Divorce Laws in US: Grounds for Divorce

The Divorce laws in US make it incredibly easy to get divorced, at least as far as the legal authorities are concerned. It may be costly, and it may inflict physical and psychological damage to the couple and their children, but divorcing is one of the easiest things to do. Just as it is difficult to save money but easy to spend it, getting married takes a bit of thinking and soul-searching but divorcing is as easy as 1-2-3.

Couples can file either for a no-fault divorce or a fault-based divorce. Both are practiced in the US and in Canada. There are subtle differences between the two countries.

No-fault in divorce laws in US is the relatively recent invention of legislators who deemed it necessary in order to allow women to free themselves from destructive marriages. Under no-fault divorce, a party does not need to prove any fault. All that is required is to claim that there exists an irretrievable breakdown or irreconcilable differences between the spouses or desertion.

The pleading party in a divorce action merely needs to claim that she or he is so unhappy that leaving home (or constructive desertion) or dissolving the marriage is the only solution.

All 52 states of the US allow a divorce regardless of who is at fault.

An American who wants to obtain a divorce simply states a reason for the divorce as long as the reason is deemed valid by the state. In most states, valid reasons include:

  • Incompatibility
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Irremediable breakdown of the marriage

Divorce laws in US in all states have adopted no-fault divorce, either as the only grounds for divorce or as an additional ground. As a practical matter, however, the other grounds are seldom used owing to the difficulty of proving things like adultery, mental cruelty, and the like. These are only used in situations where proof of fault will affect the court decisions with regard to the distribution of property, alimony, or child custody.

Only about 10 percent of divorces actually go to trial today.

If a couple decides to go the no-fault route, they must live apart for a certain period. This period varies from state to state, but it can range from six months to five years. Check with your state attorney.

A couple that chooses a fault-based divorce does so because they (a) cannot wait for the grace period imposed by the no-fault divorce method, (b) one or both spouses may be at fault. Moreover, (c) if one spouse can prove that the other is at fault, the court may grant higher compensation to the spouse who has been wronged.

If a couple chooses to file a fault-based divorce, what faults are accepted?

  • Physical and mental cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Prison sentence
  • Non-consummation of the act (sexual intercourse), unless the spouse has told the other before the marriage.

Neither spouse can prevent the courts from granting a no-fault divorce. In a fault-based divorce case according to divorce laws in US, it is very different. A spouse can ask the courts not to grant the divorce by using defense arguments. Do think twice when using any of these arguments because they can be time-consuming and expensive to prove. You may want to discuss with your lawyer the advantages and disadvantages of challenging the courts not to grant the divorce under a fault-divorce case.

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