When you read about recent divorces, you often see that “irreconcilable differences” were the basis for the separation. The reason that you hear “irreconcilable differences” so frequently is that the term comes from the modern “no-fault” divorce code.
Before the passage of the no-fault code, a divorce was only allowed when the parties could find a fault in the marriage such as abuse, adultery or infertility. However over the past 50 years, the laws across the country have shifted from fault-based to no-fault divorces.
Traditional fault-based grounds for divorce are very similar to breach of contract actions. The most common grounds for divorce include:
- sexual deviance,
- mental illness,
- abandonment or desertion,
- criminal conviction,
- and substance abuse.
Proponents of no-fault divorces argue that fault-based divorces are an anachronistic legal concept that does not reflect the reality of marriages in modern day America. Additionally, they feel that removing fault from divorce proceedings removes much of the anger, bitterness and acrimony that attends a divorce where one party must show the other was at fault.
Opponents of no-fault divorces cite the shift as the cause of the rising divorce rate, an increase in poverty for women, and a decrease in society’s value of marriage as a social pillar.
The first no-fault statute was passed in California in 1969. Over the following 50 years, all fifty states to either removed fault-based divorce from their code or added a no-fault “irreconcilable differences” clause to their code.
Therefore, in every state, you have the option to choose a no-fault divorce. However, in many states, fault based divorce is still an option and in some states, such as Illinois, it is much more difficult to obtain a no-fault divorce if the divorce is contested.
The current statute in Oregon provides that a divorce may be rendered when “irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” Furthermore, Oregon has removed all fault based divorce standards. This means that evidence of acts of misconduct will not be considered in a divorce proceeding except in matters of child custody or where the evidence is relevant.
When dividing property between the spouses, evidence of misconduct or fault won’t be considered by the court. Instead, any assets or debts acquired during your marriage are divided equitably. While the law presumes you and your spouse made equal contributions in acquiring property, the court may look at factors such as the cost of an asset, taxes and liens, evidence of contributions by each spouse and how the property award impacts the issue of alimony when determining division of property.