The Meaning and Basis for Extreme Cruelty in NJ Divorce Cases

Understanding Extreme Cruelty and How to Prove it as Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

Meaning of Extreme Cruelty and Impact in Divorce Cases in NJAccording to the CDC, 2020 saw 630,505 divorces in the US. The New Jersey divorce rate has been relatively low; however, the rate of marriages is nearly equally low. The state of New Jersey allows divorces to be filed without proving fault, known as a “no-fault” divorce. No-fault divorces are granted when neither party bears any blame for the end of their marriage. Divorces without fault are based on irreconcilable differences. Grounds for divorce represents the reason behind filing for divorce.

In New Jersey, the grounds for at-fault divorces include extreme cruelty, among other like abandonment (which is also known as desertion), addiction to drugs (substance abuse disorder), addiction to alcohol or alcoholism, habitual state of drunkenness, adultery, deviant sexual conduct, imprisonment of 18 months or more, or institutionalization, if their spouse was institutionalized for mental illness for 24 consecutive months following the start of the marriage.

It may come as a surprise that divorces in NJ are filed based on extreme cruelty more than any other grounds. According to NJ 2A:34-2 subsection c., acts of extreme cruelty are considered those that endanger an individual’s well-being or safety or render it unreasonable for him or her to continue living with the defendant. However, as per NJ 2A:34-2 subsection c’s provision, you must certify that the final act of extreme cruelty occurred over three months before filing on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

You may wonder what constitutes an example of “extreme cruelty” in New Jersey divorce. Here, our New Jersey divorce lawyers explain what is considered extreme cruelty, some of the common manifestations and factors for extreme cruelty in a marriage, how to prove extreme cruelty if you plan to file a divorce complaint based on these grounds, and what to do if your ex claim extreme cruelty on your part in a fault-based divorce.

For additional assistance with your own divorce case and to talk to a lawyer free of charge, our divorce attorneys at The Montanari Law Group to discuss the specifics of your particular situation with a member of our team; we encourage you to contact us today at (973) 233-4396, or you also have the option to complete the online contact form, and we will reach out to you.

Manifestations of Extreme Cruelty Within a Marriage

Extreme cruelty may take the form of physical abuse, battery, and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse also constitutes a form of extreme cruelty. In addition, financial abuse appears as restricting or blocking access and use of financial accounts or credit and debit cards. Limiting or restricting vehicle use can take away an individual’s ability and right to work, earn wages, and make their own money. Having paychecks confiscated or deposited in the other spouse’s private account would also be financial abuse. Financial is a common form of abuse in extreme cruelty cases as it is also a form of control for the abuser. Some abusers will try to prevent or limit time with children, which is also abusive to the child.

A gambling addiction can translate as extreme cruelty as it endangers the family’s ability to be financially secure and is often accompanied by eradicated and irresponsible behavior and sometimes drug or alcohol abuse. Cruelty may be exhibitable by evidence of the abuser isolating the spouse from their family, friends, and loved ones. It is common for abusers to monitor emails, track phone calls, listen to voicemails, review text messages, and even cut off access to phones and the Internet. In the most extreme cases (yet still not uncommon), it is also possible the abuser restricted access to the outside world (outside the home).

Proving Extreme Cruelty in a New Jersey Divorce

In support of a claim of extreme cruelty as grounds for an at-fault divorce, the petitioning spouse must provide proof of such conduct. Typical types of evidence to support a claim of extreme cruelty within a marriage include a letter from a mental health care provider; notes or reports from a clinician or physician, therapy notes or a letter from a psychologist, photographs depicting injuries from physical abuse you experienced from your spouse during your marriage, or domestic violence service documents or proof of use of emergency housing services.

There may be evidence of extreme cruelty if security footage is gathered around the house. You can also provide health records, clinic reports, urgent care documents, or a letter from a domestic violence counselor. Neighbors may be willing to provide a statement affirming witnessing and hearing fighting. Police reports documenting incidents of past abuse, domestic violence, and battery incidents, along with protective order or restraining order documentation, can also support your claim.

Finally, you may also consider asking friends, coworkers, and others close to you or both you and your spouse to testify in support of your claim of extreme cruelty. In some cases, combing through evidence can be distressing and emotionally taxing, and evidence may be overlooked that could aid your claim.

Facing a Divorce Based on Extreme Cruelty in New Jersey? Contact The Montanari Law Group to Protect Your Rights

It is often difficult to resolve extreme cruelty cases without the help of a skilled divorce attorney because of the combative or emotional nature of such cases. If you have begun to contemplate a divorce due to extreme cruelty, contact an experienced and knowledgeable New Jersey divorce lawyer at The Montanari Law Group who can help minimize the stress, examine all relevant information, facts, evidence, and details and make your divorce as smooth as possible.  Equally important, contact a seasoned NJ lawyer at The Montanari Law Group immediately if your spouse is pursuing an extreme cruelty divorce claim against you based on what you believe to be false accusations.

We offer free consultations and are available to schedule an appointment to meet with you at our local office in Little Falls. Our attorneys assist clients before, during, and after divorce in Ringwood, Millburn, Bergenfield, Caldwell, Wayne, Essex Fells, and throughout Passaic County and Northern New Jersey. Call now at (973) 233-4396 or toll-free at (888) 877-7985 to discuss your case and learn how we can help.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.