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What are "irreconcilable differences"?

This is a widely used term and catch-all category in state codes to describe grounds for divorce where the parties simply cannot function as a marital unit any longer. For example, California law defines it as "those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it

About half of all marriage end in divorce in the United States for a number of reason, ranging from unfaithfulness to desertion, mental illness, drug addiction, and criminal behavior (iStock).

About half of all marriage end in divorce in the United States for a number of reason, ranging from unfaithfulness to desertion, mental illness, drug addiction, and criminal behavior (iStock).

appear that the marriage should be dissolved." Maine uses the term "irreconcilable marital differences."

Are there differences between irreconcilable differences and other grounds for divorce?

Yes, in certain states there is a difference between irreconcilable differences and other common grounds for divorce. For example, Maine law provides that if one party to the marriage alleges such differences and the other party denies them, then the judge may order the parties to marital counseling. Mississippi law provides that "no divorce shall be granted on the ground of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial." North Dakota law defines irreconcilable differences as "those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved."

If your spouse leaves and doesn't come back, is that grounds for divorce?

Yes, in most states abandonment constitutes a valid reason for divorce. In many states, such as Alabama, a party can legally claim abandonment if his or her spouse has left the family home for a period of one year before the filing of the petition for divorce. Connecticut law provides that grounds for divorce exist if there has been "willful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty."

What types of crimes committed by a spouse give the other spouse grounds for divorce?

It depends on individual state laws. In Georgia, any crime of moral turpitude in which a party is sentenced to two years or longer suffices as grounds for divorce. West Virginia law provides that any felony conviction can constitute a valid ground for divorce. Connecticut provides that life imprisonment or a sentence for "the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year" provides valid grounds for divorce.

What is condonation?

Condonation refers to forgiveness of a marital offense. It is the act of one spouse in forgiving another spouse of misconduct during the duration of the marriage. Usually, condonation was used as a defense when adultery was the alleged grounds for divorce. Condonation is no longer a valid defense in many jurisdictions.

What is recrimination?

Recrimination is a defense to a divorce action that says that a party is not entitled to a divorce if he or she has also committed the same offense as the other spouse. Sometimes, one party will file for divorce and the other party will then allege that the petitioning party also committed the same marital offense. This is the defense of recrimination.

Can persons separate without filing for a divorce?

In many states, yes, parties to a marriage can enter into a legal order of separation. This is often—but not always—a precursor to a full-blown divorce.

Can you file for divorce in a state that is not the state in which you were married?

A person does not have to file for divorce in the state in which they originally were married—unless both parties still reside in that state. However, persons can't file for divorce in any state of their choosing. Generally, a party can take up residence in a state before he or she can file for divorce in that state. Some states have residency requirements before a party can file for divorce in that state. A few require a person to reside in a state for at least six months in a state before filing for divorce there.

 
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