James Ellam filed suit for divorce against his wife, Ann, on the ground that they had been living separately and
James Ellam filed suit for divorce against his wife, Ann, on the ground that they had been living separately and apart. Ann counterclaimed against James for desertion. The facts reveal that James moved out of the marital home on July 5, 1972, because of severe marital discord. He moved back to his mother’s home in a nearby city, where he slept, kept his clothes, and ate some of his meals. For the next eighteen months, James had an unusual weekday routine. His mother would drive James early in the morning from her home to the marital home so that James could see his dog, check on the house, take his car out of the garage, and go to work much as he had done before he and Ann “separated.” At the end of the day, James would drive to the marital residence, put the car back in the garage, play with the dog, talk with his wife until she went to bed, and watch television until 12:30 A.M., when his mother would pick him up and take him “home.” On weekends, James would do chores at the marital home and even socialize with his wife (although the parties had terminated their sexual relationship). James lived this way because he claimed to love his wife and especially the dog, he wanted to maintain the marital home properly, and he did not want the neighbors to know about his marital problems. New Jersey law provides that persons who have lived separate and apart for a statutory period of time may be granted a divorce. Should the trial court have granted a divorce on the grounds that James and Ann had satisfied the statutory requirements by living “separate and apart in different habitations” as permitted under New Jersey law?
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