Can A Judge Deny A Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know

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Coming to terms with a failing marriage, or the end of a relationship is tough. Divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional legal proceedings many people will ever experience in their lives.

Whether you expect it or not, receiving a denial from a judge on your divorce application can cause enormous stress and confusion. It’s important to note that reaching this point is relatively uncommon, but it does happen in some cases for various reasons..

If you find yourself asking “Can A Judge Deny A Divorce?” here’s what you need to know.

“The decision to grant a judgment of divorce lies solely within the framework of the law and the discretion of the court.” -Willett McKeown & Hayes Attorneys at Law.

Before applying for a divorce, it’s advisable to understand the process, adhere to all the requirements stipulated by relevant authorities, and familiarize yourself with possible grounds for refusal.

This post discusses how judges approach the issue of divorce, situations where they might refuse an application, and steps that parties involved can take if they receive a negative ruling.

You don’t want to miss any information that could better prepare you for your own divorce petition. Keep reading!

Grounds for Divorce

In many countries, there are certain grounds under which a divorce can be granted. These include adultery, abandonment, and cruelty. However, the availability of these grounds and their respective requirements may vary depending on the legal system in place. In some cases, a judge might deny a divorce even if one of these grounds has been established.


Adultery is one of the most common grounds that may lead to a divorce. It refers to engaging in sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse during the marriage. Many people consider adultery as an act of infidelity and betrayal that can cause irreparable damage to the relationship between spouses.

Proving adultery as a ground for divorce can sometimes be challenging. One way is through direct evidence such as eyewitness testimony or photographs. Another way is through circumstantial evidence such as spending significant amounts of time alone with a person who cannot be accounted for. Nonetheless, courts tend to require substantial evidence before granting a divorce based purely on allegations of adultery.

“The most important path to take when considering divorce on the grounds of adultery is to have your facts straight and to make sure you’re not just going off suspicions.” -Sandy Meade, licensed attorney


Abandonment is another recognized ground for seeking a divorce. It occurs when one spouse intentionally leaves the other without mutual consent and without intent to return. Abandonment can come in various forms such as physical desertion, emotional withdrawal, or financial unsupportiveness.

While it might seem reasonable for a deserted spouse to seek a divorce, proving abandonment can also pose difficulties in some jurisdictions. For instance, some states require that the abandoned spouse prove the intent of the leaving spouse to permanently end the marriage. Additionally, some states may provide certain defenses such as claiming that the abandoned spouse provoked the leaving spouse’s departure or acquiesced to it.

“Abandonment is another type of desertion and typically means one party left the marriage without your consent and with no intention of returning.” -Attorney Joleena Louis


Cruelty refers to any physical or mental harm inflicted on one spouse by the other during the marriage. It might include acts such as verbal abuse, physical violence, intimidation, or harassment. Cruelty can often lead to a breakdown in trust and communication between spouses, ultimately resulting in divorce.

In some states, cruelty does not necessarily have to be severe for it to form valid grounds for divorce. Moreover, unlike adultery and abandonment, which require clear evidence, proving cruel treatment only requires showing that the alleged act caused emotional distress or fear and that there is little possibility of reconciliation.

“Cruelty is a sufficiently serious threat to justify divorce proceedings because marital relation needs good faith, mutual confidence, and affectionate consideration.” -Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

While these three categories are commonly accepted grounds for seeking divorce, their thresholds and requirements may vary depending on the jurisdiction. In addition to that, courts may consider various factors before ruling in favor of granting divorce such as child custody and support agreements, spousal support payments, property division issues, among others. Nevertheless, it is essential to consult an attorney experienced in family law matters to explore all legal options available when contemplating a divorce.

Contested Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce

Definition and Differences

In a contested divorce, the couple does not agree on one or more major issues that need to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized. This may include disputes over child custody, property division, spousal support, or other factors that are relevant to their specific situation.

An uncontested divorce, on the other hand, occurs when both parties agree on all aspects of the divorce without going through litigation. Issues such as child custody, dividing assets and debts, alimony, etc., have been agreed upon by mutual understanding between them.

The Benefits of Uncontested Divorce

The benefits of opting for an uncontested divorce can be numerous; some of these advantages include:

  • Time-saving: An uncontested divorce is typically faster than a contested divorce.
  • Cost-effective: Since there is no disagreement between the parties involved, legal fees and expenses could be significantly lessened up.
  • Less emotional trauma: A peaceful discussion and agreement reduce the amount of stress and animosity during this difficult time.
  • Risk reduction: There’s always a risk of losing control over the final order in contested divorces due to impartial decision-making made by judges.

Tips for Navigating a Contested Divorce

A contested divorce can feel drawn-out and distressing, but it doesn’t have to equate to sheer devastation throughout the process. Consider these tips for navigating a contested divorce:

  • Hire a skilled attorney: The chosen attorney must have a good track record of handling contested divorces.
  • Maintain composure: Stay reasonable and practical during the proceedings and try to avoid responding emotionally.
  • Be prepared: Collect all necessary documents beforehand related to finance, property, and kids custody issues. This way, an informed decision can be made at every stage.
  • Compromise: Listen and understand what the other party is looking for in the agreement while maintaining clear communication with them throughout the process.
“In just about every contested divorce lawsuit, it is critical that you get ready as if you are going to trial. But most cases these days eventually settle outside of court.” -Kimberly Lewellen

In some cases, regardless of whether the couple wishes to dissolve their marriage or not, a judge does possess the power to deny a divorce. The following reasons may cause a judge to refuse to grant a divorce decree:

  • Failure to meet residency requirements
  • Lack of providing valid grounds for filing the petition
  • Fraudulent activity, such as concealing of facts or assets from the courts deliberately
  • It’s against public policy (i.e., cannot grant a divorce if it violates the law)

Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee when navigating a divorce case; however, one could keep trying the best possible means. In situations where the marital relationship has truly broken apart, opting for an uncontested divorce offers a quicker, organized, and comparatively less draining approach. On the contrary, in disputed scenarios, seeking proper assistance by skilled attorneys combined with openness and compromise could lead to profitable results even along the lengthy legal path.

Proving Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce

Explanation of Fault Divorce

In a fault divorce, one spouse must prove that the other spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. The list of reasons for being at fault can vary by state but often include issues such as adultery, desertion, cruelty, and imprisonment.

Fault divorces can be emotionally charged and require extensive documentation or evidence to prove the guilt of the other party. Due to this, they are often more expensive and time-consuming than no-fault divorces.

A judge may deny a fault divorce if the evidence is insufficient, leading to a lengthy court battle with neither party able to end their marriage.

“In a nutshell, in a fault-based system it’s about airing your dirty laundry and blaming the person who messed up the marriage. It’s an unpleasant process that can wreak emotional and psychological havoc,” says New York City family law attorney Donna Furey.

Explanation of No-Fault Divorce

No-fault divorce is the most common form of divorce in the United States, accounting for over 70% of all cases. This type of divorce does not lay blame on either party but asserts that the marriage has broken down irretrievably due to differences between spouses.

No-fault divorces typically take less time and money to finalize since both parties agree to end the marriage without needing to provide proof of wrongdoing or any specific allegations against each other in court. As long as both parties comply with the terms laid out in their settlement agreement, there should be no need for a judge to intervene.

Even in a no-fault divorce, a judge may refuse to grant a divorce if issues related to property division, child custody, or child support are not agreed upon by both parties.

“No-fault divorces allow for a more amicable and dignified way to end a marriage instead of assigning blame on one party. It’s not about who wins and loses,” says California family law attorney Beatrice Fung.

It’s important to note that while no-fault divorce is generally quicker and less expensive than fault-based options, each situation must be evaluated independently to determine which method is the most appropriate. For example, if significant financial disparities exist between spouses, then proving the fault may help with property division since an at-fault spouse can receive less in the settlement.

Regardless of what type of divorce you choose, it’s essential to seek legal advice before making any decisions or taking action. An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through either process and protect your interests throughout this difficult time.

Disadvantages of Denial of Divorce

Impact on Emotional Health

The denial of a divorce can have a significant impact on the emotional health of both parties involved. Going through a divorce is already emotionally taxing and stressful, but to be denied a divorce prolongs the pain and suffering.

Denial can lead to feelings of hopelessness, disappointment, and frustration for individuals who have spent countless resources pursuing a divorce. A prolonged legal battle can also increase levels of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Couples who are unable to separate may experience an increase in conflict, which can negatively affect their children’s mental and physical well-being, leading to long-term consequences for the entire family. It is essential to consider how denial of a divorce will affect everyone involved emotionally before continuing down a path where they are consistently damaging relationships.

Financial Consequences

If a judge denies a couple from getting a divorce, there could be significant financial consequences that come along with it. For instance, married couples often share financial obligations such as credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, etc., Upon deciding to separate; the couple must figure out how to divide their debts and assets.

When a separation lasts longer than expected, such as when a judge denies a divorce, significant amounts or legal fees continue accruing, as lawyers fight for the case. Of course, Legal fees are not cheap, and some couples find themselves plunged into debt due to the inability to amicably divorce.

Additionally, more time spent attempting to get divorced means more time paying bills related to your marriage. As mentioned, legal costs and other expenses such as child support, alimony payments, cost of living, education costs, among others, accumulates with time while waiting to end the marriage.

“Divorce is expensive. On average, the cost of a divorce ranges from $15,000 to $30,000.” -Karen Covy

The financial consequences are significant if couples are denied their request for a divorce with high costs that many cannot afford. It can lead them into more difficult situations where they struggle even to pay bills.

Denial of a divorce can have severe emotional and financial consequences on both parties involved and the children in question. If you find yourself facing an unexpected situation like this, it’s crucial to work with your lawyer to identify potential roadblocks or issues in advance to reduce stress and reach a solution where everyone benefits.

Appealing a Denial of Divorce

Divorces can be challenging and emotionally straining, but the process becomes even more difficult if your divorce petition gets denied. You might feel devastated if a judge denies your request for a divorce. But remember, you have options to appeal a decision made by the court.

Grounds for Appealing

An appeal is the legal process of requesting a higher court or other judicial body to review a lower court’s ruling in an attempt to change that decision. When appealing a denial of divorce, there must be grounds presented to justify reversing the original order. Some reasons you may consider appealing include:

  • The lower court failed to properly apply or interpret the law, resulting in an incorrect decision.
  • There were errors related to facts presented before the court.
  • New evidence has been discovered since the previous hearing, which was not presented earlier. This discovery could significantly impact the outcome of the case.
  • The lower court abused its discretion, meaning they acted outside their power with bias or other concerns affecting the ruling – it should have reached another conclusion than the one it did.

Process of Appealing

Your attorney will file a notice of appeal on your behalf, outlining the reasons why you wish to appeal. Once the paperwork clears the administrative end, the appellate court reviews the trial court record. This record consists of several documents filed during the initial proceeding. The appellant (the party who wished to appeal) will present their argument about why they believe they deserve a favorable decision. After both parties get to make their presentations, the appellate judges will then either uphold the lower court decision or overturn it.

If the court overturns the original judgment, the appeals court remands your case to a lower court for further review or retrial. If you are still unsatisfied with the decision, there could be additional appeal options.

Benefits of Hiring an Attorney for Appeal

The process of appealing any type of ruling can be complicated and emotionally exhausting; it is often wise to hire an attorney experienced in handling appeals cases. Attorneys specializing in this area understand the rules and procedures required to challenge the trial court’s finding before higher courts. An expert lawyer will evaluate various aspects of the original ruling, possible errors committed by the judge, and other concerns affecting the judgment.

It is essential to note that when appealing a divorce denial, you have only one opportunity to make a successful appeal. Therefore, investing in a competent and qualified appellate lawyer may significantly increase your chances of success during the entire process of challenging the initial order. Remember, without grounds for appeal or fundamental legal issues that were overlooked, challenging an unfavorable decision could be costly and ineffective.

“The more severe the pain or abuse experienced during a relationship, the more likely a victimized party attempts divorce petitioning at some point in their lives. Appellate attorneys must work diligently, rigorously examining every document related to cases with profound outcomes.” – The Florida Bar Association

Never give up hope if you have been denied your divorce petition. There are different avenues available to overturn the previous ruling if there were errors in fact-finding or laws applied. However, because you have only one chance to succeed in your appeal, it is critical to seek legal advice and representation from a skilled attorney who has experience in law practice specific to family appeals.

Alternatives to Divorce

Legal Separation

A legal separation is a viable alternative for couples considering divorce but want to live separately without officially getting divorced. Legally separating means the married couple lives apart and maintains two separate households, essentially ending their marital cohabitation while still staying legally married before the court.

One of the benefits of a legal separation agreement is that it allows both parties to keep their current healthcare insurance policy if there are any guidelines on maintaining coverage depending on the state one resides in. Legal separation also enables couples to decide child custody arrangements and division of properties. Furthermore, an agreement can be made pertaining to alimony payments following separation under specific conditions.

It is important to remember that legal separation does not signify an end to one’s marriage officially. However, couples may later file for divorce if they wish to proceed with the dissolution eventually after time has passed or when circumstances require them to do so.


Mediation is another option for couples considering separation or divorce, providing more control over the outcome than handing matters over to a judge. Mediators assist opposing sides work together to reach agreements regarding parenting plans, asset distribution, debt allocation, as well as other concerns related to property ownership once the divorce is final.

The mediation process involves a neutral third-party mediator who impartially oversees negotiations between spouses, great care taken throughout the mediation sessions to ensure all parties feel heard, respected, and comfortable disclosing relevant information.Looking for mutual solutions to complex issues instead of going through the adversarial court system can provide positive energy helpful for baby steps towards rebuilding a new life.

In addition, mediators empower individuals going through separation by ensuring everyone’s needs are addressed adequately. The goal is to avoid costly legal battles that continue dragging out conflicts, motivate both spouses to create a mutually satisfying arrangement.

Collaborative Law

In collaborative law, separating or divorcing couples engage in dialogue with professionals that can help settlement agreements be attained amicably. Both parties have their lawyers present and work together as part of a team negotiating all aspects of the separation out-of-court. The goal is to achieve satisfactory outcomes while keeping emotions separate from legal proceedings.

The couple’s attorneys share information immediately and directly making it so everyone is on the same page constituting for easier problem resolution. However, should exclusive collaboration between spouses fail, and one or both parties proceed to court, neither attorney will represent them anymore. It’s imperative for every individual going through separation utilizing this method understands and agrees fully about what they are expected to do ahead of time, such as specific contributions and timeline guidelines.


An annulment is different than a divorce because it declares the marriage null and void instead of ending one officially. An annulment cancels a marriage as if no nuptials ever existed before; therefore, there would not be any evidence of it anywhere.#It essentially dismisses breaches of marital contracts in cases where they’re apparent, including but not restricted to situations of bigamy, fraud, mental incapacity, or physical impairment at the time of union. The whole concept behind these requisites being mere theoretical defines the unenforceability of such arrangements concerning the validity of marriage.

Often considered by many when people realise quickly after their wedding that irreconcilable differences cannot be overlooked any longer, obtaining an annulment may be preferable since it seems less complicated compared to a standard divorce proceeding.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the reasons a judge might deny a divorce?

A judge might deny a divorce if there is a lack of jurisdiction, fraud, collusion, or if the marriage is not irretrievably broken. If the couple has not met the residency requirements, a judge might deny the divorce. Additionally, if the couple has not properly served the divorce papers or if there is a pending bankruptcy case, a judge might deny the divorce.

Can a judge deny a divorce if one spouse does not agree to it?

Yes, a judge can deny a divorce if one spouse does not agree to it. In some states, both spouses must agree to the divorce or there must be a valid reason for the divorce. If one spouse contests the divorce, the judge may require the couple to attend mediation or a hearing to try to resolve the issues before granting the divorce.

Is it possible for a judge to deny a divorce if the couple has children?

No, a judge cannot deny a divorce simply because the couple has children. However, the judge may consider the best interests of the children when making decisions about child custody, child support, and visitation. The judge may also require the couple to attend parenting classes or mediation to ensure that the children’s needs are being met.

What happens if a judge denies a divorce petition?

If a judge denies a divorce petition, the couple will remain legally married. They may need to try to resolve the issues that led to the denial and refile the petition. Alternatively, they may need to seek legal advice to determine their options, such as appealing the decision or pursuing a legal separation instead of a divorce.

Are there any circumstances where a judge must deny a divorce?

There are no circumstances where a judge must deny a divorce. However, if the couple has not met the legal requirements for a divorce, such as residency or proper service of papers, the judge may have no choice but to deny the divorce. Additionally, if there is evidence of fraud or collusion, the judge may be required to deny the divorce.

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