Grounds for Divorce in Idaho


Area of Law: 

Divorce may be defined as the legal conclusion of a marriage. Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states generally accord divorces because to force a couple to stay married would go against public policy.


"No-fault" and "fault" are the two kinds of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, no-fault is the only acceptable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds are present within the marriage. The other states, including Idaho, allow the members of the couple to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. For a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in Idaho, go to


The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all of the states currently allow for some variation of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the members of the couple do not legally fault, or blame, one another for the divorce. Some examples of the bases for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” In Idaho, the no-fault grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences and a voluntary separation of five years or more.


Many states require a "cooling-off" period of separation for a certain period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can begin. During this time, the couple is required to live separate and apart with the intent that the separation will become permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law.  In Idaho, there is a mandatory 20 day delay in the granting of all divorces unless there is an agreement made between the spouses. During this waiting period, either spouse may request a meeting to determine if there is any chance for reconciliation. If reconciliation is determined possible and there are minor children from the marriage, the court may delay the proceedings for up to 90 days.


Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. Common fault grounds include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. Allowable fault grounds for divorce in Idaho are adultery, extreme cruelty or violence, willful neglect or desertion, habitual intemperance, conviction of a felony, and insanity.


There are several “defenses,” or denials, that are sometimes used pertaining to fault divorces. In Idaho, these defenses include collusion, condonation, recrimination, and limitation or lapse of time. These defenses are not used often, perhaps because they require witnesses and additional court time, which is expensive and can drag out the divorce. Another reason may be that even if the defense is proven, courts will typically still grant the divorce rather than necessitate couples to remain married when at least one spouse does not wish to do so. For a summary of the divorce laws in Idaho, see


Divorce laws in general, as well as the specific grounds required for divorce differ widely across the United States. The American Bar Association provides a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Idaho, can be found at


*An example of an Idaho Divorce Settlement Agreement can be seen on Free Legal Aid.