Family Law

Grounds for Divorce: Irretrievable Breakdown

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Sometimes, things simply don't work out as planned. Like when a new job may not be as exciting or challenging as you thought it would be, for example. It may be time to start over again. The same thing happens with some marriages, and it's time to get a divorce.

When your marriage simply isn't working anymore, you and your spouse may be able to get a divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

What is "Irretrievable Breakdown?"

In most states, a spouse may get a no-fault divorce based on the breakdown of the marriage. Some states refer to this breakdown as "irreconcilable differences." It means, for all intents and purposes, the marriage is over and there's no way it can be fixed and you're not interested in making it work.

It's Broken, and No One's To Blame

When a divorce is based on irretrievable breakdown, any wrong doing by the one spouse or the other doesn't matter. It's simply a statement by both spouses that the marriage won't work any longer. You don't need to prove that your spouse was to blame for the failure of your marriage.

How the Process Works

The process varies from state to state, so it's important to check the laws in your area for specifics on no-fault divorces, but in general, most states follow the same general rules:

Both Spouses Agree. When both you and your spouse agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, you both can sign an affidavit, under oath, stating that the marriage is broken and the reasons why it's broken. After a waiting period, which may be anywhere from 90 days to six months or more, the judge will hold a hearing.

Usually, the divorce will be granted because both of both spouses' agreement on irretrievable breakdown.

One Spouse Files for Divorce. When only one spouse files an affidavit or petition for divorce and the other spouse denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court will hold a hearing, after the waiting period has expired, and determine if the marriage is in fact broken.

The court may also postpone the hearing for certain period of time, usually 30 to 60 days, and may suggest, or even order, that spouses seek counseling.

Irretrievable Breakdown Factors

The courts look to a number of factors when deciding whether or not a marriage is irretrievably broken, such as:

  • Conflict of personality
  • Whether there is mutual concern for the emotional needs of each other
  • Whether the marriage is characterized by financial difficulties
  • Long physical separation
  • Difference of interests
  • Resentment
  • Distrust
  • Constant bickering
  • Irreversible antagonistic feelings

You Have To Agree on More than the Divorce

In many states, when you and your spouse both agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, you have to give the court agreements on dividing property, and if you have children, a parenting plan setting out the details of child custody, support and visitation. These need to be filed when the affidavit or divorce petition is filed.

When one spouse disagrees on irretrievable breakdown, these agreements need to be filed before the court can enter a final divorce decree. If they're not, the court will make the decisions for the spouses.

You and your spouse can handle your own divorce if you truly agree that your marriage is broken and beyond repair. But it's still a good idea to talk to a divorce attorney. An attorney can make sure your paper work is done properly, as well as explain the available grounds for divorce in your state and the legal consequences of your divorce.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What are my options when my spouse won't agree on irretrievable breakdown?
  • What can I do if I change my mind after first agreeing with my spouse that our marriage is irretrievably broken?
  • Can I file for fault-based divorce after my spouse files for divorce based on irretrievable breakdown?
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