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What Does It Mean a Marriage is Irretrievably Broken?


People are generally familiar with the concept of no-fault divorce, which allows either spouse to file for a dissolution without having to prove the other spouse engaged in certain acts, such as cruelty or abandonment, to justify ending the marriage. In Florida, no-fault divorce means a spouse claims the marriage is irretrievably broken, which is an amorphous term that seems to mean the relationship can no longer work. While proving fault is not necessary, there is a little more to claiming a marriage is irretrievably broken that couples seeking divorce should understand to help the process proceed as efficiently as possible. Divorce is rarely a straight line, unless a prenuptial agreement is in place, and the practical realities of these cases can lead couples into more complications than they envisioned. Talk show host Wendy Williams recently filed for divorce from her husband of more than 20 years amid allegations of adultery and her addiction to drugs and alcohol. It seems a variety of factors influenced the end of the marriage, which is the case for most relationships, even in the absence of the serious issues alleged in Williams’ marriage.

Irretrievably Broken

Essentially, a claim that a marriage is irretrievably broken means nothing can be done to fix the relationship. If both parties consent to the divorce, this issue is taken as proven on the basis of a statement to this effect, but if the divorce is contested and one spouse argues the marriage can be saved, proof the relationship is irretrievably broken must be presented. Though Florida is a no-fault State and there is no need to pin a spouse as good or bad, there are still circumstances a spouse can produce to overcome claims the divorce should not be granted, including:

  • Adultery, making the continuation of marriage intolerable;
  • Acts that made the marriage physically or emotionally unsafe for a spouse;
  • Abandonment by one spouse for at least six months prior to filing for divorce; or
  • Living in separate households for a long-term and continuous basis.

Its Place in the Divorce Case

If the divorce is contested, the court has the authority to order the couple to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, minister or other person qualified to counsel the couple, as well as delay the continuation of the case for up to three months to allow the couple an opportunity to reconcile on their own. If necessary, the court can order child support, child custody, the preservation of property, or alimony during this interim period to ensure spouses and children are properly supported. This scenario is particularly important if minor children are involved, as they are strongly affected by the consequences of divorce and stand most to benefit from a reconciliation. The purpose of having the irretrievably broken standard for divorce is not to put a barrier to ending a marriage, but rather a benchmark for courts to look to when granting this final severing of a relationship. Not much typically needs to be shown to meet this standard, but it does serve to indicate divorce should be pursued only when no hope at making the relationship work is left.

Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney

The road to divorce is often long and complicated, but once walked down, will change your life forever. If you have questions about the process or consequences of divorce, talk to the experienced Orlando divorce attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group today. We want to help you obtain a fair and reasonable end to your marriage, and will work to do so, while seeking to avoid unnecessary litigation. Contact us at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.