No Fault Divorce vs. Fault Divorce - What these terms mean

Frankie Grijalva

No-fault divorces mean that the person filing for divorce doesn't have to prove that the other person did something to cause the end of the marriage. 

Every state allows for no fault divorces.

They are another way of saying, "Hey...things just didn't work out here. It's no one's fault." 

The other option is a fault divorce, which means one spouse cheated on the other, abused the other and more. 

There are pros and cons to ending a marriage by filiing a no fault divorce.

  • Quicker, easier, and less expensive
  • Less conflict 
  • Helps those in abusive relationships end a marriage without having to testify and prove of the abuse
  • Only the filing partner needs to decide the marriage is over. The other partner may not be ready for divorce.
  • There are residency requirements in some states if you file a no fault divorce.
  • Spousal support can be trickier to fight for. 
“True” No-Fault States

In the following states, no fault divorces are the only way to file for divorce. 
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Fault Divorce

If your state is not listed, then you can file for a fault divorce. That means one spouse is requestiing the divorce based on things the other person did. 

The following are possible grounds for divorce:
  • One-year separation
  • Cruel or inhuman treatment
  • Adultery
  • Conviction of a felony crime
  • Permanent and incurable mental illness
  • Habitual addition to alcohol or drugs
  •  Desertion
  • Abuse or neglect of a child of the marriage or of a stepchild.
There are pros and cons to fault divorces. 

  • During the separation period some spouses fix their relationship and do not divorce
  • If the fault is found true against the other spouse, the judge may grant more in favor of you when discussing spousal support, child custody, child support payments, etc. 
  • During the required separation periods in some states, can be a waste of time if spouses do not put an effort
  • The divorce process takes longer since some states require proof regarding the grounds of divorce
  • Proving fault can be difficult 
  • Documentation collection can become expensive 
  • Increase of conflict between individuals and can affect children, if any 
Because there are so many options for filing for divorce, a lawyer can be a helpful ally. We can match you with an attorney, even if you just want to get feedback on a plan you've formulated with your ex. 

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

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