Family Law

Grounds for Divorce: Impotence

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
If you’re feeling trapped in a passionless marriage, you may be able to file for divorce based on your spouse’s impotence.

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People enter into relationships for many reasons, including intimacy. Couples that decide to get married are usually committed to sharing a lifetime of emotional and physical affection. For some couples, sexual relations may become impossible due to one spouse’s impotence.

What is Impotence?

“Impotence” is the inability to have sexual relations. The law makes a distinction between an inability to engage in sexual activity and a spouse’s refusal or intentional avoidance of intimate relations. For example, a spouse that simply withholds sex won’t be deemed impotent. Likewise, a spouse’s infertility or inability to produce a child isn’t considered impotence. However, a physical, psychological, or other medical condition that makes it impossible to have intercourse may constitute impotence and is grounds for divorce in many states.

How Can I Prove My Spouse is Impotent?

Laws regarding marriage and divorce vary from state to state. The specific evidence required to prove impotence will depend on your state's laws. Generally, your own testimony won’t be enough to prove that your spouse is impotent. You’ll need to submit medical records or hire an expert to testify about your spouse’s inability to have sex.

In certain states, a judge won’t grant a divorce due to impotence unless you can prove that your spouse's inability to have sex is permanent and incurable. This can be especially difficult to prove with all the medical advances, surgeries, and prescription treatments available today.

A judge can require an allegedly impotent spouse to submit to medical and psychological testing. If tests prove your spouse is unable to have sex—or if your spouse refuses the tests—the judge may grant your divorce, but can’t require your spouse to undergo treatment.

Filing for Divorce on Impotence Grounds

Most states allow both fault and no-fault divorces. You should review your state and local laws, or speak with a local family law attorney before filing for a divorce based on impotence.

As discussed above, proving one spouse’s impotence can be extremely difficult. You need to be prepared and aware of what’s important in your divorce case. A spouse who is incapable of having sexual intercourse may claim they just don’t want to. In that case, you’ll have to show a medical basis for your spouse’s inability to have sex. Your divorce costs can skyrocket quickly if you and your spouse disagree on facts and you need to hire doctors or expert witnesses to testify.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How can I prove to a court that I’m not impotent?
  • I live in a state that recognizes both fault and no-fault divorces. Are there any advantages to filing for divorce based on my spouse’s impotence?
  • Can I obtain an annulment if my spouse was impotent at the time of our marriage?
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