Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage

Posted by & filed under Divorce, General Family Law.

When petitioning for a divorce in Minnesota, the requesting party must assert under oath that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”  That is to say, the marriage cannot be saved.

There is no need for both spouses to make this assertion; the law requires only one spouse’s claim that the marriage cannot be saved.  The family court does not give consideration to whether attempts have been made to save the marriage.  Many couples pursue marriage counseling, agree to a trial separation, and/or make efforts to reconcile, before calling it quits.  Other couples do not.

It is worth considering, though, that the law – requiring only one spouse to call the marital breakdown irretrievable – reflects reality to a strong degree.  A successful marriage calls for both spouses to be fully committed to the continuation of the marriage.  Figuratively, both spouses must have both feet “in.”  If even one of the spouses has one foot “in” and one foot “out,” it may be only a matter of time before the marriage breaks down.

That said, when the divorce is not a mutual decision, and only one spouse has declared the end of the marriage, the other spouse may be left reeling.  The divorce process does not provide for a meaningful way for the responding party to stop the divorce from happening.  Even couples for whom the breakup is a mutual decision often have difficulty reaching agreement on terms of the divorce.  But when the decision to end the marriage is not mutual, an amicable divorce is all the more difficult to make happen.

One Response to “Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage”

  1. Jane Fox

    Your point that an amicable divorce is more difficult when the decision is not mutual is important. A good lawyer can guide you through the divorce process and make it as simple as possible, but it will always be easier if the former spouses communicate well and without bitterness. Everything should be done to make the process smooth, and coming to the decision jointly is one way of doing that. Even if that’s not possible, care should be taken to keep one spouse from feeling attacked or overly defensive.


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