First, keep in mind that you do not have to prove certain grounds or reasons in order to get a divorce. These are commonly called “no-fault” divorces. If you file for a no-fault divorce, you can get a divorce for any reason or no reason at all. In other words, you don’t have to prove anything to the court in order to get divorced, and your spouse typically cannot stop you from getting divorced if that’s what you want. State laws often use the term “irreconcilable differences” or “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” to show that you and your spouse cannot continue to be married, and that nothing can fix the situation.
One of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on how you look at it) to a no-fault divorce system is that your spouse’s bad behavior has no effect on the division of property or other issues that come up in divorces. To put it more simply, you won’t get a bigger share of the property than your wife just because she was having an affair for the last two years of your marriage.
Additionally, some states might require that you and your spouse be separated or live apart for a certain period of time before you are eligible to get a no-fault divorce. This time period can range from a few months to a few years, depending on your state’s laws.
On the other hand, some state laws contain certain reasons, or grounds, that you must prove to the court in order to get a divorce. For instance, one ground for divorce is “mental cruelty.” In order to be divorced for this reason, you have to prove to the court that your spouse has been emotionally hurtful to you in some way. Another common ground for divorce is infidelity. In some states, if you can prove that your spouse was unfaithful to you, then you are eligible to get divorced. Other common fault-based reasons for divorce include situations where your spouse is incarcerated for a certain period of time, or your spouse has deserted you.
There are advantages to a fault-based divorce, as well. In some states, you might not have to wait as long to get divorced than if you were filing for a no-fault divorce. Furthermore, if your spouse has done something wrong, you might be able to get a greater share of the property in the divorce. The major disadvantage to the fault-based divorce, however, is that your spouse can actually stop you from getting divorced, if he or she can prove that he or she was not at fault. For example, if you file for divorce based on your claim that your husband cheated on you, and your husband can prove to the court that he didn’t cheat on you, then you wouldn’t be able to get a divorce based on the ground of adultery.
Choosing between no-fault divorce and fault-based divorce often depends on the particular facts and circumstances of your marriage. While you can file for divorce on your own in many states, an attorney can explain which divorce options are best for you.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.