What Does it Mean to File for Irreconcilable Differences in a Divorce?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

What Does it Mean to File for Irreconcilable Differences in a Divorce?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

When a couple files for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, they are filing for a no-fault divorce. This means that neither spouse seeks to prove a wrongdoing that caused the end of the marriage. Instead, irreconcilable differences reflect a marriage in which the couple has grown apart for some or many reasons. These fundamental disagreements make it impossible for them to continue being married.

Woman writing on a piece of paper at a desk with wedding bands

Each state sets its own grounds for divorce and all have some form of a no-fault divorce. Many states allow for irreconcilable differences as legal grounds for divorce.

No-Fault Divorce Defined

No-fault divorce is exactly as it sounds. The marriage is broken, cannot be fixed, and no individual is solely to blame for the breakdown. Regardless of the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, either spouse can file for a no-fault divorce. This type of divorce is simply a way to avoid having to place blame for the failure of the marriage.

One kind of no-fault divorce is irreconcilable differences. All states define irreconcilable differences in a similar way—the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no hope of working out the couple's differences.

No-fault divorce is a popular means of ending a marriage in all states. It's generally faster which means it's also cheaper. When you file for a no-fault divorce, you don't have to claim your spouse did something wrong, you don't have to make any accusations, and you don't have to put your children through the fight.

Be aware, a no-fault divorce differs from an uncontested divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the parties agree to get divorced because they no longer want to be married. An uncontested divorce means the parties agree on the grounds for divorce and terms such as alimony, custody, and property division.

Divorce Proceedings

Just like every state has its own legal grounds for ending a marriage, each state has its own track for divorce proceedings. But most states follow a similar path.

Once you file your petition for divorce, you must serve that paperwork on your spouse. If you've already spoken with your spouse, then this step should go smoothly. But if you haven't spoken with your spouse or they disagree with your assessment of the marriage, this step can cause problems.

In most states, if one spouse does not agree to the divorce or does not agree there are irreconcilable differences, the court will not terminate the marriage on those grounds. This means you must have alternate grounds for divorce. Your state will specify the legal grounds from which you can choose. These generally include adultery, cruelty, and voluntary separation, which occurs when you and your spouse live separately for at least a year and no longer act as a couple.

Just because your spouse doesn't agree with your reason for divorce that doesn't mean you can't still go through with it. But when you encounter this roadblock, you must amend your petition and probably spend more time in front of the judge sorting out the reasons for your divorce and how to split your assets.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.