What Is A No Fault Divorce?
In a no fault divorce, a spouse wanting to get a divorce does not have to prove that the other spouse was at fault in the marriage. Instead, they can use the legal grounds of separation or “irreconcilable differences” as legal justification to get a divorce.
Some people confuse “no fault divorce” with “uncontested divorce,” but these are two very different legal concepts. No fault simply means you are not blaming the other spouse for the divorce. An “uncontested” divorce means that both spouses agree to the divorce and the basic provisions regarding divorce, such as property division, child custody, and child support. A divorce can be no-fault and still contested, meaning that even though you are not blaming your spouse for the divorce, you two do not agree on everything in the divorce.
How Does A No Fault Divorce Work?
Here is how to get a no fault divorce:
- File a complaint in the court in the county where one of the spouses has residency
- Serve your spouse with the no fault divorce papers or have them sign an affidavit waiving service
- Wait for any applicable waiting period
- Supply any necessary financial disclosures with the court
- Attend any required mediation sessions
- Present your marital settlement agreement to the court or proceed to trial
- Receive your divorce decree
What States Allow No Fault Divorces?
Currently, all states allow divorce based on no-fault grounds. New York was the last state to permit no-fault divorce, and this change was made in 2010. States vary on what constitutes no fault, with some requiring physical separation for a certain number of months or years before a spouse can file for a no fault divorce.
Benefits Of No Fault Divorces
Proponents of no-fault divorces support this type of divorce because it is often cheaper and less adversarial than a fault-based divorce. Additionally, proponents believed that some people would allege false grounds simply because they wanted a divorce but their case did not fall within the purview of the fault divorce law. Studies have shown that states that legalize no-fault divorce have lower rates of female suicide and domestic violence.
A significant advantage of a no fault divorce vs a fault divorce is that you don’t have to take time to prove your grounds for divorce. For example, if your spouse cheated, you do not have to go through the process of submitting evidence or raising inferences of infidelity. Instead, you can simply state that you want a divorce without having to make this information public.
Starting a divorce by accusing the other party of wrongdoing may not always be the best option because the blamed spouse may become abusive or vindictive. This may ignite emotional and financial upheaval for years to come.
For these reasons, most divorces are filed on no fault grounds, even if fault grounds exist.
So, when did no fault divorce start? California was the first state to pass a no-fault divorce law, which was passed by then Governor Ronald Reagan who was a divorced and remarried movie actor. This happened in 1970.
What Is A Fault Divorce?
A fault divorce means that the other spouse did something wrong, which triggered the divorce process. Before you can ask the court to divide your property ,award child custody, or order the divorce, you must first prove that fault-based grounds are present in your marriage. Common fault based grounds for divorce include:
- Imprisonment or admission to a psychiatric facility for a year or longer
- Physical inability to consummate the marriage
What States Allow Fault Divorce?
Most states allow fault divorce. However, some states do not allow a person to allege fault-based grounds in divorce, including:
- District of Columbia
Benefits Of Fault Divorces
There are far fewer benefits of fault divorces than no fault divorces. Nonetheless, there are sometimes reasons when people may file on fault grounds. For example, some states require a couple to live apart for at least 18 months before they can file for divorce. A spouse wanting a divorce sooner may allege fault grounds instead so they do not have to wait this long to get a divorce. Additionally, a spouse’s fault in the divorce can sometimes affect property matters, such as:
- What property they are awarded
- Which debts they are assigned
- Whether they will be required to pay spousal support
- Whether the terms of a pre- or post-nuptial agreement will apply
Costs For No Fault vs. Fault
Because a fault divorce requires additional steps to prove the grounds for divorce, fault divorce tends to cost more. Additionally, proving fault may take extra time or may lead to more contention between the parties, further increasing the potential costs. In contrast, the no fault divorce cost tends to be lower because the couple can go right into the heart of the case instead of arguing over whose fault it is. A no fault divorce with a child may add some extra costs because of the extra time required to resolve child custody and support matters.
No Fault Divorce Pros and Cons
Every divorce case is different and may involve different considerations. Generally, the pros of a no fault divorce include:
- Less expensive
- Less contentious
- More private
- Less conflict, which may be particularly important if you are co-parents
The potential cons of a no fault divorce may include:
- May not provide religious grounds for a divorce
- May not allow you to argue for better property rights than you might have with no fault grounds
- May not give you the opportunity to have your story emerge
You can discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced family law attorney to determine what may be best for you.