What Does it Mean to Cite Irreconcilable Differences in a Divorce?

By Katherine Hartman
About 80 percent of divorcing couples cite irreconcilable differences.
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When "irreconcilable differences" is cited as the reason for a divorce, it means neither party is blaming the other for the dissolution of the marriage. When spouses cannot agree on fundamental issues and believe they'll never come to terms with their differences, they typically cite irreconcilable differences in the divorce petition. Otherwise known as a "no-fault" divorce, these divorces typically move through the court system swiftly.

Legislative Requirements

A divorce petition citing irreconcilable differences must be in accordance with applicable state laws. States differ in their requirements for accepting irreconcilable differences as a valid reason for divorce. In some states, only one party need file for such a divorce; in other states both parties must do so. In some states, you must prove these irreconcilable differences have caused an irreversible breakdown of the marriage, that you have tried to reconcile but have failed and that efforts to reconcile may hurt the best interests of the family. Some states also require the parties live apart for a specific period of time before the divorce can be finalized.

Examples of Irreconcilable Differences

There are many reasons why a marriage breaks down, but certain factors are typically involved when a couple cites irreconcilable differences as the justification. These factors include a fundamental conflict of personalities, significantly different interests, resentment, distrust or antagonistic feelings. When couples cannot agree on how to raise their children or differ on disciplinary or religious issues, they often cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for desiring the divorce.

History

The irreconcilable differences option has only been available since the 1960s. Before then, a "no-fault" divorce didn't exist. Either a husband or wife had to cite specific unacceptable behavior by the other party before a judge would grant a divorce. When the no-fault option became available, it was first called "inconsolable" differences. This term was later replaced by the less emotionally charged term, "irreconcilable."

Alternative Options

Before deciding on irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce, spouses should at least be aware of the other grounds for divorce that exist. One or both parties may decide another justification is more appropriate. Many states still allow a filing for a fault divorce, meaning a husband or wife wishes to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage. Traditional fault grounds include cruelty, desertion for a specific length of time, confinement in prison, physical inability to engage in sexual relations and adultery. In some states, when one spouse can prove the other is at fault for the problems in the marriage, the filing spouse will receive more alimony and an increased share of the marital property.