Conflict. In a word, conflict causes couples to divorce. Usually, by the time a spouse consults an attorney about a divorce, the couple’s conflict is seemingly unbearable for one spouse, the other, or both. Everyone wants to be happy. As a matter of logic, happiness is difficult when one is having conflict with a spouse.

Plenty of clients often say they do not have much conflict with their spouse but still want to divorce. This might be a matter of how to describe the problem. Undoubtedly, conflict might arise because a couple disagrees on what constitutes happiness or how to achieve it. They might not openly and directly express their conflict like many couples, but the conflict exists. The sources of conflict might be generally categorized as money, sex, child rearing, and household chores. Having practiced law for 38 years and specializing in family law, I can readily say all of my cases involve at least three of the four categories of conflict and, often, all four.

Mental health professionals would likely report that all relationships, particularly marital relationships, have conflict. In terms of divorce, the question is whether the conflict rises to a level where it warrants discontinuing the martial relationship.

Until mostly in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the majority of states did not permit couples to divorce, except when fault-based grounds arose. Until Florida became a no-fault state in 1971, one virtually had to break one of the Ten Commandments to get divorced. Historic fault-based grounds were abandonment, adultery, cruelty, intemperance, incurable insanity, and, believe it or not, bigamy. Today, the standard is personal and subjective. The essential ground applying to almost all divorces is whether one’s marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Some states use an “irreconcilable differences” standard or something similar to it. And, others still might have grounds with vestiges of the old martial fault. Still, legal grounds are not the underlying cause of divorce, rather it establishes a threshold for when divorce is legally permissible.

In relation to the underlying psychological causes of divorce, some couples try hard to resolve their conflicts. Many miserable spouses consult licensed mental health professionals, clergy, and books. Some think an individual couple or group retreat will do the trick, yet it is less common. Everyone, at some point, discusses their martial issues with friends, family, or both. After all, divorce is common in our society, and everyone knows several people who have been or are getting divorced. However, the experience of a divorce does not make one an expert. People without professional experience and training rarely recognize the differences between their situation and the circumstances of a friend or family member. One ought to stick with professional advice when considering divorce.

When one or both spouses reach the point where their conflicts persist or recur and are intolerable, they divorce. That is when each party should consult an attorney. Although nothing requires one to be represented by an attorney, it is advisable when his or her case involves real estate, a retirement plan, or children. Without professional advice, one can easily err in these areas, causing unnecessary problems for years to come.