There are 7 “fault” grounds for divorce. With a “fault” grounds, one spouse files for the divorce and blames the other spouse for the end of the marriage. Although there are several fault grounds, “cruel and abusive treatment” is the one that survivors of domestic violence use the most.
You can ask for a hearing 21 days after the sheriff or constable serves your spouse with the Domestic Relations Summons and the Complaint for Divorce. You can get the divorce even if your spouse does not show up for the hearing. After the judge hears your case, the court issues a Judgment of Divorce Nisi. The divorce becomes final 90 days after Judgment of Divorce Nisi.
The “fault” grounds for divorce are:
- Cruel and Abusive Treatment is the most common fault grounds for divorce. You need to show that your spouse did something on purpose that hurt or upset you. Physical abuse is also cruel and abusive treatment. Emotional abuse is cruel and abusive treatment if it caused you physical harm (made you sick). For example, his drinking and staying out all night caused you headaches and stomach problems.
- Desertion – You will have to show that your spouse:
- left you,
- has been gone at least a year, and
- is not planning to return.
- You will also have to show that he left on his own, you didn’t agree and he did not have a good reason to leave.
In some cases, there is desertion even though the spouse never physically left the home. In those cases, the judge has to look at the facts of the case to see if it amounts to desertion.
- Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication means that your spouse has a pattern of using a lot of drugs or alcohol. You have to prove that your spouse uses “excessive” amounts of (too much) drugs or alcohol, and that he does it on his own without being forced. You also need to prove that he does this regularly, rather than just every once in a while.
- Gross or wanton and cruel refusal or neglect to provide suitable support means that your spouse refuses to give you enough money to live on. To use this ground, you have to show that your spouse is able to support you but refuses or fails to do so. You also have to show that this has hurt you physically (very sick) or puts you in danger of physical harm.
- Adultery is not common. It means that your spouse had sex with someone else. You will have to prove that your spouse had sex with someone else. This is very difficult to prove. Most people do not use this ground even if they think their spouse had sex with someone else.
- Impotency: This means your spouse is unable to have sex. Therefore, it can be a grounds for divorce is rarely used.
- Sentence of Confinement in a Penal Institution: This means your spouse has been sentenced to spend five years or more in prison. This grounds is also based on how long the sentence is, not how much time he actually spends in prison.