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Grounds For Divorce: Common Legal Reasons Couples End Their Marriages

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Researchers estimate that 40% to 50% of all first marriages and 60% of second marriages will end in divorce. Whether you file for divorce due to adultery or irreconcilable differences, there's no doubt that the process will be emotional and complex. For many people, even understanding the legal reasons to file for divorce can be a daunting task. In today's post, we'll discuss some common grounds for divorce and how they might apply in your situation.

What's the difference between a no-fault and a fault divorce?
First of all, it's important to understand the difference between a no-fault divorce and a fault divorce. A no-fault divorce, a couple will agree that they can no longer stay married to irreconcilable differences. No-fault divorces are not permitted in every single state and sometimes come with certain caveats. For example, Virginia state law requires couples to live separately for one year before they're permitted to file for no-fault divorce.

Fault divorce, on the other hand, implies some legal blame to one of the involved parties. Some of the reasons for divorces of this nature will be explained in the section below. In states that allow for filing of fault divorces, there is typically no mandated separation period before proceedings can begin. However, someone who wishes to file for fault divorce will need to hire divorce lawyers to ensure specific requirements for this type of filing can be met.

What are some examples of fault divorce?
Fault divorces imply blame on behalf of one individual in the marriage. Usually, the reasons for divorce filings like these involve dangerous or irresponsible behaviors or certain health issues. We've outlined a few of these legal reasons for divorce below.

  • Infidelity: Adultery is a common legal reason for divorce. This refers to any sort of sexual behavior that one spouse engaged in that did not involve their partner. The spouse who is accusing their husband or wife must provide documented evidence in court to make this filing viable.
  • Substance Abuse: In some states, substance abuse or addiction may be grounds for a divorce. It may also play a part in determining parental custody when children are involved in divorce proceedings. Typically, the affected spouse will have to prove that their partner's drug or alcohol abuse had a negative impact on the partnership.
  • Mental Illness: Permanent mental illness is considered to be legal grounds for divorce in most states. Again, proof is required for this type of filing. The filing spouse will need to provide evidence that their partner has a permanent mental condition (and proof of diagnosis) that makes marriage impossible.
  • Cruelty: Another term for physical or mental abuse, cruelty is certainly legal grounds for filing divorce. This includes everything physical acts of violence and torture to public displays of rage and insults. The spouse who files for divorce on these grounds will have to prove that their marriage became intolerable due to their spouse's cruelty. Single acts of violence or emotional distress do not apply here. Unfortunately for the suffering spouse, these acts must be recurring. This spouse may want to hire a domestic violence lawyer to ensure their own safety.
  • Abandonment: When a spouse leaves a home they share with their spouse without their spouse's consent or even their knowledge, that's considered abandonment. The spouse who files for divorce in the aftermath must prove their spouse left of their own free will and has no intention to return.
  • Incarceration: These statutes vary from state to state, but a spouse who is incarcerated for a certain length of time may be served divorce papers under a fault divorce filing. Usually, an individual must be imprisoned for at least a year before their spouse can file for a fault divorce.
  • Sexual Issues: Whether it's due to incompatibility or impotence, this may be legal grounds for a fault divorce in some situations. It's rare and comes with certain stipulations, like the fact that the marriage cannot have been consummated and the condition must not have been disclosed prior to marriage. But in some states, you may be able to file for this reason.

No matter your reasons for divorce, you deserve to have qualified legal help. For more information, contact us today.

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