Is Impotence Grounds for Divorce?

By Jim Thomas

Impotence is a traditional ground for divorce and it remains on the books in many states that still allow fault as well as no-fault divorces. State law governs divorce, and the treatment of impotence as grounds for divorce varies widely. Some states require that a spouse be impotent at the time the couple married, while others allow a divorce if impotence occurred during the marriage. Some laws require that impotence be permanent to grant a divorce, a tough claim to prove in an era of medical advances in treatment for sexual dysfunction.

Definition

Generally, impotence is a physical or psychological condition that makes it impossible for a spouse to engage in sexual intercourse. Withholding sex from your spouse doesn't quality as impotence. Nor does the inability to produce a child, at least in most states. However, the wording of state statutes varies. For example, the Massachusetts definition states, "Impotence means the inability of one of the parties to perform sex." Mississippi law states that one party must be "naturally impotent and incapable of procreation." But in Illinois, the inability to have children is included in the definition of impotence.

Time and Duration

In Mississippi, one party must be impotent both at the time of the marriage and throughout the marriage. The condition must be permanent and incurable. Illinois has the same requirements. Some states allow a divorce only if the impotence of one partner is discovered after the couple marries, whereas other states allow a divorce if impotence occurs during the marriage.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Proof

If you sue your spouse for divorce on the grounds of impotence, you'll have to prove your case. For example, in Illinois you'll have to prove that your spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage and the condition is incurable. This might require you to ask the court to require your spouse to undergo a physical or psychological examination. Medical experts can be called to testify. If your spouse refuses to be examined, a court has the power to grant the divorce.

Why Allege Impotence?

Since a no-fault divorce is available in every state, it offers an easier path to divorce than alleging a fault ground such as impotence. However, a fault divorce has two potential advantages. Unlike a no-fault divorce, there is no separation period required, so a divorce might be obtained sooner. Also, a fault divorce offers the potential of a bigger settlement. In addition, impotence can be grounds for an annulment, which voids a marriage, treating it as if it never existed. However, fault-based divorces can be particularly nasty and expensive.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Is Imprisonment Grounds for Divorce?

References

Related articles

How to File for Divorce After You Forgive Adultery

Fault-based divorce grounds can present a minefield of legal rules that may be difficult to navigate. Adultery is a fault-based ground, but if you forgive or condone it, some states will no longer allow you to use it as the basis for your divorce. This doesn't mean you have to stay married, however.

What Are Desertion Divorce Papers?

Although divorce law is established at the state level, there are some common themes and requirements among the states. For example, individuals seeking divorce must have grounds to file. The permitted grounds for divorce vary by state, but are typically sorted into two categories – fault and no-fault divorce, with some states allowing only no-fault divorce. The majority of states, however, recognize desertion or abandonment as no-fault grounds for divorce.

How to Prove At-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania

Fault-based divorces are somewhat rare in Pennsylvania, especially since the state legislature amended Pennsylvania's Divorce Code in 2005, permitting couples to divorce by mutual consent, a form of no-fault divorce. Pennsylvania courts don’t consider marital misconduct when dividing property, so the consent option is usually the easiest, least stressful and least expensive method by which to end a marriage. If you nevertheless want to file for divorce on fault grounds, Pennsylvania law does not make the process easy.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Adultery Divorce Laws

In 2010, New York became the last state in the country to adopt no-fault divorce. No matter where you live, you no ...

Causes of Divorce: Habitual Drunkenness

In 2010, New York became the last jurisdiction to pass provisions for no-fault divorce, so all 50 states have now moved ...

The 12 Grounds for a Divorce in Mississippi

Mississippi recognizes 12 fault-based grounds for divorce, and if you choose to file for divorce on one of these ...

Grounds for Divorce on Mental Cruelty in Illinois

While marital discord is often mutual, sometimes one spouse bears the brunt of intentional and unreasonable mental and ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED