The Grounds for Divorce
Traditionally, divorce always required a showing of fault. The modern trend, however, is toward what is known as “no-fault” divorce. Though all states now offer the option of a no-fault divorce (New York ended its holdout in 2010), there are still a majority of states that allow the filing of a divorce action based on the fault of one of the parties. A party that can successfully show that the other spouse caused the breakup of the marriage may obtain an advantage in custody, support and property determinations.
The no-fault divorce laws vary from state to state, and typically require that you correctly state the language required. The most common verbiage used in no-fault proceedings is one of the following:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken
- There has been an irremediable breakdown of the marriage
- The parties have irreconcilable differences
- The parties have been living apart for a specific period of time
Likewise, the grounds for at-fault divorce are different in each state, but may include:
- Physical, emotional or mental abuse
- Substance abuse
- Abandonment/desertion (the amount of time varies from state to state)
- Infection with a sexually transmitted disease
Many states allow for an annulment—different from a divorce—if the parties are too closely related to each other. An annulment assumes that the marriage never legally occurred.
The Different Ways of Finalizing a Divorce
The dissolution of a marriage is either contested or uncontested. If there is any dispute about any outcome of the divorce—custody, visitation, support or property—the divorce is considered to be contested. Each party in a contested divorce will have his or her own council (or will represent themselves). A contested divorce may be resolved by negotiation, mediation or trial.
Because the dissolution of a marriage requires a court order, even when parties have no dispute over any of the issues related to the divorce, one party must still file a complaint (legal petition) for divorce.
The parties may elect to submit all disputes to mediation, where a third party works with them to find and implement mutually agreeable solutions. In a recent development, known as the collaborative divorce approach, the parties agree to resolve all matters without the intervention of the courts. Learn more about the collaborative approach to divorce.