Divorce laws are handled at the state legislative level in the United States, and Maine allows divorcing couples the option of filing for a "no-fault" or "fault" divorce. Regardless of whether your divorce is amicable or contested, you must declare the reason why you are divorcing. That reason is considered the "grounds" for the dissolution of your marriage, and you must determine and declare it on your divorce paperwork.
Difference Between No-Fault and Fault
It's best to understand the difference between no-fault and fault to understand the grounds for filing your divorce. A no-fault divorce is commonly known as dissolution of marriage due to "irreconcilable differences." A fault divorce is, as its name suggests, a request to dissolve the marriage due to the fault of the other spouse.
Whether the divorce is filed as no-fault or fault is important to the overall final agreement, not to mention custody disputes if children are involved. In a no-fault divorce, blame is not assessed, and the parties move forward in the divorce agreement on equal footing. In a fault divorce, one party is to blame and, thereby, may suffer consequences resulting from that blame, including loss of custody over the couple's children.
Grounds for Divorce in Maine
A no-fault divorce only has one ground, and that is irreconcilable differences. What this means in simple terms is that the married couple are no longer compatible and cannot be made compatible through no fault of either spouse.
There are numerous grounds for filing a fault divorce in Maine, and briefly, they are:
- Adultery: Maine law takes the sanctity of marriage into consideration when a spouse wishes to divorce his or her partner, and if it is proven that the partner has committed adultery against his or her spouse, divorce may be granted on this basis.
- Impotence: Although this ground might seem harsh, Maine does allow for a couple to divorce due to the impotence of one of the spouses. Studies confirm that a sexual relationship is important to the health and wellbeing of any couple, and divorce can be sought if this is impossible within the marriage.
- Extreme Cruelty: If one partner is physically, mentally or emotionally abusive to the other partner on a consistent basis, this behavior may be classified as "extreme cruelty" under Maine law and is grounds for divorce. The spouse must be gratified by the abusive act in order for extreme cruelty to apply.
- Desertion: Also called "abandonment," desertion occurs when one spouse leaves the marriage without the other spouse's consent. To qualify as a grounds for divorce in Maine, the spouse who deserted his or her partner and, if applicable, children, must have left them abandoned for three consecutive years.
- Alcohol or Substance Abuse: Maine understands the dangers of living with an alcoholic or substance abuser, particularly if there are children in the home, as well. Abuse of liquor and/or drugs is grounds for divorce in Maine.
- Cruelty or Neglect: Much like extreme cruelty, Maine recognizes cruelty or neglect as proper grounds for divorce. A spouse should never have to remain in a marriage where cruel and neglectful acts, such as abusive treatment or improper care where necessary, are inflicted by the other spouse.
- Cruel and Abusive Treatment: This ground for divorce seems straightforward, but cruel and abusive treatment goes beyond physically hitting or emotionally tormenting someone. Maine also recognizes acts such as infecting a spouse with an STD without his or her knowledge and publically flaunting an act of adultery as cruel and abusive treatment and grounds for divorce.
- Mental Illness: This ground for divorce is oftentimes an extremely difficult one. Nobody wants to divorce his or her spouse because he or she is suffering from mental illness. In extreme cases, however, this might become unavoidable, particularly if the person suffering from the illness becomes abusive or incapacitated. As such, Maine recognizes mental illness as grounds for divorce under certain circumstances.
Burden of Proof
Because of the nature of a fault divorce and the ramifications to the accused spouse, you must prove the ground under which you are filing. This can often be quite difficult, particularly in cases of mental and/or emotional abuse and extreme cruelty, wherein the gratification of the abuser must be demonstrated. Fault divorce applies blame, and that blame can cost the accused spouse dearly, particularly since divorce is a matter of public record in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.
This does not mean, however, that you should not file for fault divorce if you have the proper grounds; it just means that you shouldn't do so without proper counsel. An attorney who concentrates on Family Law understands the proof required to file fault divorce, and will be an invaluable asset to you as you move forward with the dissolution of your marriage, no matter the grounds under which you file.