How do you divorce when your doesn’t want to go through with it?

How do you divorce when your doesn’t want to go through with it? Does it require both parties to cooperate?

I cannot speak for all jurisdictions, but here is the answer for Utah, the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (though my best guess is that this applies to all jurisdictions):

Can you divorce your spouse if he/she doesn’t want a divorce? Yes, no question about it. You have an absolute right to a divorce, if you want a divorce. This is what a “no-fault divorce” is. Many people believe that “no-fault divorce” means many things it does not.

Some believe “no fault divorce” means “hey, spouse, you can’t divorce me because I’ve done nothing wrong, I’ve committed no fault.” No, that’s not what it means.

Some believe “no fault divorce” means “hey, spouse, can divorce you because I’ve done nothing wrong, I’ve committed no fault.” That’s not what it means either.

No-fault divorce means this: you can get a divorce regardless of whether your spouse has committed any marital fault. What does this mean, and what is “marital fault”?

  • It means:
    • that before the no-fault divorce law was passed by the legislature the only way one could obtain a decree of divorce was by proving his/her spouse was “at fault”. If your spouse had not committed a marital fault, then you couldn’t get a divorce no matter how much you wanted a divorce. Marital fault-based grounds for divorce still exist in some states*, they are just not the only way one can qualify to get a divorce.
    • that with the passing of a no-fault divorce law, now one can obtain a divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” which means that as long as you claim (claim, not prove—after all, how could it be proven or disproven?) that there are “irreconcilable differences” between you and your spouse that render the marriage irretrievably broken, you can get a divorce.
  • Marital fault is any of the following grounds for divorce at common law. I will list the grounds that Utah recognizes first, plus some other grounds that other jurisdictions recognize as “fault”-based grounds for divorce:
    • Utah:
      • 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.
    • Other fault-based grounds
      • abandonment for a certain length of time;
      • bigamy;
      • conviction of felony;
      • criminal conviction of a felony or imprisonment of one party for a certain length of time;
      • cruelty;
      • desertion (actual desertion, constructive desertion);
      • fraud;
      • habitual intemperance or alcoholism that makes you unable to attend to business or inflicts mental anguish on the non-alcoholic spouse;
      • homosexuality (for heterosexual married couples) of the other party that was not discussed before the union;
      • incest;
      • infertility;
      • mental instability of one of the parties;
      • permanently insanity of spouse (this can be demonstrated by regular confinement within a psychiatric facility in any state or country for at least three years before filing for divorce);
      • separation for a certain minimal period of time;
      • transmission of a sexually transmitted disease by one spouse to the innocent spouse;
      • where a spouse’s joining of a religious sect leads to the destruction of the marriage, then the objecting partner can cite the episode as grounds for divorce;
      • willful desertion;
      • willful neglect of the husband not providing his wife the common needs like foods and shelter;
      • your spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse;
      • your spouse’s institutionalization for mental illness


Pure no-fault divorce states (according to LegalZoom):

  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin


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

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