What Are the 3 Grounds for Divorce?

Since 2010, all states in the U.S. recognize no-fault divorce, under which the spouse who’s filing for divorce doesn’t have to prove any fault/offense on the part of the other spouse. The 3 primary grounds recognized by the states for no-fault divorces are:

What Are the 3 Grounds for Divorce?
  1. Incompatibility
  2. Irreconcilable differences
  3. Irretrievable breakdown of marriage

With that said, spouses need to understand the difference between a no-fault and fault-based divorce.

What is a Fault-Based Divorce?

Fault-based divorces were more or less the norm long back, before no-fault divorces got recognition, courtesy of Ronald Reagan, the Governor of California, in 1969, but now are less common. A fault-based divorce requires the petitioner to allege a marital offense or wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse – and prove the same. The common grounds for this type of divorce include:

  • Incurable mental illness
  • Infidelity
  • Impotence
  • Fraudulently or forcefully getting married
  • Bigamy
  • Criminal conviction
  • Abandoning the spouse without reason
  • Abuse (emotional or physical)
  • Addiction
  • Any other reason specified by the state

This type of divorce requires providing evidence of the wrongdoing and the process can involve a whole lot of strife, deception, private investigators, and false allegations. Moreover, a lot of time can be taken by the courts to resolve such cases. To do away with the long process of divorce, deception, fabrication, and the unpleasantness involved in such court cases, the no-fault divorce was introduced.

What is No-fault Divorce?

In a no-fault divorce, a spouse does not have to say or prove that the other spouse is at fault. It is enough to state that the marriage is not working out because of:

  • Incompatibility
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Irretrievable breakdown of marriage

However painful and tragic the divorce may be, a no-fault divorce makes it easier for both the spouses as it goes much faster and there is no fabrication or deception involved in the process. Moreover, there is no wasting time proving fault in court.

States and Divorce Rules

As of 2021, only 19 U.S. states are “true” no-fault divorce states. These states do not allow a fault divorce.

The rest are fault-based divorce states, which, however, allow spouses the option to file for a no-fault divorce.

A spouse residing in a fault-based divorce state can file for a fault divorce if she/he has evidence of the offenses committed by the other spouse, and her/his lawyer opines that such evidence can influence the court in property division, alimony, or child custody matters.

However, if a spouse faces budget constraints, or if she/he does not possess hard evidence, or when a speedy divorce is needed, then her/his lawyer may advise filing a no-fault divorce petition in a fault-based divorce state.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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