Is the Absence of Sexual Relations Grounds for Divorce?
By Teo Spengler
Updated March 29, 2020
Sexual behavior outside the marriage and the lack of sexual relations within the marriage can serve as grounds for divorce in states that continue to allow "fault" divorces. But all fifty states now authorize no-fault divorces, allowing either spouse to dissolve a marriage citing irreconcilable differences. However, you still have the option of filing for divorce on "fault" grounds in many states.
In yesteryear, a spouse had to plead and prove that she suffered at the hands of her spouse to end a marriage. Traditional grounds included desertion, cruelty, abandonment, adultery, insanity and failure to consummate a marriage. Failure to engage in marital relations can be considered a type of constructive desertion, cruelty or abandonment.
In the 1970s, states began to allow residents to divorce without establishing blame. No-fault divorces are based on statements of irremediable differences between the spouses instead of charges of egregious behavior. All 50 states permit no-fault divorce, although some require the spouses to live apart for a certain period before they can file in court.
Some states only allow no-fault divorces, while others offer fault and no-fault. A spouse may decide to file for divorce on fault grounds to avoid a waiting period. For example, in Maryland, fault divorce proceeds immediately, but to file for a no-fault divorce, a couple must live separately for a year. Charges of inappropriate behavior also can give a spouse an advantage in contested divorce issues such as child custody, property division or support payments.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.