Grounds for Divorce

April 5, 2009

Wisconsin is what is known as a “no-fault” divorce state.  The only legal grounds for divorce are that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning that there is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation between the husband and wife. 

The ramifications of no-fault divorce are that a party seeking divorce need not show any “fault” on the part of the other spouse in order to obtain a divorce.   However, wrongdoing and poor behavior may be relevant to specific issues in a divorce, such as legal custody and physical placement of  the children.  The no-fault divorce also means that if the respondent spouse would prefer to stay married, there are not any viable legal defenses to stop the divorce from ultimately occurring.  It takes two to tango, so to speak. 

Some states retain traditional “fault” grounds for divorce, such as adultery, along with no-fault provisions.  However, there are no fault grounds in Wisconsin.  The ability of one spouse to unilaterally decide to divorce is controversial.   Proponents say that no-fault leads to less litigation and therefore, fewer emotional and financial costs to the parties and their children.  On the other hand, divorce rates have climbed since the advent of no-fault, and religious and conservative groups are seeking to change the law all across the country to strengthen the legal bond of marriage by making it more difficult to divorce. 

What do you think?  Does the legal system make it too “easy” to divorce?


2 Responses to “Grounds for Divorce”

  1. Yes, the legal system makes it too easy!

    Does anyone care what God thinks about divorce?

    • In response to those types of concerns, religious and conservative groups have lobbied in many states to limit the grounds for divorce, with limited results. However, one of the religious responses to no-fault divorce has been the creation of what is known as a “covenant marriage” – see In a covenant marriage, both the husband and wife agree at the oustet to restrict the grounds for divorce to very limited “fault” circumstances. However, this option is available in few states; and not in Wisconsin.

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