What Do Irreconcilable Differences Mean?

Irreconcilable differences are one of the two grounds for divorce in California. Essentially, the term means that neither spouse is blaming the other for the breakdown of the marriage; it simply can’t be repaired. You might decide to end your marriage for several reasons. Regardless, you cannot get a fault-based divorce and the court will not consider your reasons when determining whether to finalize the dissolution of marriage. Although the reasons for your divorce won’t affect whether your request is granted, they could impact other aspects of your case.

If you need assistance with a family law matter in Los Angeles, please contact Claery & Hammond, LLP at (310) 817-6904 today.

California’s Definition of Irreconcilable Differences

Generally, irreconcilable differences allow you to request a divorce without assigning fault to your spouse (or vice versa). California Family Code § 2311 defines them as “those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.”

The statute does not explain what is meant by “substantial reasons.” However, irreconcilable differences are interpreted to be anything that causes the failure of the marriage to the point that it cannot be fixed.

In short, irreconcilable differences mean there is no fault for the divorce. Because California follows the no-fault doctrine, you do not have to prove anything when filing for a divorce. You can also request a dissolution of marriage even if your spouse does not want it.

Examples of Irreconcilable Differences

California law might not explicitly state what “substantial reasons” are, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist when a marriage begins to break down. You and your spouse may have one or more specific reasons for requesting a divorce yet are limited to claiming irreconcilable differences when submitting your petition to the court.

Generally, irreconcilable differences represent important things that the couple cannot agree on, causing the relationship to deteriorate.

Common reasons couples might seek a divorce include:

  • Communication issues: The couple might have frequent or escalating arguments, making it difficult to have a constructive conversation about each spouse’s needs, marital issues, or other problems.
  • Financial matters: The couple might have different views on how money should be spent or saved. One spouse may have trouble sticking to a budget or managing property.
  • Religious differences: Opposing religious beliefs can conflict with one another. This can make it difficult for the couple to align their lifestyle, especially in matters concerning child-rearing.
  • Life goal changes: Before or early in the marriage, each spouse may have had certain long-term objectives. However, their interests and priorities might have shifted, causing them to alter their goals and affecting the couple’s plans.
  • Extended family involvement: In-laws might strongly influence the decisions made by one of the spouses, creating a divide in the marriage.

You might have underlying grounds for your divorce, but the court will not ask about them. It is not concerned with what caused the relationship’s collapse. It is only concerned that one spouse is requesting a dissolution of marriage.

Can a California Divorce Be Based on Fault?

In some states, couples can file for a fault-based divorce. This doctrine enables the requesting spouse to specify a specific reason or reasons for the dissolution of marriage.

Examples of fault-based grounds include:

  • Adultery
  • Insupportability
  • Cruelty
  • Felony conviction
  • Abandonment

During divorce proceedings, the requesting spouse must prove the reason for the divorce.

California Family Code § 2310 allows for only two grounds for divorce:

  • Irreconcilable differences or
  • Permanent incapacity

In other words, you cannot get a fault-based divorce in California.

How Reasons for a Divorce Can Affect Some Issues

A court doesn’t consider fault when granting a divorce. However, it may weigh one spouse’s actions or misconduct when deciding on other issues. For example, one of the factors that could affect a spousal support award and the amount is whether either spouse has a history of domestic violence (California Family Code § 4320).

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today

California is a no-fault state for divorce. You can request a dissolution of marriage because of irreconcilable differences. That means your relationship is irretrievably broken, but that does not mean you must prove that your spouse did something to cause the breakdown. Your reason for a divorce may not affect whether it’s finalized, but it can affect how certain divorce-related issues are settled. Consult with a lawyer for help navigating your case.

Schedule a consultation with a member of our Los Angeles team by calling us at (310) 817-6904 or submitting an online contact form.