The law requires that you give the court a reason to grant your divorce. To get the process started, you must state your reason, or grounds, in a divorce complaint or petition. Since 2010, all 50 states recognize "no-fault" divorce grounds, so you simply declare that your marriage is over.
Some States Are "Pure" No-Fault States
Some states do not recognize fault grounds at all. In these states, you declare in your complaint that your marriage is "irretrievably broken" or that you and your spouse have "irreconcilable differences." You don't have to say why your marriage broke down or what your differences are. The idea behind no-fault divorce is that neither spouse blames the other for the end of the marriage.
Some States Require a Separation Period
Some no-fault states require neither that your marriage be irretrievably broken nor that you have irreconcilable differences. In these states, living apart from your spouse for a certain amount of time is proof enough for the court that your marriage is over. Your separation period can be as short as six months or as long as five years, depending on where you live. Some states also require that you live separately for a time in order to file on irretrievable breakdown or irreconcilable differences grounds.
Fault Grounds Require Proof
Some states offer you the option of filing on no-fault or fault grounds. Common fault grounds include adultery, cruelty, and abandonment or desertion. If you use fault grounds, you can't just tell the court that your spouse was cruel to you, you must prove it. If you don't offer convincing proof, the court will not grant your divorce. Your spouse also has the right to offer a defense against your grounds.
Fault Grounds Can Affect Alimony and Property
If you file for divorce on fault grounds, your spouse might contest the divorce because it can affect the way the court divides your property. It can also affect spousal support and alimony. Some state courts consider "marital misconduct" when deciding such issues.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding grounds for divorce is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a divorce lawyer.