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Grounds for Divorce


Many people often wonder just what are grounds for divorce. The short answer is "it depends".

While there are some common grounds that apply in many states, each state has its own set of laws that govern the divorce process.

More importantly, what we traditionally think of as grounds for divorce are not always required. Each state now has a provision for "no-fault" divorce. Again, the terminology and specific requirements may vary from state to state, but it is now possible to get divorced anywhere in the country without pointing fingers. In some states, there is a separate provision for no-fault divorce, while in others "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage" or something similarly neutral is permitted as a stated ground for divorce. However, no-fault divorces may require additional waiting periods or other requirements.

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Common Divorce Grounds

Some of the terms are self-explanatory, while others may be less familiar terminology. Some may seem straight-forward at first, but can be complicated under your state's laws.

  • Adultery: This is one of those self-explanatory ones. Generally, if your spouse cheats on you, you will have grounds for a divorce.
  • Cruel and Abusive Treatment: The legal standard for both "cruel" and "abusive" will be defined differently in each state, or different terminology may apply.
  • Desertion or Abandonment: The length of time one spouse must be away and the circumstances required to constitute desertion or abandonment differ from state to state.
  • Constructive Desertion: A similar concept to desertion is constructive desertion. Constructive desertion occurs when the actions of one spouse make the martial home uninhabitable for the other. Thus the spouse who makes the house uninhabitable may be deemed to have constructively deserted the other spouse, even if it is the second spouse who physically leaves the home.
  • Drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Long-Term Incarceration: In some states, imprisonment for a certain number of years constitutes grounds for divorce.

If you want a divorce, but don't see any ground that is applicable to your situation, don't worry. Every state now allows for no-fault divorce, New York being the last state to pass no-fault divorce in 2010. If you want a divorce, get in touch with a local divorce attorney and learn your rights and obligations under your state laws.

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