Bruce Springsteen has been named by the husband in a New Jersey divorce as the party with which his wife "committed adultery … at various times and places too numerous to mention." So why does the Boss need to be dragged into what appears will be an ugly and protracted divorce?

New Jersey, like Bucks County, Pennsylvania, requires a spouse to establish a sufficient reason under the law to allow a divorce to occur.  Simply asking for a divorce is not sufficient.  The reason, or "grounds" for the divorce must be set forth in the initial filing of the divorce complaint.  As is true in Bucks County, the grounds for divorce in New Jersey can either be "fault" or "no-fault."

Historically, in New Jersey the only no-fault grounds required spouses to live separate and apart in different habitations for 18 or more consecutive months with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Most people don’t want to wait 18 months.  So how can they get divorced sooner?  Traditionally, in those cases, the filing party must file a fault based divorce complaint.  The most common fault based grounds have been: extreme mental or physical cruelty; desertion; and, every aggrieved spouse’s obsession, adultery.  Furthermore, under the current law in New Jersey and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, if a party files and requests a divorce on the ground of adultery, then the individual who the spouse allegedly committed adultery with must be identified as well as the time, place and circumstances of the acts.  New Jersey even requires the spouse making the allegation to serve the divorce complaint on the third party.

However, in January, 2007, Governor Corzine signed into law the most recent grounds for divorce in New Jersey: irreconcilable differences.  The new ground allows for a divorce after irreconcilable differences have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months and there is no prospect of reconciliation.  This new no-fault ground allows the parties to get a divorce without placing blame on one party for the failure of the marriage and does not require them to live separate and apart for a year and a half.

Further, in Pennsylvania and many states, if a divorce can be granted on no-fault grounds then the divorce must be granted on no-fault grounds. So again, why was Springsteen named in another couple’s divorce?

Although most divorce practitioners avoid or even refuse to advance fault based grounds, practitioners who do raise adultery claims do so either because they succumbed to the demands of a spouse who want their pound of flesh from the offending spouse, or because they believe pleading and/or establishing adultery will somehow give them an advantage in the divorce.  Or perhaps they are just looking for publicity at the Boss’ expense.

The only legitimate reason to reveal such salacious and personal details would be if establishing the adultery gives the non-offending party a legal advantage.  The New Jersey Supreme Court recently addressed the role adultery is to have in a party’s request for alimony.  The New Jersey Supreme court held that adultery is irrelevant to alimony except in two narrow instances: 1) cases in which the fault has affected the parties’ economic life, and; 2) cases in which the fault so violates societal norms that continuing the economic bonds between the parties would confound notions of simple justice.  The former may be considered in the calculation of alimony and the latter in connection with the initial determination of whether alimony should be allowed at all.

It is the exceptional case which can meet either of the enumerated standards set forth by the New Jersey Supreme Court.  The inclusion of adultery as a grounds for divorce, whether filed in New Jersey, or Bucks County, Pennsylvania, rarely serves a legitimate purpose and usually only ramps-up hostility and animosity in an already inflamed proceeding.  It is wise counsel who avoids creating sparks in a tinder box.