Would being separated be grounds for a divorce?
Grounds for divorce vary depending on the state in which you or your spouse files for divorce. Although being separated typically isn’t grounds for divorce in at-fault cases, it can be grounds for a no-fault divorce and may also fulfill the separation requirements before a divorce will be granted in certain states.
How Grounds for Divorce Work
There always needs to be grounds for a divorce, but the acceptable grounds are different for no-fault and at-fault divorces.
No-fault divorces have become more and more common because they tend to be faster and less expensive than at-fault divorces. All states now have no-fault divorces, whereas only some states have at-fault divorces.
In a no-fault divorce, the court doesn’t find either party at fault. The most common grounds for divorce is irreconcilable differences, which can also be known as irretrievable breakdown or incompatibility of temperament, depending on your state. It essentially means that both parties involved in the marriage don’t get along anymore and don’t believe that the situation will get any better in the future.
If you and your spouse have been living apart from each other, you can easily file for a no-fault divorce. As long as both of you accept the divorce and can come to a divorce agreement, the process will likely go smoothly.
In an at-fault divorce, one spouse claims that the other did something which prompted them to end the marriage. At-fault divorces don’t happen as often since it can take time and money to prove that a spouse was at fault for the end of the marriage.
Being separated is not grounds for an at-fault divorce because the separation itself doesn’t prove that either party was responsible for the dissolution of the marriage.
One situation where separation could result in an at-fault divorce is when one spouse abandons another. For example, if your spouse simply leaves without your consent and without a reason that fits the parameters of your relationship, you may be able to file for a divorce and cite their abandonment. Of course, if your spouse had military service or another reason for leaving that fit within your relationship, an abandonment claim wouldn’t work.
Fulfilling a Mandatory Separation Period
There is another situation in the divorce process where a separation can come into play, and this is when your state requires that you and your spouse go through a trial separation period before you can start the divorce process.
Several states have a mandatory separation period that you and your spouse must go through before you can file your divorce. This can be as short as one month, or over a year. Arkansas has one of the longest mandatory separation periods at 18 months.
There are also states which have different requirements depending on whether you and your spouse agree to the divorce. For example, in Maryland, if you want a divorce and your spouse doesn’t, the mandatory separation period is two years. If you both agree to the divorce, the mandatory separation period is one year.
If you can prove that you and your spouse have been living apart for a certain period of time, that can count towards the mandatory separation period. It’s best if you have evidence of this, such as utility bills in your name at a new address or a witness who can testify that you were living away from your spouse. However, the court may also accept the word of you and your spouse.
After the divorce is filed, there can also be a mandatory waiting period before it is finalized. California is one state that has this, requiring you to wait six months from the time that you petition for divorce and have your spouse served. This is different than a mandatory separation period found in other states, and even if you and your spouse have lived apart, it won’t have any effect on how long you need to wait.
Proceeding with Your Divorce
The best way to get information on what constitutes grounds for divorce in your state is consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer.
Your lawyer can explain what options will work for no-fault and at-fault divorces. He can also tell you how any separation you’ve gone through can affect your divorce and your mandatory separation period, should your state have one.