In yesteryear, a spouse had to plead and prove that she suffered at the hands of her spouse to end a marriage. Traditional grounds included desertion, cruelty, abandonment, adultery, insanity and failure to consummate a marriage. Failure to engage in marital relations can be considered a type of constructive desertion, cruelty or abandonment.
In the 1970s, states began to allow residents to divorce without establishing blame. No-fault divorces are based on statements of irremediable differences between the spouses instead of charges of egregious behavior. All 50 states permit no-fault divorce, although some require the spouses to live apart for a certain period before they can file in court.
Some states only allow no-fault divorces, while others offer fault and no-fault. A spouse may decide to file for divorce on fault grounds to avoid a waiting period. For example, in Maryland, fault divorce proceeds immediately, but to file for a no-fault divorce, a couple must live separately for a year. Charges of inappropriate behavior also can give a spouse an advantage in contested divorce issues such as child custody, property division or support payments.