When Is a Marriage Irretrievably Broken, and What Does That Mean?

Hossein Berenji, Jan 18, 2023

Divorce laws vary by state. Each state decides what grounds a person must prove to end a marriage. Many states still have grounds that include “fault” causes of action.

“Fault” divorces are based on wrongdoing. For example, a spouse must prove the other spouse is guilty of adultery, abandonment, abuse, habitual drunkenness, or other wrongdoing to obtain a divorce.

Today, most states have some type of no-fault divorce. However, state law might require the parties to live separately and apart for a specific period before the court grants the divorce. Other states might require parties to attend counseling if one spouse contests the divorce.

California only has two grounds for divorce.

The first ground for divorce is irreconcilable differences, which is a form of “no-fault” divorce. Essentially, the marriage is irretrievably broken and cannot be repaired. The state does not require parties to live separately for a specific period to obtain a divorce on no-fault grounds.

The second ground for divorce in California is incurable insanity. Incurable insanity is rarely used for divorce. Instead, most divorces in California are based on irreconcilable differences.

What Does It Mean When a Marriage Is Irretrievably Broken?

California Family Code §2311 states that irreconcilable differences are the grounds a judge can decide are sufficient reasons for a marriage not to continue. Therefore, it would appear that the marriage should be dissolved. Irretrievably broken merely means that nothing can be done to repair the relationship between spouses or partners.

It only takes one spouse or domestic partner to claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken to obtain a divorce. Even if the other spouse contests the divorce petition, the court can grant the divorce if the petitioning spouse testifies the marriage is irretrievably broken.

There could be many reasons why a marriage breaks down. For example, the parties might drift away from each other and fall out of love. On the other hand, a spouse might cheat, causing the non-cheating spouse to end the marriage.

California does not require a spouse to prove “fault” to obtain a divorce. In other words, you do not need to prove your spouse is guilty of adultery, domestic violence, or other “wrongful acts” to dissolve your marriage. If you do not get along with your spouse, it is sufficient to obtain a divorce on irreconcilable differences.

What Are Examples of Irreconcilable Differences That Can Make a Marriage Irretrievably Broken?

Only you can decide when your marriage is irretrievably broken. Many people reach this point when they no longer believe they can resolve their differences with their spouse.

The definition of irreconcilable differences is vague and broad on purpose because it must include all reasons why a relationship might break down. Examples of irreconcilable differences include:

  • Lack of communication
  • Inability to agree on a work-home balance
  • Excessive arguing
  • Differences of opinion regarding religion, politics, finances, and children
  • Lack of emotional or sexual intimacy
  • Having a sexual or emotional relationship with another person
  • Disagreements about careers and relocation
  • Personality conflicts
  • The loss of trust and/or safety
  • Physical or emotional abuse

Even though you do not need to prove fault to obtain a divorce, it does not mean your spouse cannot contest the divorce terms. In most cases, the divorce process becomes complicated when spouses cannot negotiate a mutual divorce agreement.

What Happens if My Spouse Contests My Divorce Petition in Los Angeles?

If your spouse contests the divorce, the court must hold a hearing. The court eventually grants the divorce if you continue claiming the marriage is irretrievably broken. Unfortunately, your spouse can drag out the divorce longer than necessary by creating a contested divorce action.

Typically, a spouse contests a divorce because they want a larger share of marital property, spousal support, or child custody. You do not know how your spouse could react when served with divorce papers. Therefore, it is always best to seek legal advice from a Los Angeles divorce lawyer.

California is a community property state. Therefore, in most cases, marital assets are divided equally between the parties. However, there could be exceptions.

Likewise, California courts favor joint custody whenever possible. The courts believe that children generally benefit when both parents have active roles in the children’s lives. But, again, there are exceptions.

Ending the marriage is not the problem. That can be done even if your spouse wants to remain married. The real problem arises when your spouse wants to be unreasonable or unfair regarding other issues.

A Los Angeles divorce attorney can inform you of your legal rights and help you take steps to protect your best interests.

Contact a Beverly Hills Divorce Law Lawyer Today

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

Beverly Hills Office
9595 Wilshire Blvd Ste 959
Beverly Hills CA 90212
(310) 271-6290

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Los Angeles, CA 90013
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