There Must be Grounds

Some people become confused about the difference between grounds and fault. In divorce actions, there must be grounds for divorce. Grounds are the legal reason a party or the parties are asking the court to end the marriage. In some, depending upon the claim, the grounds are fault, but in most cases today, the grounds are no fault.

Some jurisdictions have abolished fault divorce, but in those states that offer fault divorce, the reasons include adultery, deviant sexual conduct, extreme cruelty or cruel and inhuman treatment, habitual drunkenness, mental illness, sexual desertion, and drug addiction. Some states recognize some of these fault grounds; some recognize all of them.

These terms have different shades of means and interpretations depending upon the jurisdiction.

About 30 of the jurisdictions offer fault as well as no-fault divorce.

No-fault grounds normally include physical separation, usually separate habitats, not merely separate bedrooms from six months to three years; irreconcilable difference, or incompatibility of temperament. No-fault actions allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken down,” a term which did not exist in the literature of divorce prior to the onset of no-fault divorce in the 1970s.

Divorces may be contested, when one party disputes the allegations, and uncontested, when the parties present an agreement for approval of the court.

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