What If Only One Person Wants a Divorce?

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If one partner wants a divorce and the other one does not, the end result will still be the same. A court will eventually grant the divorce, no matter what the unwilling partner does to delay the process. However, a partner who doesn't want to grant the divorce can make the process much more difficult.

The Way It Used To Be

Many people are under the impression that you can't get a court to grant a divorce unless you can prove that your partner committed adultery or some other form of mistreatment. Before 1969, this was actually the case. According to an article on the history of divorce laws by Charlene Wear Simmons Ph.D., a person who wanted a divorce before 1969 had to show the court a good reason for ending the marriage. The grounds for divorce differed from state to state. In California, courts would grant a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery, insanity, abandonment, intemperance, neglect or a felony conviction. California law was changed in 1969 to allow for no-fault divorce, and other states soon changed their laws, as well, and all 50 states now allow no-fault divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

In a no-fault divorce, neither partner has to prove that the other person was at fault, in other words, that the other partner did anything wrong. This removes the need to show evidence of adultery or other wrongdoing, potentially reducing the hostility and emotional damage of the process. However, it also makes it much easier for your partner to simply end the marriage and walk away, even if you remain committed to working it out. If one partner refuses to sign the papers, then it can take much longer before the divorce is finalized.

Delaying Tactics

Even though it is possible for a reluctant partner to drag the divorce out for a long time, it isn't possible to actually prevent the divorce as long as the person asking for the divorce remains committed to ending the marriage. Divorce laws still differ from state to state, so the details will be different depending on where you live. In Pennsylvania, for example, a court will grant a no-fault divorce in cases of mutual consent or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, according to divorce lawyer Michael Greenstein. In the absence of mutual consent, the court will not accept that the marriage is irretrievably broken until the spouses have been separated for at least two years. Even then, the court will not grant the divorce without a hearing. However, if the partner who wants the divorce shows up at the hearing and states that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, then the court will grant the divorce.

Grounds for Divorce

Some states still allow for a traditional fault-based divorce as an option to no-fault divorce. For example, Pennsylvania allows for divorce on the grounds of adultery, brutality or "infliction of indignities." If a partner refused to grant a divorce by mutual consent and the other partner didn't want to wait for two years, she could petition for a divorce on one of these grounds. However, she would have to provide the court with evidence to prove the accusation. There is no way to prevent a partner from getting a divorce, if he is determined to do so, according to California's Menon Law firm. If your spouse wants to end your marriage, it's better to accept it and move on, than to try to delay the process.