What does no-fault divorce mean?

A marriage can fall apart for several reasons. Perhaps it’s due to financial problems or commitment issues. Maybe there was domestic violence involved – a clear justification for a split.

But regardless of the reasons for filing for a divorce, Californians should remember that their state is a no-fault divorce jurisdiction.

In a no-fault divorce, neither party must prove that the other had done something wrong to justify the divorce. The filing spouse can just claim that they and their partner can no longer get along and that their marriage has failed.

There are two types of no-fault divorce systems. While they may sound similar on paper, divorcing in a state that subscribes to one system would work differently than in a state with the other system.

True no-fault divorce

“True” no-fault divorce is in force in 17 states and the District of Columbia. No-fault divorce is the only option for those looking to split with their partners in these jurisdictions. In a true no-fault divorce, the conduct and behavior of the other spouse have no bearing or relevance to the divorce application. This also means courts will not consider factors like child abandonment or adultery when deciding on the case.

Optional no-fault divorce

The other U.S. states offer optional no-fault divorce, so filing spouses can choose from other divorce options where fault is a factor. States that provide optional no-fault divorce can also have specific legislation concerning fault – for instance, one state can have a law where filing for divorce due to domestic violence or cruelty could change how child custody is resolved.

Choosing whether to involve fault in a divorce procedure is as complicated as the divorce procedure itself. Spouses going through a divorce should work with an attorney to help them navigate the process and work with the other party to reach a satisfying settlement.