Legally Admissible Reasons for Divorce

by Shannon Johnson
In some divorces, one spouse must prove the other is at fault.

In some divorces, one spouse must prove the other is at fault.

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Almost every state has its own version of both fault and no-fault divorces. No-fault divorce is the result of widespread reformation of divorce laws that began during the 1970s. By the mid 1980s, almost every state had its own version of no-fault divorce on the books. Nuances in state law make it extremely important for individuals to be aware of the divorce law within the state where they live. Generally speaking, there are basic tenets involved in a fault and no-fault divorce, no matter which state you call home.

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No-Fault Divorce

The two most common grounds for no-fault divorces are “irreconcilable differences” or “irreparable breakdown of the marriage.” The spouses must come to an agreement on certain marital issues including division of debts, assets, retirement, alimony and -- if there are children of the marriage -- custody, visitation and support. No-fault divorces have become popular because they are easier, quicker and much cheaper than going through a lengthy divorce trial.

States With No-Fault Divorce Only Laws

A number of states have done away with fault divorces. This means that parties can file for divorce only based on irreconcilable differences or irreparable breakdown of the marriage. As of 2012, states that offer only no-fault divorces are Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington.

Common Grounds for a Fault Divorce

A large number of states offer both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce. Although each state’s specific law will vary, there are grounds for fault divorces that are common in a number of states. These include adultery, spouse’s conviction of a felony, emotional or physical abuse, infertility or alienation of spousal affection, which is the refusal of one spouse to engage in marital sex and other elements of the marital relationship.

Evidence to Prove Fault

Each state has its own standard of proof that must be met to prove whatever fault allegation is the basis for the divorce filing. Specific evidence that can be used will vary according to the particular allegation the divorce is based on. For instance, individuals trying to prove adultery could use photographs or video recordings of conduct, testimony from witnesses and text records to prove the existence of a relationship between their spouse and another person. Individuals filing on the grounds of spousal conviction of a serious crime may provide a copy of the spouse's criminal record and conviction. Abandonment may be proven by providing a copy of a lease showing one spouse living apart from the other and testimony from individuals with firsthand knowledge.

Effects of Fault on Property Distribution

In certain states, being found at fault in a divorce action can affect the amount of alimony your spouse is entitled to and the percentage of property you are awarded. Other states consider the fault of a party only if her conduct is extreme. California, Louisiana and New Mexico are community property states, which means marital property is split equally.

Effects of Divorce on Child Custody

In certain instances, the grounds for fault will affect a parent's ability to have custody of his child. This usually occurs when a divorce is being granted on the grounds of physical or emotional abuse, especially if the abuse extended to the minor child or took place in front of the minor child.

Mental Incapacity and Divorce

Typically, mental illness, insanity and incompetence are grounds for divorce. The person seeking the divorce will have to prove that his spouse is actually insane and the insanity or illness will last for a long amount of time or can’t be cured.