Reasons for Divorce: What Does the Bible Say?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Are there acceptable reasons for getting a divorce?  What are not acceptable reasons for divorce?  What does the Bible say about divorce?  Are there biblical grounds for divorce?

Are There Acceptable Reasons For Getting a Divorce?

What are biblical reasons that are acceptable for divorce?  Some may reason that if there is violence in the family it is at least time to move out.  One reason to have a person separate themselves would be when a husband or wife is abusive to their spouse and also to their children.  There is no reason that a person should put up with this.  The first thing might be to move from that location and separate and hope that the abuser gets some counseling and help.  It is not lawful to abuse another person.  Sexual abuse of children is also against the law and should be reason to relocate immediately and the one doing the sexual abusing should be turned into the law.  No one should endure such abuse – God would not look down or think it sin if a person or a spouse’s children are being abused and they are removed from whoever is molesting the chiild.  They have every legal right to defend their children from this and to protect themselves and their children from this.

Marital infidelity, drug abuse, and non-support are also seriously considered for separating but since we know that God hates divorce, the person or couple should seek marital counseling (Malachi 2:16).  Of these, ongoing sexual immorality, that is divorce,  is a biblical reason.  Finding a good Christian counselor is a good first step.  As a former Mental Health Case Manager, I have seen the damage done to women and children – and even some men – and it destroys lives and the ability to trust again.  Some carry lifelong scars from things that occur in homes that are unspeakable.  You can forgive others but you can not ever undo something that leaves its mark for life.

Reasons For Divorce

What are the Reasons For Divorce?

What Are Not Acceptable Reasons For Divorce?

I have heard many reasons about people seeking and getting divorces – even among Christians.  The reasons are many but none of these are acceptable to God:

“I fell out of love with my wife/husband.”

“I just don’t have anything in common with her/him anymore”

“My husband/wife just doesn’t love me anymore.”

“This just can’t be God’s will for my life anymore.”

“We are incompatible.”

“He/she lied to me before we got married.”

“It wasn’t really genuine in ‘God’s eyes’”.

“They would be happier without me.”

“I would be happier without him/her.”

There are dozens more that are not listed here but none of these that are mentioned are acceptable and only those mentioned in the Bible are acceptable reasons for divorce.  This does not counting abuse or unrepentant, ongoing sexual immorality.  The Bible says it is sin to divorce unless you have biblical grounds for it, which will be mentioned at the bottom of this article.

What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?

Clearly God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) because “What God has joined together, let man not separate . . . I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:6, 9). Jesus said that, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12).  Being unequally yoked with unbelievers was mentioned prior to marriage but God is just as clear that divorce is not permissible just because one is a believer and the other is not.

Paul writes, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).  There are many such marriages where a spouse is a believer and married to an unbeliever but this is not grounds for divorce. In fact, the believing spouse may lead such a life as to bring the unbelieving spouse to faith in Christ.  First Corinthians chapter 7 is an excellent overview of marriage and sexual relationships for the single believer.  Here Paul lays down the command “for all churches” to continue living and being married to the unbeliever.  First Corinthians 7:17, 20 says, “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”

If a husband or wife dies, then that person can remarry and not commit adultery, which is what Paul was specific about in I Corinthians 7:39, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” So the unbelieving spouse can remarry but it must be to a believer as to not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.  If a spouse is married to an unbeliever Paul writes, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? ” (I Cor 7:12-14, 16). This is an amazing passage of Scripture.  Paul says that it is possible – in fact it has happened many times – that an unbelieving spouse comes to faith in Christ by the believing spouse.

Paul clarifies it by saying, “…if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (I Cor 7:15).

Are There Biblical Grounds For Divorce?

There are biblical grounds for getting a divorce and it is ongoing, unrepentant adultery.  Some believe if there is physical abuse against a spouse and physical or sexual abuse of the spouse’s children that is never resolved, they may divorce.  That is a person’s decision after they counsel with a pastor or Christian marriage counselor.  At the least they should move out immediately and report this to the police.

Sexual immorality or adultery that is unrepentant and ongoing is reasonable before God’s eyes for permitting a divorce.  Jesus said that, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife [and husband of course], except for sexual immorality, makes her [or him] the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt 5:37. 19:9). Adultery is breaking a serious commandment (Ex 20:14). But if the adultery and sexual immorality committed by the sinning spouse stops and they repent, then there should be every chance given to the person to forgive them (Mark 11:25, Luke 6:27-28).  God is all about forgiveness and we are told to forgive our brother or sister when they fall and want to be restored.

Divorce is a last resort but if there is no other choice and adultery persists with no signs of remorse, repentance, or change, then divorce is permitted.  God hates divorce but He would not expect a married person to remain married to a spouse that remains in an adulterous situation.  It is hoped that there is always room for repentance, counseling, and reconciliation – but if it doesn’t occur, and sexual sins outside of marriage persist, the victim of such a marriage is not bound by the law and God would not call that sin.

If you have any questions about this topic you can contact us through the contact form on this website for a response.


The Holy Bible, New International Version

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