McKenzie, J.c.c., Temporarily Assigned.
[122 NJSuper Page 95] The sole question for our consideration is whether plaintiff's cause of action for divorce satisfies the requirements of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(e) which provides in pertinent part that a divorce may be adjudged if it can be shown that defendant suffered from "Habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive
months subsequent to marriage and next preceding the filing of the complaint."
Plaintiff's proofs demonstrate defendant imbibed heavily of alcohol during the statutory period, but it also appears that during that period there was a two-month hiatus during which he participated in an alcoholic treatment program and totally abstained from the use of alcoholic beverages. Thus the question arises as to whether this period of abstention tolled the running of the statute, and thereby defeats plaintiff's cause of action.
Habitual drunkenness has only recently been made a ground for divorce. In McVey v. McVey , 119 N.J. Super. 4, 6 (Ch. Div. 1972), habitual drunkenness was defined as "a fixed, frequent, irresistible or regular habit of drinking alcoholic beverages in such excessive quantities as to produce drunkenness."
In its report to the Governor and Legislature, the Divorce Law Study Commission, commenting on the objective of the new divorce law, stated:
The premise is that dead marriages should be terminated at the option of either party. It follows that fault is immaterial. A divorce should not be granted as a reward for virtue or imposed as a punishment for marital sin. The public interest is concerned with the stability of functioning and meaningful marriages. [ Final Report , May 11, 1970, at 74]
As to habitual drunkenness as a ground for divorce, the Study Commission stated that
The terms used in the proposed draft constitute or attempt to make the proposed ground functional. It is a non-fault ground for divorce. Red tape has been eliminated. Mental illness, drug addiction and alcoholism in effect are equated as medical problems, which is in accord with current thinking. [at 76]
These statements evince a clear intention that the touchstone for the granting of a divorce on non-fault grounds is the inevitable breakdown of the marriage. See Wanser v. Wanser , 119 N.J. Super. 190, 191 (Ch. Div. 1972). As
yet, no reported New Jersey case has dealt with the precise question here presented, but we find persuasive authority from other jurisdictions which recognize similar grounds for divorce.
In Dorian v. Dorian , 298 Ill. 24, 131 N.E. 129 (1921), the Supreme Court of Illinois considered whether a defendant who was twice confined in order to correct a drinking problem and abstained from the use of intoxicating beverages for a short period upon release was a habitual drunkard within the meaning of its ...