to file for divorce in New Jersey even if his wife isn't willing. The divorce grounds available to men are the same as those available to women. A husband filing for divorce may choose from no-fault divorce grounds based on irreconcilable differences or on a period of separation lasting for at least 18 months. Alternatively, a husband may request a fault-based divorce by proving that his wife deserted him, subjected him to extreme cruelty, committed adultery or engaged in any of the other types of misconduct specified by state law.
A husband generally has financial rights as part of a divorce. The financial rights available to men are the same rights given to women — New Jersey divorce laws do not allow the state courts to automatically prefer wives over husbands when determining legal issues such as property division or alimony. A husband may request alimony from his wife as part of the divorce; whether the court will grant the request depends on the couple's financial situation. When the court determines property division, the court must divide the couple's assets and debts according to the "equitable distribution" standard, which requires a fair result between the two spouses.
New Jersey paternity laws give presumed rights to a husband who is married to his wife when she gives birth; the state automatically identifies the husband as the child's biological father. A husband also has parental rights as the child's biological father if the child is born within 300 days of the marriage legally ending. A child's biological father often has a variety of parental rights, including the right to request custody as part of a divorce and the right to object if the child's mother would like to allow the child's adoption by another family.
Custody and Support Rights
New Jersey custody laws do not allow the courts to prefer mothers over fathers when parents have custody disputes. Although a father might believe that a court has favored the mother if he dislikes the outcome in his divorce case, the court must thoroughly review both parents' circumstances and the child's needs to determine an arrangement that supports the child's best interests. If the mother becomes the custodial parent who has physical custody of the child for most of the time, the father is the non-custodial parent who will likely need to pay court-ordered child support. However, if the father becomes the custodial parent, he has a right to request child support from the child's mother.
References & Resources
- Legal Services of New Jersey: Divorce in New Jersey: A Self-Help Guide - C. Chapter 1 - Preparing and Filing the Divorce Complaint
- Legal Services of New Jersey: Equitable Distribution
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: The Rights of Unmarried Fathers
- Legal Services of New Jersey: About Custody
- New Jersey Child Support: Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities (NCP)
- New Jersey Child Support: Why Parents Should Apply for Services Through the New Jersey Child Support Program
- Legal Services of New Jersey: Divorce in New Jersey: A Self-Help Guide
- New Jersey Child Support: The Eight Major Steps in Calculating Child Support in New Jersey
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