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Grounds for Divorce

West Palm Beach Divorce Lawyer

Florida has been a no-fault divorce state since 1971. In a traditional fault divorce, a spouse had to prove misbehavior on the part of the other spouse, such as adultery, desertion, abuse, alcoholism, etc., in order to obtain a divorce. Under Florida’s no-fault divorce laws, a person may obtain a divorce, called “dissolution of marriage,” without proving fault. Consulting a dedicated West Palm Beach divorce lawyer can help you come to a satisfactory resolution in your divorce.

The Grounds

There are two grounds for divorce in Florida:

  • The irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; or
  • One spouse’s mental incapacity.

Thus, instead of proving fault, a spouse seeking a divorce in Florida must instead prove that the marriage has broken down, or that one spouse is mentally incapacitated.

Irretrievable Breakdown

The grounds of irretrievable breakdown are used much more commonly than mental incapacity. To divorce based on these grounds, a spouse must prove that the marriage has broken down such that it can no longer function. The couple’s disputes cannot be resolved and are serious enough that they have caused the marriage to disintegrate. The court will grant a divorce if either spouse believes that the marriage has broken down, even if the other spouse disagrees with this assessment. This is because a marriage cannot function without both spouses working together.

Though proving fault is no longer required in a Florida divorce, instances of spousal misbehavior, such as carrying on an affair, may be relevant to show that the marriage has broken down. They may also sometimes influence other areas of the divorce, such as the property settlement or child custody.

If the divorcing couple has minor children, or if one spouse denies that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the court may:

  • Order either or both spouses to attend counselling with a marriage counselor, psychologist, religious leader, or other qualified person;
  • Continue, meaning postpone, the proceedings for up to three months to allow the couple time to reconcile; or
  • Take other action in the best interest of the couple and the minor child.

Mental Incapacity

Divorce based on the grounds of mental incapacity is quite rare. The spouse seeking the divorce must prove that one spouse has been adjudged mentally incapacitated for at least the three years immediately prior to the divorce. To have a person adjudged incapacitated, a panel of three qualified examiners must find that the person lacks the ability to:

  • Manage at least some of his or her property; and
  • Meet at least some of his or her essential health and safety requirements.

The examiners on the panel may be doctors, registered nurses, psychiatrists, gerontologists, social workers, etc.

If a spouse files for divorce based on incapacity, he or she must serve notice of the petition for dissolution on the guardian of the incapacitated spouse, or on a close blood relative. If the incapacitated spouse does not have a guardian, or if the only guardian is the divorcing spouse, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is a third party who advocates for the incapacitated spouse’s best interests. The guardian may appear and be heard in the divorce proceedings.

If you are seeking a divorce in Florida, an experienced attorney can represent your best interests and guide you through the dissolution process. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein at 561-533-1221 for a free initial consultation.

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