Divorce Law

Common Grounds for Divorce

The "grounds for divorce" are the legal reasons you are presenting to the court for why you are seeking a divorce, and why the court should grant you one. Acceptable grounds for divorce and who they apply to will vary by jurisdiction.

Considering Divorce?

If you're considering a divorce, there are a lot of aspects to think about, from dividing assets to outlining custody arrangements. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you need to evaluate. That's why it's important to simplify the process as much as possible and take it one step at a time.

One of the first things you should determine when you're considering a divorce is whether you need to state any grounds for the divorce. All states allow "no-fault" divorces that do not require a reason.

States that allow fault divorces will typically consider the following as some of the acceptable grounds to get a divorce:

  • Adultery: If your spouse is unfaithful, you can cite their infidelity as a ground for divorce.
  • Abandonment: If your spouse physically left you and your home, typically for at least one year without valid reason or intent to return, the desertion could be a ground for divorce.
  • Incarceration: If your spouse is convicted of a crime and incarcerated, you may be able to cite that as a basis for your filing.
  • Domestic violence: If your spouse has been physically, sexually, or mentally abusive to you or your children, this may form a basis for filing for divorce. In most states, the abuse can be either long-term or a specific instance.
  • Mental illness: You may have grounds for divorce if your spouse is suffering from certain mental illnesses. Typically in these cases, the illness must be incurable and present for a specified length of time, depending on the jurisdiction you're filing in.
  • Substance abuse: If your spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, their addiction could be grounds for a fault-based divorce. In some states, you may need to prove the addiction started after you were married, or may need to show the addiction has lasted for a specific period of time.

When you file for a fault divorce, you should expect your spouse to contest the grounds you're stating, including presenting their own evidence in their defense or possibly citing some of your actions as the grounds for divorce.

When You Need to State Grounds for Divorce

Grounds for divorce are typically required when you file for a "fault divorce." In a fault divorce, you are citing your spouse's specific actions as creating a reason for the divorce. Adultery, for example, is one of the most common grounds for divorce.

While you are not required to pursue a fault-based divorce, in some cases, proving your spouse's fault can have its benefits. These may include:

  • Greater asset awards
  • Affect custody award
  • Avoiding pre-filing restrictions, such as a required separation period from your spouse

If you file for a fault divorce, you'll need to prove to the court why your spouse is at fault, and that they committed the actions you're claiming they did.

When You Don't Need to State Grounds For Divorce

Not every divorce will require you to state grounds for divorce. A "no-fault" divorce requires no reason, and you don't have to prove a specific fault from your spouse. In most no-fault divorces, you will simply state that your marriage is "irretrievably broken" or that you and your spouse are suffering from "irreconcilable differences."

These terms are very broad and may cover many reasons why your marriage is simply no longer viable. You're essentially stating there are too many conflicts between you and your spouse that you cannot resolve. These often include disagreements about children, financial difficulties, or diverging lifestyles.

No-fault divorces are typically harder for your spouse to contest because there are no accusations and nothing to prove. If you want a divorce and your spouse doesn't, many courts will see this as sufficient evidence of incompatibility.

Some states require you and your spouse to separate for a certain length of time before you file, typically ranging from a few months to a year.

How to Decide What Grounds for Divorce You Should Claim

To determine whether or what grounds for divorce you should claim, you'll need to first learn whether your state allows fault divorces or whether your only option is no-fault divorce. If you have the option between the two, you'll need to decide if you want to claim fault or not, and then, what kind of fault you're allowed to try to prove in your area.

An Attorney Can Help During Your Divorce Process

Getting a divorce can be an emotional and complicated process. Hiring a divorce attorney can help you untangle those rules and procedures. The support of an attorney could make it easier to understand your rights and options when you file for a divorce and can help you through the divorce proceedings to increase the odds of getting your desired outcomes.