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What Are Grounds for Divorce?

Today we take for granted that we can get a divorce from marriage if we want one. It wasn't so long ago that marriage was, for all practical purposes, binding. Divorce today, while more common and much fairer, still is not a smooth experience. It can be emotionally and financially damaging.

In the United States, divorce is handled at the state level. Up until a few decades ago, either spouse seeking divorce had to show a reason or have grounds for requesting a divorce, such as abandonment, cruelty, mental illness, or adultery.

Grounds for Divorce

It wasn't until 1969 that California became the first state to pass a no-fault divorce law, meaning there's no wrongdoing by either party, the marriage just didn't work. Today, all 50 states recognize a no-fault divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

When filing for divorce, you have the option of a fault or no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce is generally preferred because it is much less expensive and easier to obtain.

Reasons for a divorce in this case usually come down to irreconcilable differences, incompatibility or the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Many states do require a period of separation before they will finalize your divorce request. The reason for this is to allow both parties to reflect on their decision separately and are certain they want to begin the divorce process.

Fault Divorce

A fault divorce is occurring because of someone's fault. Possible grounds for divorce could be adultery,  mental or physical abuse, criminal conviction, fraud, or other reasons. These reasons will vary by state.

If you are filing for a fault divorce, you must be able to prove this behavior occurred in a court of law. It's a much longer and more expensive process, and yes, one that could be publicly embarrassing to both spouses as well as cause issues for any children involved, and for these reasons it is not as common.

A fault divorce may be desired, however, if one parent wants sole custody of the children or they want to claim additional financial benefits from the separation, such as a larger split of the marital assets or higher alimony payments.

Considering Divorce

If you are thinking about asking your spouse for a divorce, it's essential to have support from friends, family, or a counselor or therapist with experience in this area. Make sure you do your due diligence into how this decision will impact your life in both the short and long-term, from living arrangements to financial ramifications to child custody considerations.

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