NEW YORK (Reuters) – A divorce case in New Jersey has prompted new questions about the legal system in the state, and whether the courts are ready to address the issue.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the state to pay $20 million in damages to two people who say they were wrongfully separated and separated by state law from their estranged spouse.
The plaintiffs were seeking $12 million in unpaid child support, and the judge in Newark on Thursday said he would set aside a $5 million claim for those two people.
They sued for divorce and separation in 2011 after the woman, a nurse practitioner, lost her job after filing a complaint.
The couple separated in 2013, and a year later they divorced.
The state of New Jersey filed a motion to dismiss the suit, saying it had failed to prove that the woman’s complaints about mistreatment and harassment were credible.
The state argued that the husband was the primary aggressor in the breakup and should not have been permitted to separate.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued in a brief filed on Thursday that the couple’s claims are valid and that New Jersey’s divorce law is not clear enough.
In a separate motion filed in Newark, lawyers for the state said the new claims were not supported by any legal or factual basis.
The new claims also are not supported “by a preponderance of the evidence,” the state lawyers wrote, adding that the women are not entitled to recover money that the state is claiming the men owe to their children.
“It is not reasonable to expect that the new plaintiffs will succeed in bringing their claim on a basis that will meet the burden of proving the plaintiff’s claims,” the lawyers wrote.
“The New Jersey Legislature is required to adopt a new divorce law that adequately addresses the issues raised in this case,” they added.