This site does not endorse the following Watchtower quotes. They are simply presented to show what the Watchtower teaches regarding the topic.
Divorce & Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses interpret Scripture to indicate that the only grounds for divorce and remarriage is adultery. If a Witness divorces for any reason other than adultery they cannot remarry without risk of being disfellowshipped.
Separation from a partner is allowed in the case of spiritual or physical endangerment, or willful non-support; but in such cases remarriage is not permitted. Remarriage would be considered adultery and a reason to be disfellowshipped.
The Watchtower definition of fornication (porneía) has changed over the years, and quite illogically homosexuality and bestiality were not grounds for divorce in the 1970's.
"While both homosexuality and bestiality are disgusting perversions, in the case of neither one is the marriage tie broken." Watchtower 1972 Jan 1 p.32.
See Divorce for an article showing that the divorce rate of Jehovah's Witnesses is similiar to the national average.
Keep Yourself in God's Love (2008) pp.219-221
What forms a Scriptural basis for divorce? Well, Jehovah hates adultery and fornication. (Genesis 39:9; 2 Samuel 11:26, 27; Psalm 51:4) Indeed, he finds fornication so despicable that he allows it as grounds for divorce. (For a discussion of what fornication involves, refer to Chapter 9, paragraph 7, where fornication is explained.) Jehovah grants the innocent mate the right to decide whether to remain with the guilty partner or to seek a divorce. (Matthew 19:9) Hence, if an innocent mate decides to seek a divorce, that one does not take a step that Jehovah hates. At the same time, however, the Christian congregation does not encourage anyone to seek a divorce. In fact, some circumstances may move the innocent mate to remain with the guilty one, especially if that one is genuinely repentant. In the end, though, those who have a Scriptural basis for divorce must make their own decision and accept whatever consequences it may bring.Galatians 6:5.
In certain extreme situations, some Christians have decided to separate from or divorce a marriage mate even though that one has not committed fornication. In such a case, the Bible stipulates that the departing one remain unmarried or else make up again. (1 Corinthians 7:11) Such a Christian is not free to pursue a third party with a view to remarriage. (Matthew 5:32) Consider here a few exceptional situations that some have viewed as a basis for separation.
Willful nonsupport. A family may become destitute, lacking the basic essentials of life, because the husband fails to provide for them, although being able to do so. The Bible states: If anyone does not provide for . . . members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith. (1 Timothy 5:8) If such a man refuses to change his ways, the wife would have to decide whether she needs to protect her welfare and that of her children by obtaining a legal separation. Of course, Christian elders should give careful consideration to an accusation that a Christian refuses to support his family. Refusal to care for ones family may result in disfellowshipping.
Extreme physical abuse. An abusive spouse may act so violently that the abused mates health and even life are in danger. If the abusive spouse is a Christian, congregation elders should investigate the charges. Fits of anger and a practice of violent behavior are grounds for disfellowshipping.Galatians 5:19-21.
Absolute endangerment of spiritual life. A spouse may constantly try to make it impossible for the mate to pursue true worship or may even try to force that mate to break Gods commands in some way. In such a case, the threatened mate would have to decide whether the only way to obey God as ruler rather than men is to obtain a legal separation.Acts 5:29.
In all cases involving such extreme situations as those just discussed, no one should put pressure on the innocent mate either to separate or to stay with the other. While spiritually mature friends and elders may offer support and Bible-based counsel, they cannot know all the details of what goes on between a husband and a wife. Only Jehovah can see that. Of course, a Christian wife would not be honoring God or the marriage arrangement if she exaggerated the seriousness of her domestic problems just to live separately from her husband, or vice versa. Jehovah is aware of any scheming behind a separation, no matter how one may try to hide it. Indeed, all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting. (Hebrews 4:13) But if an extremely dangerous situation persists, no one should criticize a Christian who, as a last resort, chooses to separate. In the final analysis, we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.
Watchtower 1988 Nov 1 p.22
"Extreme physical abuse is another basis for separation. Suppose an unbelieving mate often gets drunk, becomes enraged, and causes the believer physical harm. (Proverbs 23:29-35) Through prayer and by displaying the fruitage of Jehovahs spirit, the believer may be able to prevent such outbursts and make the situation endurable. But if the point is reached where the health and life of the abused mate actually are in jeopardy, separation would be allowable Scripturally."
Watchtower 1963 September 15 p.571
"Extreme physical abuse furnishes another valid basis for separation. As is often the case, drunkenness may be an underlying cause, resulting in physical abuse. (Prov. 23:29-35) A mate who is not governed by Scriptural principles may fly into a rage and cause physical harm to the believer. This may occur often, so that one's health and life are actually in jeopardy. After thoughtful and prayerful consideration of the circumstances, the Christian may feel that there is no recourse but to separate from the abusive mate. On the other hand, the Christian may find that there are things she can do to avoid outbursts of anger on the part of her mate, thus making the situation endurable."
Watchtower 1965 September 15 p.555 "From this it is evident that a Christian should not even consider separating from a marriage partner unless the case is critical. Extreme physical abuse, actual threat to life, or the absolute imperiling of ones spirituality, might give rise to a consideration of separation. But even in these instances the mature Christian would separate from a mate only as a last resort."
Homosexuality Is/Isn't Grounds for Divorce
Watchtower 1983 12/15 p.27
"That fornication (which in the Bible sense includes adultery and gross sexual immorality such as homosexuality) can break up a marriage. Scripturally, the innocent partner has the right to divorce the guilty one and remarry without sin in God’s eyes."
Watchtower 1983 3/15 p.30
"What do we understand here by “fornication”? The Greek word in this text is porneia. In discussing the matter, The Watchtower of December 15, 1972, pages 766-768, showed that porneia “comes from a root word meaning ‘to sell.’” Thus it is tied in with prostitution, such as that practiced in many pagan temples in the first century and in ‘houses of ill fame’ today.
True, porneia is sometimes used in a limited sense, as applying to sex relations between unmarried (single) persons. An instance of such a limited usage is 1 Corinthians 6:9, where “fornicators” are mentioned separately and in addition to those who engage in such other sexual vices as adultery and homosexuality. But just before this, at 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Paul used the same word when counseling Christians not to mix with “fornicators.” Is it reasonable to think that here he referred only to immoral unmarried persons? That could not be so, for chapter 6 sets out a broad range of illicit sexual practices that must be shunned, including adultery and homosexuality. Likewise, Jude 7 and Revelation 21:8, which show that God judges unrepentant “fornicators” as worthy of eternal destruction, could hardly be limited only to unmarried persons that have sex relations. And the Jerusalem governing body’s edict at Acts 15:29, “to keep abstaining . . . from fornication,” must be understood to have the wide field of application.
So, then, “fornication” in the broad sense, and as used at Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, evidently refers to a broad range of unlawful or illicit sex relations outside marriage. Porneia involves the grossly immoral use of the genital organ(s) of at least one human (whether in a natural or a perverted way); also, there must have been another party to the immorality—a human of either sex, or a beast."
Watchtower 1972 Jan 1 pp.31,32
"While both homosexuality and bestiality are disgusting perversions, in the case of neither one is the marriage tie broken. It is broken only by acts that make an individual "one flesh" with a person of the opposite sex other than his or her legal marriage mate."
Watchtower 1956 10/1 p.591
"Sodomy (or the unnatural intercourse of one male with another male as with a female), Lesbianism (or the homosexual relations between women), and bestiality (or the unnatural sexual relations by man or woman with an animal) are not Scriptural grounds for divorce. They are filthy, they are unclean, and God’s law to Israel condemned to death those committing such misdeeds, thus drastically putting these out of God’s congregation. But such acts are not adultery with the opposite sex, making the unclean person one flesh with another of the opposite sex."