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5 Legal Grounds for Divorce


Is The Need for Legal Grounds a Thing of the Past When it Comes to Divorce?


If you are thinking about filing for a divorce, you may be of the opinion that you need “grounds” for the divorce or a reason. Modern divorce laws or “no-fault” divorce laws have done away with the need for divorce grounds in most states.

Each state has divorce laws that outline the legal conditions that are grounds for divorce.

There must be a reason for ending a marriage and in all states that reason can be as simple as “irreconcilable differences.” In other words, one spouse may be of the opinion that the marriage has broken down is beyond saving. The other spouse has little or no say in whether or not there is a divorce.

Grounds for divorce is the legal reason for filing for divorce. Some people confuse grounds with fault. They fail to understand that under no-fault divorce laws the courts no longer concern themselves with who is at fault for the problems in the marriage.

The reasoning behind no-fault divorce laws is that it keeps emotions out of divorce court. The intention, I believe for no-fault divorce laws is so that divorce can move more swiftly through the family court system.

If you’ve been hurt by a spouse and want to use the Family Court System as retaliation or to protect your investment in the marriage you will be disappointed.

Unless you live in one of the few states that still has fault divorce, your spouse’s behavior will not be used in determining if you get a divorce and what you get in the divorce settlement.

If, however, you consider yourself an injured spouse and wish to exert a reason other than irreconcilable differences in your divorce, check with your lawyer to find out if you state has any grounds based laws on the book.


If you do your homework and are serious about finding a ground other than no-fault you can find some fairly outrageous stuff still on the books in most states. For instance, In Tennessee, the court will grant a divorce to a spouse living in Tennessee if the other spouse intentionally refuses to move to Tennessee for two years. The spouse living outside Tennessee must have no valid reason to continue living outside of the state.

Or, Kansas has an interesting one. A man can't be divorced on the grounds that he mistreated his mother-in-law. If you're a mother-in-law in Kansas with a bully of a son-in-law, you and your daughter are stuck!


Below is a list of valid “divorce grounds” that are legally available in some states.


Check your state’s divorce laws to find out what your legal options are.

1. Adultery

In some states, it is still possible to obtain a fault-based divorce. In most cases, this would not impact how property is divided or the decisions made pertaining to child custody. With infidelity, however, if it can be proven that the unfaithful spouse used marital assets to help support their relationship with the other man/other woman there can be an impact.

For example, if a husband has an affair and rents an apartment for his affair partner or, buys expensive gifts and travel for and with his affair partner the courts will consider the use of the fact that the cheating partner used marital assets in maintaining the affair.

You won't be able to, regardless of how righteous you feel, have a spouse punished for cheating. Divorce is a legal process, one in which your emotional pain over being betrayed won't be taken into consideration. 

2. Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation.

Such conduct will be taken into consideration, especially when deciding custody of a couple's children during divorce. If your spouse is proven in court to have molested a child or is guilty of marital rape, it definitely will have an impact on the custody they are awarded, if any. 

3. Alcoholism

Alcoholism can affect both the division of marital assets and child custody during divorce. If an addiction has impacted the couple's finances, for example, the addict hasn't held down a job or, has spent money on drinking to excess a judge will take this into consideration when splitting assets.

If the alcoholic has a history of endangering the children while under the influence or, an inability to parent to full capacity the court may order no overnight visitation, supervised visitation or, it may even be ordered the addict's alcohol levels are monitored before visitation with the children. 

4. Mental Illness

Mental illness can be used, not to find fault with a mentally ill spouse but, to help the court understand that the legal process of divorce may become more complicated due to a spouse's mental illness. 

5. Withholding Sex or Carnal Abandonment

Refusal to engage in sex with a spouse is called, "constructive abandonment" and can be used as fault during divorce.

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