Family Law

Grounds for Divorce: Impotence

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Intimacy is the one of the reasons why people get involved in personal relationships. People are social creatures, and when a couple decides to share their intimacy for a lifetime, they usually get married.

On the opposite side of things, a spouse's inability to be intimate with the other spouse may be grounds for divorce in states where fault-based divorces are used.

What is Impotence?

Traditionally, impotence is thought of as a husband's inability to have sexual intercourse with his wife. However, impotence may be grounds for a divorce when the wife is unable to have sexual relations with her husband.

"Inability" means a physical, or perhaps psychological, medical condition makes it impossible for one spouse to engage in sexual activity. When a spouse intentionally withholds sexual contact with the other spouse, it's not impotence. Likewise, a spouse's infertility or inability to produce a child is not impotence.

Ending a Marriage

The fault grounds or reasons for divorce vary from state to state, but in many states where fault grounds divorces are still recognized, impotence is grounds for divorce. As a general rule, when it comes to divorce, it doesn't matter if the spouse was impotent before the marriage or if the spouse became impotent after the marriage.

Impotence can also be grounds for annulment of a marriage if the condition existed at the time the couple got married and the impotence was discovered later. An annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void, as if the marriage never happened.

Proving Impotence

As with all fault grounds for divorce, impotency must be supported by evidence or testimony, or the case could be dismissed. As a general rule, the spouse suing for divorce must provide medical or other expert testimony to prove the other spouse's impotence.

In some states, a divorce will be granted only if it's proved that the spouse's impotence is permanent and incurable. Today, advances in medical technology may make it difficult to prove to that. A divorce court may order the spouse to undergo a physical or psychological examination, and if that spouse refuses, the court may grant the suing spouse a divorce.

Divorces usually aren't pleasant to begin with, and things can only get more uncomfortable when the spouses' bedroom is brought into the courtroom. When divorce looks like the only answer, it's a good idea for both spouses to talk their attorneys about their available options.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What evidence do I need to prove I'm not impotent?
  • If I live in a state that allows both fault-based and no-fault divorce, should I file for a fault-based divorce based on impotence or a no-fault divorce?
  • Should I file for divorce or for an annulment if my spouse was impotent at the time of our marriage?
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