Irreconcilable Differences

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What Does “Irreconcilable Differences” Mean?

In a family law setting, the legal term “Irreconcilable Differences” is often the basis for a divorce or a dissolution of a marriage/civil union.  Basically, when the couple files for divorce, they may have the option of citing irreconcilable differences as the basis of their divorce, depending on the state where they are filing for divorce. 

Irreconcilable differences is commonly the basis for no-fault divorce, wherein neither party is “at fault”, but rather the couple simply cannot get along for various reasons. 

How is "Irreconcilable Differences" Defined?

Irreconcilable differences is a somewhat vague term that can include many different types of disputes and or conflicts.  In general, it doesn’t point to one specific incident (such as abuse or infidelity), but rather describes the general state of the marriage or union.  When filing for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, the couple may encounter legal language such as:

“Both parties agree that the breakdown of the marriage is the result of irreconcilable differences.  It follows that further efforts at reconciliation would not be in the best interest for either party.”

Thus, the term is often used in conjunction with, or interchangeably with other terms such as “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”, “irremediable breakdown”, or “incompatibility”. 

Another common legal definition for irreconcilable differences includes “differences between the parties that are severe enough to make legal marriage difficult or nearly impossible”.  However, courts rarely need to go into the specific details of the differences, especially if the state is a no-fault jurisdiction.

Are There any Requirements When a Couple Divorces Based on Irreconcilable Differences?

The requirements for filing for divorce based on irreconcilable differences will vary widely from state to state.  For example, some states impose waiting periods, while others may require that the couple have been separated for some time before they’re allowed to file for such a divorce.

Some requirements that are commonly cited may include:

Thus, the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” may not be available in all instances of divorce.  It’s usually reserved for relationships that lasted only a short period of time, with no children involved, and smaller amounts of community property involved as well. 

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Questions or Issues Involving “Irreconcilable Differences”?

Divorce or separation can often be a complex legal process.  If you have any questions or legal issues at all that involve irreconcilable differences, it’s in your best interests to work with a lawyer.  An experienced family law attorney in your area can help provide you with guidance, counsel, and representation throughout the process.  Be sure to inquire with your lawyer regarding the specific rules in your area.

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Last Modified: 08-02-2012 10:45 AM PDT

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