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Fault & No-Fault Divorces: Understanding the Differences



When you ask a court to grant you a divorce, you must have a reason for making the request. This reason is known as the grounds for divorce. In some states you'll be able to request a no-fault divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the breakdown of your marriage is the grounds for divorce and you won't have to prove that your spouse was to blame. In a fault-based divorce, the state recognizes several grounds for divorce (such as adultery or abandonment), and you must prove your spouse was at fault.

Some states have eliminated fault-based divorces, but most states allow both no-fault divorces and fault-based divorces.

No-Fault Divorces

Exact laws vary from state to state, but the permissible grounds for no-fault divorces generally fall into two categories: There has been a breakdown of the marriage or the spouses have formally separated for at least a specified period of time.

A breakdown of your marriage may also be known as an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship, irreconcilable differences, incompatibility or insupportability.

In additional to claiming that there's been a breakdown of your marriage, no-fault divorce law in some states may require couples to be formally separated for a specific length of time before the state will grant the no-fault divorce. Depending on state law, the legal separation may be as short as six months or as long as several years.

According to Wikipedia.org:

"Even in jurisdictions which have adopted the 'no fault' principle in divorce proceedings, a court may still take into account the behavior of the parties when dividing property, debts, evaluating custody and support."

Fault-Based Divorces

Fault-based divorce laws require one spouse to claim that the other spouse is to blame for the divorce. Commonly accepted reasons for fault-based divorce include:

Which Is Right for You?

Your divorce lawyer is the best person to help you review the legal grounds for divorce in your state. He or she can recommend which path of action is best for you, and fill out the fault-based or no-fault divorce forms.