When Only One Person Wants a Divorce

When only one spouse want to end the marriage, the other spouse can make the a divorce much more difficult, and no-fault divorce, which is now the law in all the jurisdictions, goes only so far when one spouse digs in and fights the divorce.

Before 1969, in most jurisdictions, divorce entailed proving fault, but when California adopted what be came known as “no-fault divorce,” it opened the door to a much easier way to end failing marriages. Today, all the jurisdictions allow no-fault divorce. Before 1969, the spouse who wanted a divorce had to show the court a good reason for ending the marriage, according to Dr. Charlene Wear Simmons, who has written a history of divorce. In California before no-fault, courts would grant a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery, insanity, abandonment, intemperance, neglect or a felony conviction.

With no-fault divorce, neither partner need prove that the other spouse did anything wrong, so neither spouse must, for example, prove adultery or other wrongdoing, which in theory reduces the hostility and anger. However, no-fault makes it much easier for one spouse walk away, even if the other remains committed to the marriage. If one partner refuses to sign the papers, then it can take much longer before the divorce is finalized.

A reluctant partner can drag pout the divorce out for a long time, but he or she cannot prevent the divorce as long as the petitioner remains committed to it. Divorce laws vary from state to state, so the details vary. In Pennsylvania, for example, courts grant no-fault divorces in cases of mutual consent or irretrievable breakdown, according to divorce lawyer Michael Greenstein. In the absence of mutual consent, the court will not accept that the marriage is irretrievably broken until the spouses have been separated for at least two years. Even then, the court does not grant the divorce without a hearing. However, if the appellant attends the hearing and states that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, then the court grants the divorce.

Some states permit a traditional fault-based divorce. For example, Pennsylvania allows for divorce on the grounds of adultery, brutality or indignities. When a partner refuses to agree to a divorce by mutual consent and the other spouse does not want to wait for two years, she could petition for a divorce on one of these fault grounds. However, she would have to provide the court with evidence to prove the accusation.

There is no way to prevent a partner from getting a divorce, if he or she is determined to do so. When one spouse wants out, it’s better to accept it and move on, than to try to delay the process.

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