Is the Absence of Sexual Relations Grounds for Divorce?

By Teo Spengler

Sexual behavior outside the marriage and the lack of sexual relations within the marriage can serve as grounds for divorce in states that continue to allow "fault" divorces. But all fifty states now authorize no-fault divorces, allowing either spouse to dissolve a marriage citing irreconcilable differences. However, you still have the option of filing for divorce on "fault" grounds in many states.

Fault Divorces

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.

No-Fault Divorces

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.

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Assigning Fault

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.

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Filing No Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania

Courts used to require a spouse to prove fault, or reasons for the failure of the marriage, such as abandonment or adultery, before a divorce action could be filed or granted. Pennsylvania, like many states, has changed this limitation and added the availability of no-fault grounds for divorce. Thus, a spouse can file for divorce in Pennsylvania so long as she has been a resident of the state for at least six months.

Filing for Divorce in Virginia With Adultery & Abandonment

When spouses decide to end their marriage in Virginia, they can file for no-fault or fault divorce. A fault divorce means that one spouse committed some type of marital misconduct leading to the end of the marriage. Two grounds for a fault divorce are adultery and abandonment. Not only does such misconduct give spouses the right to divorce, it is also considered when a court divides marital property or determines whether a spouse is eligible for alimony.

What Happens in a Divorce if Your Spouse Had an Affair?

The impact of adultery on divorce proceedings varies from state to state and each jurisdiction places a different weight on allegations of infidelity. In some states, allegations of infidelity during the marriage can impact alimony, property division and even custody determinations. In other states, adultery in the marriage makes little difference in the ultimate resolution of ancillary divorce matters. As adultery can be difficult to prove, many couples pursue a no-fault divorce action, which does not require either spouse to prove misconduct on the part of the other spouse.

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