Lardiere McNair DiNicola & Stonebrook Ltd
A Brief History of Grounds for Divorce 
Ashley Shellhause
March 30, 2023

I was recently listening to a favorite podcast of mine (Criminal with Phoebe Judge – listen if you haven’t) and she did an episode titled “The Divorce Colony.” As a divorce lawyer, I was instantly intrigued.  Back in the late 1800’s, most states did not have any grounds to allow for people to get a divorce. For example, adultery was the only ground in New York.  People needing a divorce did not have a lot of options. However, Sioux Falls, SD became the place to be for those people needing a divorce in their state that did not allow for it, hence the “divorce colony” moniker.  People (mainly wealthy people) could travel to Sioux Falls, live there for three months to establish residency, and then could file and be granted what we know now as a “no-fault divorce.”  

As late as 1969, California was the first state to allow for a no-fault divorce.  In 2010 (just 12 years ago!) New York became the last state to allow for a no-fault divorce.  

Ohio’s version of a no-fault divorce is incompatibility.  Ohio has 9 other grounds on which it may grant a divorce:

  1. Either party had a husband or wife living at the time of the marriage from which the divorce is sought;
  2. Willful absence of the adverse party for one year;
  3. Adultery;
  4. Extreme cruelty;
  5. Fraudulent contract;
  6. Any gross neglect of duty;
  7. Habitual drunkenness;
  8. Imprisonment of the adverse party in a state or federal correctional institution at the time of filing the complaint; and
  9. On the application of either party, when husband and wife have, without interruption for one year, lived separate and apart without cohabitation.

 If you want to know more about the fascinating history and the divorce colony, check out this book - The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier, by April White. 

Sunni DiNicola is an Partner at Lardiere McNair DiNicola & Stonebrook, Ltd., LPA.  To read more about our firm, please visit lawyerscolumbusohio.com.

The information presented here has been prepared by Lardiere McNair for promotional and informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.  This information is not intended to provide, and receipt of it does not constitute, legal advice.  Nor does the receipt of this material create an attorney/client relationship.  An attorney client relationship is not established until such time as Lardiere McNair enters in to a written engagement agreement with a specific client for a specific legal matter.

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