Can you divorce your spouse while they are still in prison?

Can you divorce your spouse while they are still in prison?

Marriage vows may differ from couple to couple, but most of the time they involve people promising to stay together even when times get tough. While you may have agreed to stay with your spouse when they have health issues or career problems, you likely didn’t think that those bad times would include your spouse becoming a criminal.

Unfortunately, some people hide their true nature from the people they are closest to, while others change drastically over the course of their lives. If your spouse has recently committed a crime and either plead guilty or gotten convicted, you will probably spend the foreseeable future apart from them. Is it possible for you to divorce your spouse under New Jersey law while they are still in prison?

Separation and incarceration are both grounds for divorce in New Jersey

Most people who file for divorce will ask for a no-fault divorce. These proceedings just require that one spouse claims the marriage is beyond repair.

In other cases, sometimes for religious purposes, people will divorce on fault-based grounds. Long-term separation that lasts for at least 18 months is one reason for a spouse to file for divorce in New Jersey. Extended incarceration is also grounds for a fault-based divorce.

Why it may be best to divorce now

Some people decide to stay married until their spouse secures release and then get divorced. That could mean that you spend a decade or longer alone. Additionally, it might mean that you have legal or financial complications caused by your spouse while they remain in prison or after their release. For those worried about recidivism or the financial impact of incarceration and court costs on their family, divorcing now may be the best solution.

Some people wind up in jail because they abused or assaulted their spouse or children. If that situation applies to your family, divorcing while your ex is still in prison is likely the safest approach. You can handle all of the necessary paperwork without any fear of reprisal from them. You will also have the opportunity to relocate after the divorce, which could give you another layer of protection when they do eventually get out of prison.

Getting help with filing a divorce related to your spouse’s incarceration can free up your time and mental energy to focus on yourself and your family.