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What are Grounds for Divorce?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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If you are considering filing for divorce, you may be wondering whether or not you need to find grounds for divorce to begin your case. Traditionally, couples were required to prove marital misconduct in order to end their marriages. This was the grounds or the legal basis for why the courts should allow the dissolution of the marriage. Under this method, the “innocent” spouse would be allowed to divorce the spouse who was “guilty” of the wrongdoing.

Today, however, only 35 states still allow couples to obtain a fault divorce. In these states, finding a grounds for divorce allows a couple to have their marriage ended without the mandatory separation period often required for a no fault divorce. Sometimes, the spouse who is found legally responsible for the end of the marriage is also required to forfeit a portion of the martial property or pay a greater amount of alimony.

As you might expect, adultery is one of the most common grounds for divorce. However, since the courts do require proof if you wish to claim that your spouse is having an affair, this is also one of the most difficult ways to obtain a divorce. If your spouse refuses to acknowledge his/her sexual misconduct, legally proving adultery can be a long and drawn out process.

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Cruelty is another reason that is often given as grounds for divorce. If your spouse is physically and/or emotionally abusing you, the courts recognize that remaining married is not in your best interests. If you wish to claim cruelty as your grounds, you may be asked to provide documentation of the injuries your spouse has caused or call witnesses to testify to his/her abusive behavior.

Other possible grounds for divorce include abandonment, confinement in prison, incurable insanity, or physical incapacity. These circumstances are usually easier to prove than the other reasons given as grounds, but you will still need to have qualified legal representation to make that your interests are protected during the divorce proceedings.

Occasionally, both spouses have committed marital misconduct that can be used as grounds for divorce. A husband who physically abuses his wife is guilty of cruelty, but his wife is also guilty of adultery if she is having an affair with a coworker. In this case, the courts will use a doctrine known as “comparative rectitude” to determine who is the least at fault in the divorce case.

Of course, the courts also recognize that sometimes a marriage simply doesn’t work. When you request a no fault divorce, the person suing for divorce does not have to prove that his/her spouse is guilty of any wrongdoing. All that is necessary is to state that the two parties can no longer get along and have determined that their marriage can’t survive their irreconcilable differences. No fault divorces first became popular in the 1970s. Today, the majority of divorce proceedings fall under this category.

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gail1130
Post 5

My husband and I have been married for five years, but we been together for 23 years now. Before we got married, he already had house. He has never discussed any finances with me, and his mother is the sole beneficiary over everything -- the house and 401k retirement.I don't know what to do. Please help.

turtlez
Post 4

@BelugaWhale - Yes, in a matter of speaking irreconcilable difference is when couples don't see eye to eye and it makes it virtually impossible to continue in the marriage. It could be considered any form of arguing and such. My recommendation, however, (for ANYone considering divorce) is to see a marriage counselor. Especially if you didn't have to see one before you got married.

Over HALF of all marriages end in divorce and it's a shame because about 50 years ago people were staying together for the rest of their lives... which is the whole point of marriage.

BelugaWhale
Post 3

@turtlez - Is irreconcilable differences for people who argue a lot or just can't see eye to eye? I am not in a marriage, but a relationship that's lasted for years (right now I am kind of thankful that if we split up it wouldn't end in a messy divorce). Is that reason really legal grounds for divorce?

turtlez
Post 2

@anon107146 - Aside from the obvious such as Adultery (cheating), you can also file for irreconcilable differences. This is typically what most divorce lawyers see, especially in Hollywood. You can get an annulment if you are within so many days of the marriage, but I don't think that's an option for you. Your best bet would be to find a lawyer that will give you a free consultation and can better explain things further because I am not too keen on what your situation might be.

anon107146
Post 1

i would like to know more about some possible grounds for divorce, if you could help me. i am in troubled on what grounds i should ask for a divorce.

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