California was the nation’s first no-fault divorce state beginning in 1969 with the signing of then-governor Ronald Reagan’s Family Law Act. Before that time, the law required anyone seeking to divorce a spouse to prove that the spouse had done something wrong—something unforgivable enough to break the marriage bond, for example, committing adultery or spousal abandonment.
Today, all states have a form of no-fault divorce law. To file for divorce today, one spouse only has to claim that they cannot get along with the other spouse—that they have irreconcilable differences and have no hope of making the marriage work.
The Advantages of Filing for Divorce on the Grounds of Irreconcilable Differences
Filing for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences offers significant advantages to both spouses including:
- The spouses don’t have to agree on why they are divorcing
- It doesn’t matter what caused the differences
- Neither spouse must take the blame for the divorce or appear as the victim
- Spouses don’t have to live apart or be physically separated before filing
- Courts don’t require proof of irreconcilable differences as they do for fault-based divorces
- It’s easier for abuse victims to leave a dangerous marriage
Claiming irreconcilable differences means divorcing spouses don’t have to define the nature of those differences aloud in court or in the public record. To learn more about your legal options, speak with an experienced Los Angeles divorce lawyer.
Types of Irreconcilable Differences
The term “irreconcilable differences” has a broad meaning that’s open to much interpretation. Some common reasons cited as irreconcilable differences include the following:
- Frequent work-related separations
- Disagreements on how to handle finances during the marriage
- Differences in parenting styles that cause conflict
- Religious differences
- Discord in the home or excessive fighting
- Loss of trust due to infidelity or addiction
- Lack of emotional intimacy or companionship
- Lack of physical intimacy
- One spouse’s lack of contribution to the marriage or household
- Problems with family involvement in the marriage
- Workaholic or inability to find a work/home balance
California code describes irreconcilable differences as “substantial reasons for not continuing a marriage that makes it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.” To issue a divorce decree on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, a judge must determine that the spouses cannot reconcile.
In rare cases, a judge might order a 30-day stay of the divorce if he/she has reason to believe there’s a chance of reconciliation.
Irreconcilable Difference and California’s Marital Property Laws
Another advantage of the no-fault divorce laws allowing spouses to claim irreconcilable differences is that it also led to the equal distribution of marital property laws in states like California, or the similar “equitable distribution” laws in states like Colorado and Arizona. Because it isn’t necessary to prove one spouse culpable for the divorce, both spouses share an equal entitlement to their marital property, regardless of their behavior during the marriage.
Thus, courts require an even distribution of marital assets during the divorce so one spouse doesn’t end up with everything while the other loses everything. Instead, both spouses take out of the marriage any assets they brought separately into the marriage and half of the assets gained during the marriage.