Does the reason you’re getting divorced matter?

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Depending on which state you’re getting divorced in, the reason you’re getting divorced either doesn’t matter or matters a lot.

Many articles talk about the fact that you can get a “no-fault” divorce in any state. It is true that in a true no-fault state, the reason you’re getting divorced doesn’t matter. But in almost all other states getting a no-fault divorce takes longer – sometimes a lot longer. This is because many states have different waiting periods for no-fault divorce.

As a point of historical background, most states encourage marriage as being a good thing.  Therefore, in order to end a marriage, a sufficient legal reason had to be established to grant the divorce.  Through the past few decades, no-fault states now view an individual’s right to end a marriage as being just as important, if not more important, than making someone prove a legal reason that a divorce should be granted.

True no-fault states are ones that don’t allow ether spouse to claim the other is a fault, so the reason you’re getting divorced doesn’t matter.

In a true no-fault state the reason you’re getting divorced doesn’t matter. These true no-fault states include: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Other states impose waiting periods, depending on what’s alleged as the reason for divorce. For example, in New Jersey divorce can be granted after a married couple is continuously separated for 18-months or after just 6-months if there are irreconcilable differences.

In some states people may still choose to file for a traditional fault divorce, so they can avoid long waiting periods.

Another way of putting grounds for divorce can be thought of as the legal reason for divorce. The fault grounds for divorce vary from state to state, although most “fault” states grounds include: incompatibility, living separately, marriage breakdown, extreme cruelty, abandonment, adultery, imprisonment, etc.

To speed up the process in most fault states, you need to say more than simply not wanting to be married anymore.

“Irreconcilable differences” or marriage breakdown, is the ground that most Americans are familiar with. The key to this ground is the court determining if reconciliation is possible.  The test for this in most states is subjective in nature, and it is possible for one spouse to file for divorce under this ground and the other spouse to want to remain married believing that reconciliation is possible.  Under this scenario, most states will grant the divorce.

Common fault grounds for divorce are adultery, desertion, cruelty, incompatibility, living separately and apart.

Adultery is defined differently in various jurisdictions, but can be thought of as sexual relations between a married person and someone who is not his or her spouse.  The reason adultery is a reason for divorce is the traditional assumption that sexual relations should only occur between spouses.

Desertion is a ground for divorce in many states.  Like adultery, it is seldom used today as a ground for divorce.  Another word often used by various states is abandonment.  This ground is somewhat difficult to define in general as each state has a different legal definition of what constitutes desertion or abandonment.  In general, desertion occurs when a spouse voluntarily leaves his or her spouse, with the intent to not come back, without the approval of the other spouse and without justification.

Cruelty has long been a ground for divorce.  Cruelty is when one spouse physically or emotionally causes harm to the other spouse or threatens to physically abuse the other spouse which results in the impairment of health or other bodily symptoms.  This ground for divorce has been widely used in the past and has been expanded to include the emotional harm elements in most states as being as bad or dangerous as the physical abuse.

Living separately is another ground for divorce.  Normally, this ground is invoked when spouses have voluntarily lived separately and apart for a period of time usually defined by state statute.   

In many fault states you must live separately for one to three years to use that as a reason for divorce. 

The separation must be permanent and not temporary in nature.  In other words, if a couple decides to separate temporarily and then decides after a period of time that it is a permanent separation, the time period will run from the time intentions change. 

Incompatibility is a somewhat recent addition as a ground to divorce.  The general definition for this ground is a deep conflict in personalities and temperaments that makes it impossible for them to have a normal marital relationship and that reconciliation is improbable.  This ground is widely used in the few states that do recognize it as a ground for divorce.

Mandatory parents’ education programs have also been created in states like New Jersey, to help make it easier for the children to cope with a divorce.

If in a true no-fault state the reason you’re getting divorced doesn’t matter which can sometimes. make things easier. In certain situations it may be worth considering where you can file for divorce, if for example separated spouses a each living in different states.

Even if spouses agree that they want to be divorced, they may still disagree about related issues, such as the division of property, alimony payments, etc. So, regardless of whether you seek a fault or no-fault divorce, the Court many still need to decide on property rights, alimony, visitation rights and child support.

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