Do both Parties Have to Agree in a Divorce? What You Need To Know

Divorce can be a complex and emotionally charged process, often leading to the question:

An image of a couple getting divorced
Do both Parties Have to Agree in a Divorce? Photo courtesy of Family Ties]

Do both parties need to agree for a divorce to proceed?

No, both parties do not need to agree for a divorce to proceed.

Generally, if one party wants a divorce and can prove the statutory grounds for it, the divorce can go through even if the other party does not agree.

This is known as an uncontested divorce, where the process may be streamlined if both parties are amicable, but it is not a requirement for the divorce to be granted.

Each jurisdiction may have specific laws regarding this, so it’s important to understand the legal requirements in your area.

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What are the statutory grounds for divorce?

The statutory grounds for divorce can vary by jurisdiction, but they generally include a mix of fault-based and no-fault reasons.

Here are some common grounds:

Statutory grounds for divorce

Fault-Based Ground

1. Adultery

One spouse has had sexual relations with another person outside the marriage.

2. Desertion

One spouse abandons the other for a certain period, usually a year.

3. Cruelty

One spouse treats the other in a way that makes living together unsafe or intolerable.

4. Impotency

At the time of the marriage, one spouse was and still is unable to engage in sexual intercourse.

5. Criminal Conviction

One spouse is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison.

No-Fault Grounds:

1. Irreconcilable Differences

The spouses cannot get along, and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

2. Irretrievable Breakdown

The marriage has broken down beyond repair.

3. Separation

The spouses have lived apart for a specified period, which can vary from six months to several years, depending on the state.

It’s important to consult with a legal professional or refer to local laws for the specific grounds applicable in your area, as these can differ significantly from place to place.

What is the difference between a fault-based and no-fault divorce?

The difference between a fault-based and no-fault divorce lies in the grounds for the dissolution of marriage and the legal process involved:

Fault-Based Divorce


Requires one spouse to prove the other’s misconduct or fault, such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, or imprisonment.

The accusing spouse must present evidence of the other’s fault, which can lead to a more contentious and lengthy court process.


May influence the distribution of marital assets or alimony, potentially favoring the non-faulting spouse.

No-Fault Divorce:


Does not require proof of misconduct.

The spouse filing for divorce only needs to state that the marriage is irretrievably broken due to irreconcilable differences.


Generally faster and less adversarial than fault-based divorces, as it doesn’t involve proving fault.


Reduces the complexity and cost of the legal process, and is less emotionally taxing on both parties.

In essence, fault-based divorces are about assigning blame, while no-fault divorces are about acknowledging that the marriage has broken down without pointing fingers.

The choice between the two can affect the divorce proceedings, the emotional experience, and the final settlement.

The Divorce Legal Process and Your Rights:

When discussing the legal process and your rights in the context of divorce, it’s important to understand that the procedures and rights can vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Divorce lawyer
The Divorce Legal Process and Your Rights: | PEOPLE

However, here are some general points that apply in many regions:

Filing for Divorce:

  1. The process typically begins with one spouse filing a petition for divorce with the court.
  2. The filing party must serve the divorce papers to the other spouse, providing them with notice of the legal action.

Responding to Divorce Papers:

  1. The served spouse has the right to respond to the petition, either agreeing with the terms or contesting them.
  2. If contested, both parties may need to appear in court to discuss the issues at hand.

Legal Rights:

Both spouses have the right to legal representation.

  1. Each party has the right to present evidence and arguments supporting their position.
  2. Spouses are entitled to a fair division of assets and debts.
  3. If applicable, spousal support (alimony) and child custody/support will be determined.

Finalizing the Divorce:

  1. If the divorce is uncontested, or once all disputes are resolved, the court will issue a final divorce decree.
  2. The decree legally ends the marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce, including asset division, custody arrangements, and any support obligations.

It’s crucial to consult with a legal professional to understand the specific rights and processes in your area, as they can significantly impact the outcome of the divorce proceedings.

Understanding Unilateral Divorce

What It Means

Unilateral divorce allows one spouse to end the marriage without the other’s consent, under certain conditions.

How It Works

The process involves filing a petition, serving papers, and following specific legal protocols to obtain a divorce decree.

FAQs on Divorce Without Mutual Consent

Can You Divorce If Your Spouse Refuses to Sign?

Yes, you can still proceed with a divorce even if your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers.

The process may become a contested divorce, which can be more complicated and take longer, but ultimately, one spouse’s refusal does not prevent the divorce from happening.

The court has procedures to handle such situations, including attempts at reconciliation, alternative methods of notification if a spouse cannot be found, and the possibility of a default judgment if one spouse is uncooperative.

It’s important to consult with a legal professional to understand the specific procedures in your jurisdiction.

What If You Can’t Locate Your Spouse?

Courts have procedures for cases where a spouse cannot be found, allowing the divorce to continue through alternative methods of notification.

Is My Spouse’s Agreement Necessary for a No-Fault Divorce?

While no-fault divorces simplify the process, they do not eliminate the need for legal proceedings, and a spouse’s lack of agreement may lead to a contested divorce.


Divorce laws are designed to respect individual autonomy while ensuring fair proceedings.

Understanding your rights and the legal process is crucial when facing divorce without mutual consent.

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