42.0202 Grounds for divorce.

The High Court may dissolve any marriage contract and grant a decree of divorce, or may grant a decree of judicial separation, for any one of the following causes:

(1) adultery;

(2) habitual cruelty or ill usage;

(3) desertion for 6 months or more;

(4) sentence to imprisonment for a term of 10 or more years or for life;

(5) voluntary continuous separation for a period of 5 years or more.

(6) irreconcilable differences.

History: 1962, PL 7-32; and 1996, PL 24-11.

Case Notes

Irreconcilable differences does not qualify as a basis for divorce and does not constitute habitual cruelty or ill usage. Chun v. Chun, 3 ASR2d 23 (1986); Lea’e v. Lea’e, 3 ASR2d 51(1986).

A statute specifying “habitual cruelty or ill usage” as a ground for divorce is not satisfied by proof of irreconcilable differences between husband and wife. A.S.C.A. § 42.0202. Chun v. Chun, 3 A.S.R.2d 23 (1986).

“Habitual cruelty or ill usage” in divorce statute does not encompass mere disagreement between the spouses, not even disagreement on matters about which the spouses have strong feelings and beliefs. A.S.C.A. § 42.0202. Lea’e v. Lea’e, 3 A.S.R.2d 51 (1986).

A divorce for habitual cruelty or ill usage may be granted in the absence of physical violence, but only when the record reflects a pattern of conduct that is so shameful or bizarre as to be unbearable, and in which it is reasonably clear who is the wrongdoer and who is the victim. A.S.C.A. § 42.0202. Lea’e v. Lea’e, 3 A.S.R.2d 51 (1986).

Territorial statute clearly prohibits court from granting divorce absent proof of “fault-based” statutory criteria, even in case where respondent had stipulated to default judgment and waived the right to contest the divorce action. A.S.C.A. §§ 42.0202, 42.0205-06. West v. West, 5 A.S.R.2d 88 (1987).

Spouse who did not tell her spouse about a pending criminal prosecution against her, denied it when he asked her about it, and perpetuated the lie to the evident despondency of the other spouse, was guilty of “ill usage” within meaning of divorce statute. A.S.C.A. § 42.0202(2). Suluvale v. Suluvale, 10 A.S.R.2d 28 (1989).

“Habitual cruelty or ill usage” as ground for divorce is not equivalent to “irreconcilable differences,” “incompatibility,” or other “no fault” grounds for divorce, but requires a finding of fault. A.S.C.A. § 42.0202(2). Suluvale v. Suluvale, 10 A.S.R.2d 28 (1989).