Are irreconcilable differences the same as an at-fault divorce?


There are two kind of grounds for divorce: fault and no-fault. Irreconcilable differences are an example of no-fault grounds for divorce.

Before no-fault divorce laws were passed (and every state in the United States of America now allows divorce on a no-fault basis), a husband or wife could not obtain a divorce unless he/she could prove that his or her spouse had committed marital fault.

No, really. I’m not kidding. It got to the point that spouses we didn’t have fault-based grounds for divorce, but wanted a divorce nevertheless, would collude with each other and perjure themselves to commit fraud on the court: the husband or would would agree to claim, falsely that he/she committed adultery (or some other fault), and the other spouse would go along with the sham. Together they would represent to the court that a divorce was warranted on the basis of adultery that never took place, simply so they could get divorce from one another. lawmakers, realizing that this was happening, and realizing that there were many people in need of a divorce who could not qualify under existing laws, responded with the passage of no-fault divorce laws.

Fault-based grounds for divorce are those that allege that your spouse has committed one or more kinds of wrongs that would entitle you to a divorce.

No-fault grounds are those that allege that you don’t need or want to allege that your spouse has done anything wrong such that you are entitled to a divorce; instead, alleging no-fault grounds means that you just want out of the marriage, without having to blame your spouse as an excuse for getting divorced.

Fault-based grounds for divorce can vary from state to state, but generally the “marital faults” that qualify include:

  • impotency of the respondent at the time of marriage;
  • adultery committed by the respondent subsequent to marriage;
  • willful desertion of the petitioner by the respondent for more than one year;
  • willful neglect of the respondent to provide for the petitioner the common necessaries of life;
  • habitual drunkenness of the respondent;
  • conviction of the respondent for a felony;
  • cruel treatment of the petitioner by the respondent to the extent of causing bodily injury or great mental distress to the petitioner;
  • incurable insanity; or
  • when the husband and wife have lived separately under a decree of separate maintenance of any state for three consecutive years without cohabitation.

See Utah Code § 30-3-1(3)

Other historical fault-based grounds for divorce include:

  • existence of a loathsome disease concealed from the other spouse at the time of marriage were contracted afterwards
  • substance abuse other than and/or in addition to alcohol abuse
  • bigamy
  • impotence
  • force or fraud
  • mental illness
  • carnal abandonment (refusing to have a reasonable amount of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse)
  • infertility (particularly if your infertility was known and you concealed the fact before marriage)
  • sexual orientation ( g., you are heterosexual and you discover that your spouse is homosexual)
  • changing religions after marriage or abandoning one’s religious faith after marriage

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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