When you enter into a marriage, you do so as an adult capable of making your own decisions. Both spouses must consent to the marriage for it to be legal and official. That standard can lead to some confusion about your rights at the end of a marriage.

Specifically, quite a few people mistakenly believe that both spouses must agree about the end of the marriage for the courts to finalize a divorce. Thankfully, that is not the case. The act of filing for divorce only requires the consent of one spouse. You have no obligation to prove wrongdoing — only to assert that your relationship has broken down.

Asking for a divorce is like withdrawing your consent for marriage. When your marriage starts to fall apart or you begin to have serious disagreements with your spouse, you may try to find simple resolutions to the issues you face. Unfortunately, not all couples can work through the problems they experience. That’s true whether the issue stems from infidelity or the gradual changes in personality that occur as people age.

Even if your spouse wants to stay married, if you know you would be happier or healthier outside of the marriage, you can file for divorce without their approval or agreement. Whether you choose to file because of irreconcilable differences, your spouse’s deteriorating mental health that has led to institutionalization or their incarceration due to criminal activity, they do not need to consent to the divorce for the courts to move forward with the process.

No one can compel you to remain in a marriage against your will. Even if your spouse doesn’t agree with you, if you believe divorce is what is best for you, you have the right to pursue a fresh start.