11 Different Grounds for Divorce You MUST Know

There are different grounds for divorce

Unfortunately, up to 50% of marriages in the USA end in divorce.

Perhaps you feel that you have tried your best to make your marriage work, but you can no longer continue as a union. If so, you might need to establish Grounds for Divorce. Simply put, the Ground is the reason why you are ending your marriage.

If there is no particular reason, you will file for a No-fault Divorce. In other words, neither spouse is at fault, but the marriage no longer works for both parties.

However, when the decision isn’t mutual, you are facing a Fault Divorce. So you do need a specific reason. (Sometimes, there are multiple reasons.) The reason(s) will be your Grounds for Divorce.

Different States Have Different Rulings

It is important to understand the different Grounds for Divorce, because there are lots of reasons that people decide to end their union. Before going into more detail about the different grounds, you should also be aware that different US states have different legal conditions related to divorce.

Therefore, you should research the Grounds for Divorce in the state where you reside. Then you can get complete clarity about the acceptable reasons. For example, if you are both filing for a No-fault Divorce, your state may require that you undergo a legal separation beforehand. Other states will request that you attend couples therapy, in order to try and repair your marriage.

Some states do not recognize certain Grounds for Divorce, whereas others will have a broader list of acceptable reasons.

Filing for Divorce: Costs

Due to these differing laws, the cost for divorce in different states also varies. California is the most expensive state to file in. It can cost over $400 (excluding attorney fees). The cheapest is Wyoming: $70 (excluding attorney fees).

If you are filing for divorce, it is advisable to investigate the total cost by speaking to a divorce attorney in your area. Then you can also take the filing fee into account.

What Is Considered In Divorce?

With divorce, almost all elements of your marriage will need to be assessed and settled, including:

  • Your joint finances (and separate finances)
  • Evaluation of child custody
  • Property/living situation
  • Other assets

Divorce proceedings also take debts into account (both spouses), and consider support for any children and spouses.

The Difference between Divorce and Annulment

Some people confuse divorce and annulment. But they are different. While both cancel a marriage, an annulment sees the marriage as never having existed. But a divorce recognizes that there was a marriage, which was later dissolved.

Fault and No-fault Divorce

As mentioned earlier, no one is to blame in a No-Fault Divorce. However, with a Fault Divorce, one party is at fault. Generally, No-fault Divorces are less emotional, because both parties want the marriage to end without assigning blame. Both spouses believe that the marriage is no longer working, but feel neither is to blame.

These divorces are usually quicker to dissolve. A No-fault Divorce sometimes uses the reason “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.” In other words, the marriage is irreparably broken, and there are irreconcilable differences.

With a Fault Divorce, the spouse filing for divorce needs to provide grounds. Even though there are different legal specifics in some states, the major Grounds for Divorce are similar in most states.

What Are the Grounds For Divorce?

1) Desertion/Abandonment

This Ground for Divorce usually involves a spouse physically leaving the marital home for a long period of time.

However, this Ground can also be upheld as emotional desertion. It does not relate to a spouse that does not leave the marital home, but displays cruel behavior in a way that makes you feel that you must leave.

You can also file for constructive desertion. Constructive desertion means that one person leaves the relationship, rather than the home.

2) Abuse (Both Physical and Emotional)

Domestic violence of any kind is a Ground for Divorce, including emotional, physical, and psychological abuse. Threatening behavior and language can also be viewed as part of this Ground.

3) Adultery

This Ground for Divorce involves a spouse that has an extramarital relationship during the marriage. However, in some cases, infidelity does not impact how a property is split between the marital partners. So it will not have an impact on child custody.

Some cases will consider situations when the unfaithful spouse has utilized marital assets during the adulterous relationship. For instance, they may have bought the third party gifts or property, or taken them on vacation.

Always remember that divorce is a legal process. So no matter how much emotional pain you might feel over a betrayal, it will not be taken into consideration in court.

4) Sexual Misconduct

This Ground relates to using sex as a weapon. It relates to unwelcome sexual behavior, such as rape, intimidation, manipulation, coercion, or pedophilia. This type of behavior will also have an impact on child custody.

5) Alcoholism and Addiction

This Ground for Divorce can impact child custody, and it can divide up the marital assets. As an addiction, it will be taken into account if it has impacted your financial situation. (For example, an alcoholic or drug-using spouse may have been unable to keep a job, or has spent excessive amounts of money on their addiction.)

Additionally, if an alcoholic or drug-using spouse has any history of threatening behavior while under the influence, it hinders their ability to responsibly parent. Then it will have a major impact on child custody and visitation rights.

6) Carnal Abandonment/Withholding Sex

Sometimes referred to as constructive abandonment, refusing to have sex with a spouse can be cited as Fault, especially if it is considered to be far below the average amount of sex in most marriages. Some courts see carnal abandonment as a form of domestic abuse.

7) Impotence

This Ground for Divorce varies from state to state, especially the evidence required. Your own testimony will not be enough proof to cite impotence as a Ground for Divorce. You will need to acquire medical records, and to hire an expert to testify about this reason. Some states will not grant this Ground, unless you can prove that the situation is permanent.

8) Infertility

This Ground for Divorce is questionable in many states. It is no longer a suitable reason for a marriage to end. However, undisclosed infertility can be grounds for the annulment of marriage.

9) Mental Illness

This Ground for Divorce is more complicated, and it is very dependent on the seriousness of the mental illness in question. However, it is still grounds for divorce, but each individual case will be carefully examined in its own right.

10) Sexual Orientation

If partners articulate that they have a sexual orientation that is incompatible with their partner, it can be a suitable Ground for Divorce.

11) Criminal History

In most states, if a spouse has been convicted or charged with a crime, it is suitable Grounds for Divorce. Some states require a minimum prison sentence of 12 months or more, so be sure to check what your area stipulates.

Other Grounds for Divorce

There are other potential Grounds for Divorce that are less common than those mentioned above. They include:

Religious grounds

Individuals may change religions during the marriage, or they may develop stronger or weaker affinities to their religion. But these changes may not be suitable to their spouses.

Some diseases are also considered Grounds for Divorce in some states.

For example, very severe sexually transmitted diseases may be considered Grounds.


If you have tried reconciliation and cannot make your marriage work, then there is no route other than divorce, especially if you want to be able to remarry in future. However, if you have not explored the possibility of trying to reconcile, it is always worth the time and effort, especially if you have children.

Divorce is often painful, and it is usually expensive. So there are huge benefits to trying to make a marriage work. In the USA, statistics on separation and divorce show that 13% of people reunite after separation. Therefore, if there is hope of making your marriage work, seek alternatives, and attend couples therapy before embarking on divorce proceedings.

Be patient, and understand that it can take time for a marriage to repair. But it is possible, especially if the reason for divorce is No-fault.

If you decide to file for divorce, be sure of the Grounds, and thoroughly check your state laws beforehand.

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