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What Is ‘No Fault’ Divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2011 | Divorce

Generally speaking, a no fault divorce means that either spouse can file for divorce without having to prove the other spouse is guilty of any wrongdoing.  In contrast, fault divorces require wrongdoing to be proven. Depending on the state where you live, these “faults” can include adultery, cruelty, homosexuality, inability to have sex, failure to consummate the marriage, the commission of a felony crime by one of the parties, desertion, abandonment, confinement in prison past a certain number of years, mental instability or even simple neglect.

All states recognize no fault divorces, but not all no fault divorces are equal. In California, which essentially invented no fault divorce, either party can file without assigning blame. The petitioner just needs to choose from one of two grounds listed: “irreconcilable differences” or “incurable insanity.” Other states require couples to live apart for a designated period of time, which can range from months to years, before they may file for no fault divorce.

Fault divorces can be contested. While most judges feel it is not in the public interest to force people to stay married, it has happened, particularly in conservative jurisdictions. Â No fault divorce was devised to leave the decision of whether to stay married or get a divorce in the hands of the couple, not a judge.

Besides easing the divorce process, no fault divorce has other advantages. According to statistics, reported instances of domestic violence declined in state that adopted no fault filings. It is easier for victims of spousal abuse to leave. It helps reduce family courts’ caseloads. No fault divorces take less time, cost less and save emotional wear and tear. It tends to be easier on the children compared to a contested fault divorce.

While do it yourself divorces are possible, you should consult with an attorney to make sure you know all the options available to you in your state. Especially where children are involved, court orders regarding child custody, visitation rights, child support, health care, etc are very hard to over-turn once put into place.