Every year, millions of couples in the United States file for divorce. Marriages can break down for many reasons, and in most states, it is acceptable to simply list the reason for seeking divorce as “irreconcilable differences.” This term indicates that a marriage has broken down beyond all hope of future reconciliation. However, the term can apply to many different situations.
If you are expecting to end your marriage in the near future, it’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily need to cite an exact reason for filing for divorce. “Irreconcilable differences” is perfectly acceptable and covers a wide range of potential causes. However, it is worth knowing the most commonly reported reasons for marriages to fail. If you have experienced any issues in your marriage, knowing the most commonly cited causes of divorce may help you intervene before your marriage breaks down entirely.
One of the most commonly cited reasons for divorce in the U.S. is infidelity, commonly called cheating or adultery. In most marriages, there is an expectation of monogamy; both spouses expect one another to have no other sexual partners and carry no other romantic attachments other than with one another. If you held this expectation in your own marriage and discovered that your spouse was secretly having a sexual affair with someone else, it is easy to imagine how quickly a marriage can break down following this kind of revelation. It’s natural to feel distraught and heartbroken when you learn that your spouse has violated your trust in this way, but it is vital to remain objective and understand that their behavior is unlikely to have much material impact on the outcome of your divorce.
Infidelity may be unethical and hurtful, but unless you and your spouse have a prenuptial contract in place with specific provisions pertaining to infidelity, you cannot expect the court to “take your side” because your spouse cheated on you. Some couples draft prenuptial contracts that stipulate a cheating spouse cannot claim alimony in divorce, or that they will face other financial penalties for this behavior. However, a formal legal review must determine your prenuptial contract to be valid and enforceable for these provisions to influence the outcome of your divorce.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Spouse Is Cheating
Whether you have a prenuptial contract or not, if you believe your spouse is having an affair, it is important to secure evidence before levying any accusations. It is possible that you may be misinterpreting the situation, but ultimately if your instincts tell you that your spouse is hiding an affair, it is vital to confirm your suspicions before moving forward with divorce proceedings.
An attorney can be a valuable asset in this situation. They can potentially connect you with a private investigator who can gather evidence on your behalf. If you have a prenuptial contract with provisions concerning infidelity, it will be vital for you to prove your spouse’s adulterous behavior if you intend for it to have any bearing on the outcome of your divorce.
Lack of Commitment
Many couples cite “lack of commitment” as their reason for filing for divorce. This is a somewhat general term that can apply to many different situations. A married person may start to feel romantically detached from their spouse, or the couple’s relationship may evolve into something more akin to roommates or friends rather than a marriage supported by romantic love. “Lack of commitment” can also imply infidelity, but this is typically cited specifically if a married person believes it to be the main cause for their marriage breaking down.
If you believe your marriage is suffering from commitment issues, marriage counseling could potentially help you and your spouse explore the underlying issues that are impairing your relationship. However, it’s important to remember that both of you must be willing to confront these issues with the desire to repair your marriage for counseling to work.
Arguments are common in any marriage, but when a married couple cannot agree on even basic elements of their relationship, this dynamic can quickly cause a relationship to unravel. Ongoing conflict can easily fit under the umbrella of “irreconcilable differences,” especially when one spouse is willing to try marriage counseling or other remediation but the other is intransigent and refuses to compromise on anything.
Money is a major factor in many divorce cases. Couples may disagree as to how they should best manage their finances, or one spouse may demonstrate ongoing inability to responsibly manage their finances. If you and your spouse have been constantly arguing about your shared finances, it’s vital to determine the best available remedies for this type of situation before moving forward with divorce. An experienced attorney can potentially provide valuable guidance, whether you want to explore options for reconciliation or if you want to ensure that your spouse’s financial mismanagement is appropriately addressed in your divorce case.
“Final Straw” Causes of Divorce
In some marriages, the spouses have several issues that escalate and evolve over time until one of them does something that amounts to the “final straw” for the other spouse. The most commonly cited “final straws” that lead to divorce include infidelity, domestic abuse, and extreme substance abuse.
Potential Remedies for Salvaging a Marriage in Distress
Some couples are willing to try to reconcile their differences and avoid divorce. Typically, a couple in this situation will try multiple options to reach common ground before filing for divorce. If you and your spouse have been having marital problems, there are several potential remedies you may wish to consider trying before filing for divorce:
- Marriage counseling. A marriage counselor can examine a couple’s relationship and help them reach common ground. Marriage counseling can help a couple overcome communication issues and help both spouses develop new strategies for overcoming or avoiding conflicts. For marriage counseling to be effective, both spouses must be willing to participate in the process.
- Sex therapy. Sexual relations are an important part of a marriage. When one partner seems disinterested in sex with their spouse, this can easily tempt them toward infidelity and the breakdown of the marriage. It’s also possible for a couple to feel sexually incompatible due to feelings of low self-confidence or body image. Sex therapy can help a couple understand each other’s physical needs in greater depth, potentially bringing them closer together and repairing the rift in their marriage.
- Financial advice. If you and your spouse constantly argue about money, a financial advisor or budgetary consultant could potentially provide valuable insights that allow both of you to move past these issues and regain confidence in your shared finances.
- Legal separation. Some couples having marital troubles may wish to enact a trial separation before moving forward with divorce. Legal separation maintains the legal benefits of marriage, such as the ability to file joint tax returns and take advantage of shared insurance policies, but it allows the couple to legal separate their finances and live separately. In some cases, legal separation can provide a “cooling off” period that eventually allows the couple to reconcile, and in other cases a legal separation can serve as a springboard for divorce and streamline the couple’s divorce proceedings.
Ultimately, every marriage is unique and every couple experiencing troubles in their marriage will have different issues to address and overcome. Unless you are entirely convinced that your marriage needs to end, it is worth exploring these and other options for reconciliation. If you are ready to move forward with divorce, consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible to determine the best steps to take to preserve your interests in the divorce process.
How an Attorney Can Help When Your Marriage Is Struggling
Some couples’ marriages devolve very quickly when conflicts arise. An acute issue such as infidelity can be enough to end a marriage, but in many cases, the causes of a marriage breaking down are numerous and less precise. If you believe your marriage is struggling due to one or more issues, an attorney can help you explore your available options for fixing the situation. If you are convinced that you need to end your marriage, you should consult an attorney to help you initiate divorce proceedings.
An experienced attorney can help you and your spouse take advantage of legal separation if you wish to streamline a future divorce or if you both simply want to try a trial separation to cool off before readdressing your issues with clearer heads. Ultimately, if the two of you decide that your marriage has broken down past any hope of reconciliation, you will need an attorney to guide you through the divorce process. If you and your spouse decide to divorce, each of you will need your own legal counsel. It is unwise to attempt self-representation in divorce proceedings, especially if your spouse has their own attorney.
The Khalaf Law Group can provide the legal counsel you need when you are unsure of whether you need to file for divorce in California. Our team has successfully represented many past clients in difficult divorce cases, and we can put this experience to work for you. Contact us to schedule a consultation with our team to find out how we can help you navigate your divorce with confidence.