irreconcilable differences

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The term “irreconcilable differences” is a phrase used in family law as one of the grounds that can be cited for a no-fault divorce. Different states also use the terms incompatibility and irremediable or irretrievable breakdown. One example of a statute that uses the term is the California Family Code Section 2311, which defines irreconcilable differences as grounds determined by the court to be substantial reasons for discontinuing the marriage and which make it apparent that the marriage should be dissolved. Generally, courts do not inquire into what the differences actually are, and the irreconcilable difference can even simply be that one party wishes to have a divorce and the other does not. Thus, both parties do not need to agree to a divorce premised on irreconcilable differences, as illustrated in the 1972 California case of In re Marriage of Walton.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]