Can a Divorce Be Denied?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Couple sitting on couch

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Depending on your state’s laws, the state court can decline to grant your divorce, but it won’t deny a divorce simply because one spouse does not want it. To avoid denial, you must ensure that you fully comply with all of your court’s rules, and you must provide sufficient proof of whatever ground you are alleging in your divorce paperwork.

Fault Grounds

Most states have some grounds for divorce that require the person filing for divorce to prove that his spouse committed some kind of marital misconduct, such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment. If you file for divorce based on one of these fault grounds, you must prove that the marital misconduct occurred, and your spouse has the right to defend himself against your accusations. He can deny that the misconduct occurred, or he can offer a defense such as condonation, which means that you condoned – or approved – his actions. If his defense is successful, the court will deny the divorce because you failed to prove the fault ground you alleged.

Procedural Dismissal

A divorce could also be denied because of procedural errors. For example, if you don’t meet residency requirements in the state where you file, the court cannot grant your divorce and must dismiss the case. Or, if you fail to properly serve your spouse with divorce papers, the court cannot grant your divorce until your spouse is properly served.


When a divorce is dismissed or denied, the court will usually dismiss it "without prejudice." If so, the court isn’t saying that you can never be granted a divorce. Instead, the court is simply saying that the current case is terminated, but you are free to start all over and file for divorce again.


All states now recognize some type of no-fault divorce, such as “irreconcilable differences,” which removes the requirement to prove a fault-based ground in order for the court to grant your divorce. If you filed originally under a fault ground, you can refile using the no-fault option, which typically does not require proof of wrongdoing or marital fault on the part of a spouse. The court will eventually grant the divorce if you refile under no-fault grounds and follow all procedural requirements, even if your spouse doesn't want the divorce.