Irreconcilable Differences as Grounds for Divorce – Fact Sheet
1. What are Irreconcilable Differences?
When a married couple cannot get along with each other for whatever reasons, and either spouse feels that their differences are far too wide to be bridged and that there is no way their marriage can be saved, then they can file divorce papers citing irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce. Citing irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce implies that the marriage is no longer fixable – no other reason is required to be given.
2. Some Examples of Irreconcilable Differences
Irreconcilable differences in a divorce mean that the couple has serious differences over issues like parenting, finance, communication, intimacy, etc., and either spouse feels that things have gotten to a point of no return (leading to an irretrievable breakdown of their marriage).
3. Irreconcilable Differences Imply a No-Fault Divorce
Citing irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce implies that the petitioning spouse is opting for the no-fault divorce system in which he/she does not have to allege and prove any marital misconduct or wrongdoing on part of the other spouse in the courts.
4. No-Fault vs. At-Fault Divorce
Had the petitioning spouse opted to file an at-fault divorce petition, he/she would have to allege marital wrongdoing (infidelity, abandonment, cruelty, etc.) that led to the divorce, and prove it in the courts. An at-fault divorce takes a long time to resolve and involves acrimony, deceit, and counter-allegations. A no-fault divorce can be quick and easy as there is no dirty laundry to wash in the courts – however, both spouses should agree on issues like child custody, alimony, and property division.
5. How Many States Allow Irreconcilable Differences as Grounds for Divorce?
According to the last data available (as of December 2021), there are 19 true no-fault divorce states in the U.S. A “true” no-fault divorce state does not allow a spouse to file an at-fault divorce petition. All the other states give spouses the choice of filing a no-fault or at-fault divorce petition. In other words, citing “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for divorce is allowed in all states.
6. Irreconcilable Differences and Marital Wrongdoing
Though spouses don’t have to allege marital wrongdoing while citing irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce, it doesn’t mean that the courts will ignore such wrongdoings. If a spouse who has cited irreconcilable differences presents evidence of marital wrongdoing, the courts may award him/her higher alimony or a higher share of the marital property. Moreover, the spouse who is in the wrong may also have to severely compromise his/her custodial rights.
7. When do the Courts Step In?
While citing irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce, some couples agree on matters like child custody, alimony, and property division. Such agreements are signed and then presented to the courts by the spouses’ divorce lawyers for approval. If the courts find the agreement is fair to both the spouses, it grants its approval and the divorce is completed. If the spouses do not agree on the matters mentioned above, then the courts decide for them.
To file for a no-fault divorce, the spouses have to comply with the state’s residency laws and the mandatory cooling-off period.
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