Do You Have to Be Separated for 6 Months to File for a Divorce?

By Beverly Bird

How long you and your spouse must live separately before you can file for divorce – or if you even have to live separately at all – depends on where you live and the grounds on which you file. In some states, if you cite no-fault grounds, no separation period is necessary. You can file on most fault grounds right away in many states as well.

How long you and your spouse must live separately before you can file for divorce – or if you even have to live separately at all – depends on where you live and the grounds on which you file. In some states, if you cite no-fault grounds, no separation period is necessary. You can file on most fault grounds right away in many states as well.

No-Fault Grounds

All states recognize some version of no-fault divorce, but the rules can vary a great deal. For example, in Maryland and North Carolina, you must be separated for one full year. In California, no separation period is required – you can simply tell the court that you have irreconcilable differences. You can cite irreconcilable differences in Illinois as well, but you must still live apart for six months before your divorce can be granted. Pennsylvania doesn't require a separation period, but your spouse must agree in writing that your marriage is over -- and your divorce isn't granted until 90 days pass from the time you file your petition. In New Jersey, you must have irreconcilable differences for six months, but you don't have to live separately during this time.

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Fault Grounds

Fault grounds, such as adultery or cruelty, usually don't require that you and your spouse separate before you can file. However, they do require that you provide evidence of your allegations to the court -- and your spouse has the right to defend himself against your charges. If he does so successfully, the court might not grant your divorce.

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Do You Have to Wait 6 Months Before You Can File for a Divorce in Illinois?

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Define a No Fault Divorce

All states now recognize no-fault divorce, but there are different kinds of no-fault grounds. Divorcing this way in Maryland isn't quite as easy as it is in California. The commonality among all jurisdictions is that no-fault means you don't have to point an accusatory finger at your spouse or prove that he did anything wrong in order to be granted a divorce.

Can Only One Party File in a No-Fault Divorce?

If spouses always had to file for divorce together, it would most likely drop the divorce rate to something close to zero. Your spouse's cooperation is not required when you file, even if you choose not to cite fault grounds in your divorce complaint or petition. A no-fault divorce is not the same as an uncontested divorce, in which spouses reach an agreement regarding all issues. In this case, they can file a petition together in many states.

Maryland's Laws on the Terms for an Immediate Divorce

If you want an immediate divorce, your best bet is to move to Nevada – and even there, the process isn't over with a snap of the fingers. Maryland's laws are much more stringent, and at the very least, it will probably take you a few months to legally sever the bonds of matrimony. Nonetheless, if you want to get the ordeal over with in a hurry, you have a few options that can expedite the process a little.

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