What You Need to Know About Irreconcilable Differences (Recommended)

It is becoming more and more popular to file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. However, many couples are encouraged to file for divorce on these grounds without ever truly understanding what the term means. Since vocabulary is an important part of the divorce process, you should take the time to understand exactly what irreconcilable differences could mean to you and your marriage.

By understanding the basics of these principles, you can find out if filing for divorce based on irreconcilable differences is the right choice for you and your spouse.

The Definition of Irreconcilable Differences

The term “irreconcilable differences” means that you and your spouse simply cannot get along with one another. Perhaps you do not see eye-to-eye on important issues, or on trivial, daily activities. Regardless of what is going on in your relationship, irreconcilable differences ultimately means that your marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. In other words, one or both spouses believe that the differences between you are too great to be resolved, even with professional help.

Perhaps you feel like your marriage is unsustainable, based on the issues you are both experiencing. If so, your spouse does not need to agree with you to be able to file based on irreconcilable differences; in order to file for divorce, only one spouse is required to believe that there are irreconcilable differences in the marriage. (This caveat may vary, depending on your state’s laws.) While the other spouse is free to contest this claim, a judge could still grant a divorce.

Some states do allow for at-fault divorces if they involve adultery, abuse, and other circumstances that pin the blame solely on one spouse. This at-fault status can have a great impact on the division of property and alimony payments as the divorce progresses. Compared to these divorces, a divorce based on irreconcilable differences is considered a no-fault divorce. It equally places the blame on both spouses and does not have as much of an impact on the division of property or finances.

Top 5 Irreconcilable Differences that Lead to Divorce

Every marriage consists of two spouses, and each spouse has his or her own unique habits, opinions, personalities, and upbringings. All of these attributes contribute to who each individual is (including his or her personality and character), and to the breakdown of the marriage. In terms of dysfunctional communication, both spouses could be equally at fault for the end of the marriage.

Claiming irreconcilable differences means that the details of a successful, healthy future cannot be worked out between spouses, even with after a serious attempt to do so (such as counseling or therapy).

The possible reasons for irreconcilable differences may significantly vary, but here are the Top 5 reasons why spouses consider filing for them:

1. Finances

Under the best of circumstances, money can be a touchy subject. Each person brings his or her own ideas about how money should be spent in the marriage, which can be even trickier when only one person is bringing in a regular source of income.

You and your spouse might have different ideas about accumulating debt, sticking to a regular budget, selling assets, or managing real estate. The financial tension can eventually become more than you can manage, which could lead to irreconcilable differences.

2. Parenting

Most people base their parenting ideas on the way they were raised. When two people were brought up with very different parenting styles, there could be a breakdown in communication when they start their own family.

You and your spouse might disagree on how to discipline your children, or the best way to plan for their futures. These differing points of view can become major sources of contention in a relationship. Eventually, healthy communication entirely erodes.

3. Religion

It might be very difficult to clearly communicate with someone who has an opposing worldview.

At the beginning of a relationship, a difference in religion may not seem like a major sticking point. However, this situation can quickly change if it involves altering your lifestyle or making plans for raising your children.

If both spouses hold firmly to their own faiths, it could make the marriage next to impossible to maintain.

4. Relationships with Extended Family Members

One of the most common reasons for marriages ending because of irreconcilable differences is relationships with family members.

Perhaps you have some difficult in-laws. Or your spouse might want to spend more time with his or her family than you prefer. If one of these situations cannot be remedied, the relationship with the extended family may prevail over the marriage.

5. Communication

The overarching theme behind many of the reasons that lead to irreconcilable differences is poor or dysfunctional communication.

Sometimes, couples come to a marriage with poor communication skills, which make it impossible for them to solve problems together. Other times, couples simply experience an inability to openly talk with each other. Either problem can lead to frequent squabbles, which make remaining in the marriage unbearable.

Eventually, a breakdown in communication can lead to a divorce based on irreconcilable differences.

No One Is at Fault

Unlike other options for filing for divorce, irreconcilable differences do not solely place the blame on one spouse. Therefore, filing this status means that your marriage will end in a no-fault divorce, which places equal responsibility for the dissolution of your union on both spouses.

A fault divorce can be far more difficult and time-consuming than a no-fault divorce. Therefore, filing for irreconcilable differences can often lead to a faster divorce, depending on your state’s laws.

A faster divorce offers more than just saving precious time and allowing you to move on to a newly single life more quickly. It can also save a significant amount of money on your attorney’s fees, particularly on behalf of a spouse who was wronged. In addition, a no-fault divorce allows attorneys to avoid the hefty time investment associated with carrying the burden of proof for a different cause, even if it is adultery or abuse.

State Laws Regarding Irreconcilable Differences

Keep in mind that each state has its own laws, and could possibly even have different terminology for a divorce filed on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Some states may simply refer to it as a no-fault divorce. Other states may offer irreconcilable differences as the only option for filing for divorce, so they do not allow one spouse to place blame on the other, regardless of the specific circumstances.

When filing for irreconcilable differences, laws surrounding separation may vary as well. Some of these divorces can be completed quicker than others. A divorce based on irreconcilable differences is often the fastest, least expensive way to obtain a divorce. The biggest factor that determines how quickly you can finalize your divorce is the separation period that your state defines. Some offer very quick turnaround times, while others require much lengthier waits before the courts will finalize your divorce.

It should also be noted that the details surrounding your separation will vary according to state. Some couples prefer to live together throughout the divorce proceedings, but many states require both spouses to maintain separate residences for a set period of time, before finalizing the divorce. To prevent delays in your finalization, be sure to check with your state laws.

In many states, splitting up your assets will not be affected by whether you file for a fault or a no-fault divorce. Regardless of how you choose to file for your divorce, assets are typically divvied up according to the standards set for your area and the agreement between the two of you. However, filing for a no-fault divorce could affect items such as custody, alimony, and child support, which a fault divorce may not affect.

Before You File

Before you officially file for divorce, make sure that you truly believe that your marriage has irreconcilable differences. Try to have an open, honest conversation with your spouse about the issues you see in the marriage.

If both of you are amenable to working out your differences, you might pursue professional help and attempt to reconcile your differences before moving forward with a divorce. This help could involve the guidance of a religious leader, a financial coach, or a therapist. Just remember to evaluate your specific issues before you enlist the help of a third party.

You may need to acknowledge that you are a part of the problem, instead of shifting all of the blame onto your partner. Irreconcilable differences mean that there is an issue between the two of you, so by definition, you are a contributing party to the breakdown in communication. If you are determined to see whether the relationship can be salvaged, you should consider finding some help. You might browse the bookstore for self-help books, attend a support group to learn new communication skills or enroll in individual therapy. All of these steps can help you determine whether your relationship is able to improve.

Eventually, the pain of staying might become greater than the pain of leaving. At that point, you will know that it is time for a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Some issues simply cannot be worked out, no matter how hard you try.


If you file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, it means that you do not believe that the marriage can be salvaged in a way that will result in a successful future together. The implications of filing in this manner can be far-reaching. For instance, this claim can result in a faster, less costly divorce process.

Be sure to understand all of the state laws for your area before you decide how you are going to file. This decision could have long-term repercussions for your future, so be certain to do all of the necessary research in advance.

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