Skip to Content

What Does “Irreconcilable Differences” Mean in California Divorce?

Fri 30th Jun, 2023 Family Law

You’ve probably heard the term “irreconcilable differences” floating around in discussions about divorce at one point or another, but you may not be exactly sure what it means. Simply put, irreconcilable differences are the grounds upon which the vast majority of divorces in California are based. When a marriage has broken down beyond repair, California law permits a couple to obtain a divorce on that ground alone rather than having to prove fault by one party or another. While the irreconcilable differences standard makes the divorce process significantly easier than in decades past, you should nonetheless contact a Stockton divorce attorney before filing. 

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

In the past, a couple could only obtain a divorce if one spouse could prove fault on the part of the other spouse. This could include adultery, cruelty, abandonment, sterility, or imprisonment, among others. Proving fault was often difficult, and when no such evidence could be obtained, couples were often trapped in unhappy marriages. California was the first state to introduce no-fault divorce, where neither party was required to prove wrongdoing against the other party. The only requirement is that the couple’s marriage has broken down due to irreconcilable differences between the spouses. 

California Divorces Based on Irreconcilable Differences

The strict legal definition of “irreconcilable differences” is “those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.” While some states still allow fault-based divorces, California is not one of them. California divorces may only be based on one of two grounds: 

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions

Of those two grounds, irreconcilable differences is by far the most common. 

Examples of Irreconcilable Differences 

An irreconcilable difference can be virtually any disagreement between spouses that causes the marriage to break down. This could include: 

  • Disagreements over finances, debt, or work-life balance
  • Disagreements over child-rearing
  • Drug and alcohol use or abuse 
  • Lack of communication 
  • Loss of trust 
  • Loss of sexual intimacy 
  • Long-distance separation 
  • Differences in personality, political views, or religion 
  • Lack of contribution to the household 
  • Excessive fighting or arguing 

Keep in mind that traditional fault-based grounds for divorce (e.g., adultery, abandonment, domestic violence, etc.) can also constitute irreconcilable differences; they just do not need to be alleged and proven in a petition for divorce. 

Do Irreconcilable Differences Have to Be Proven? 

No, divorcing couples are not required to prove that irreconcilable differences have come between them. California family law courts are not in the business of prying behind closed doors and will accept a couple’s statement that irreconcilable differences have arisen at face value.

Get Professional Advice From an Experienced Stockton Divorce Attorney

If you are considering filing for divorce, you should speak to an experienced attorney before doing so who can advise you of your options and the best path forward for you. For more information, please contact a Stockton divorce attorney at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

Back to Top