Divorce Law

What Is the Difference Between a "Fault" and a "No Fault" Divorce?

Depending on where you live, you may or may not want to cite a reason for getting a divorce. Essentially you can place blame or "fault" on one party for the demise of the marriage. Many states do not require a cause and are "no-fault" states.

Fault Divorce

This type of divorce is much less common than it used to be. Most states don't even allow the option for fault divorces. Historically, ending a marriage required proving that you had "grounds for divorce."

The legacy of fault divorces continues in enough states to be worth mentioning. In these states, courts grant fault divorces on a variety of provable grounds including the following:

  • Abandonment
  • Adultery
  • Prison
  • Abuse, cruelty
  • Substance abuse

Suspecting a spouse of an action that qualifies as an acceptable reason to divorce is not enough. A fault divorce requires proof of the grounds presented to the court.

No-Fault Divorce

You have the option to file for a no-fault divorce in every state in the country. Some states will not allow a spouse to file for divorce until both parties have lived apart, or separated, for a certain period of time. How long couples must live apart from each other before filing for divorce varies by state.

As the name implies, the commission of a fault by either person in the marriage is not required for no-fault divorces. One of the most commonly presented reasons given for no-fault divorces is either irreconcilable differences or some type of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. No-fault divorces cannot be objected to by the other spouse. Ironically, objecting to the divorce petition may be viewed as proof of irreconcilable differences by the court.

State Residency Requirements

Depending on whether you opt for a no-fault filing or a fault filing, it may impact your separation period. Some states require a certain period of separation before a no-fault divorce can be filed and in some cases finalized. Whereas with fault claims, the separation requirement may not exist.

Finding the Right Advocate

If you are unsure about whether to allege fault or not in your divorce, then you should consult with an attorney who is familiar with family law proceedings in your area. Often there are pros and cons unique to your state which will influence how you proceed.