Grounds for Divorce in Idaho

Learn more about Idaho's mixed divorce procedures.

By , Attorney

Marriage Is a Legal Contract

Whether your wedding ceremony took place in a local park, a friend's backyard, or a 100-year-old church, at the end of the day, you've created a legal contract with your spouse. It's certainly not as romantic to think of marriage as a boring contract, but it's the truth, and in divorce cases, it matters.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, relationships fail, and we need to ask the court for help dissolving the marriage. Before the court can grant a divorce (terminate your contract), you must provide the judge with a legally acceptable reason (grounds) for your request.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Idaho?

Each state has its own specific grounds for divorce, but a modern trend in America is no-fault divorce. All states offer some type of no-fault divorce, which means couples can tell the court that they have reached a point in their marriage where they are no longer compatible with each other and neither spouse expects that to change. This is one of the fastest and least expensive legal processes for divorce because neither spouse needs to prove the other is at fault.

In Idaho, parties can request a no-fault divorce by stating in the divorce petition (request) that they have irreconcilable differences and there's no possibility of reconciliation. Another way that a couple may file for divorce is by showing the court that they have lived separately and apart and have not cohabitated for at least 5 years.

My Spouse's Misconduct Caused Our Divorce

In addition to no-fault options, couples in Idaho may also allege that a spouse's marital misconduct caused the divorce. Fault-based divorce requires the alleging spouse to prove the specific grounds to the court, which can take longer and cost more in legal fees. You might wonder why anyone would use fault-based divorce? Well, sometimes your spouse's actions are so egregious that it deserves an audience, but it could also impact other aspects of the divorce like child custody or alimony.

The acceptable fault-based grounds in Idaho include:

  • adultery by either spouse
  • extreme cruelty (infliction of bodily or mental suffering on one spouse caused by the other)
  • willful desertion or voluntary separation of the parties for at least 1 years
  • habitual drunkenness or drug addiction for at least 1 year
  • conviction of a felony
  • willful neglect of a husband to provide for his wife for no less than 1 year, or
  • when either spouse is legally and permanently insane and housed in a mental facility for at least 3 years prior to filing for divorce.

Fault-based divorces require the alleging spouse to show proof of the reasons for divorce.

For example, in one case, a husband filed for divorce from his wife and testified that his wife was consistently violent toward him while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, which caused mental suffering. Although he could have filed for divorce based on several grounds, his testimony was enough to convince the judge to grant the divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

It's important only to allege grounds that you can prove. If you fail to convince the court that your spouse's specific misconduct was the reason for the divorce, you risk a judge dismissing your case due to lack of evidence. If you're unsure whether you have enough evidence, it might be best for you to file for a no-fault divorce.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

If you and your spouse can agree to all the divorce-related issues, or if your spouse fails to participate in the legal process, you might benefit from Idaho's uncontested divorce procedures.

There are two types of uncontested divorce:

  • divorce by default, and
  • divorce by stipulation.

In a default divorce, the spouse initiating the divorce proceedings (plaintiff) files the paperwork with the court and then serves it to the other spouse (defendant). If the defendant doesn't reply to the paperwork within 20 days, the plaintiff can ask the court to grant the divorce based on default. This typically means that there won't be a hearing with a judge because the defendant gave up the right to speak in court.

Divorce by stipulation is different in that it requires both parties to agree on all major divorce issues, and it requires the filing spouse to allege a ground for divorce.

Common divorce issues include:

  • property and debt division
  • child custody
  • child support, and
  • alimony.

To file for this type of divorce, you must also meet the residency requirement, which means that you must have lived in Idaho for at least 6 weeks prior to filing.

If at any time either spouse disagrees with any part of the legal process, you can ask the judge to convert it to a contested no-fault or fault-based divorce.


The details of marriage are deeply personal, and most people don't take the decision to divorce lightly. In fact, many couples get professional or religious help before realizing that divorce may be the only option.

In most states, the law prohibits a judge from expressing an opinion regarding a couple's marriage. But in Idaho, the law specifically permits a court to delay a divorce—for up to 90 days—if the judge believes that a couple could reconcile if given more time. The couple can use this time to participate in counseling or do nothing. If the couple still wishes to divorce after the 90 days, the court must proceed with the divorce without further intervention.

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