Do there have to be grounds for a divorce?

Yes. Even in the world of liberal divorce, a couple must have a reason to end a marriage. That reason may be that the marriage is irretrievably broken down, or that the two spouses now have irreconcilable differences, but there has to be a reason. Even spouses who married common law must have grounds to end the marriage. No one can legally end a marriage just by walking away.

Each state has different procedures and rules as to what are sound grounds. A lawyer guides his or her client through the particularities of the state’s statutory divorce law -- for example, not only the applicability of grounds, but also residency requirements, which vary from state to state.

While contemporary divorce law makes it easier to move a divorce through the courts, the parties -- the spouses -- have to have a reason for a divorce and have to present that reason to a judge. In short, grounds are the legal reasons to end the marriage.