A no-fault divorce allows a petitioner to file for divorce without alleging any fault on behalf of either party.
"Fault" in a divorce can include domestic violence, cheating, or abandonment. However, in a no-fault divorce, the parties can divorce on grounds such as "irreconcilable differences." "Irreconcilable differences" means that the couple no longer gets along.
All states permit no-fault divorces. Each state outlines in its divorce statute the various reasons for divorce that are recognized in that state. Some states require both that the couple live separately and avoid sexual relations with each other before honoring a petition for divorce.
Prior to filing a divorce petition, the parties can enter into a spousal agreement to facilitate the divorce. These agreements include a marital property agreement that divides up all shared assets and a custody agreement that arranges for custody and support payments regarding any shared children.
If the parties agree to a spousal agreement, then the divorce is known as an uncontested divorce. These divorces are relatively quick and painless.
However, if anything is contested as a part of the divorce petition, the parties will need to divide their debts and assets in court. The most commonly contested items are:
- Child support payments
- Child custody
- Joint accounts such as checking, savings, pension and retirement, and investment accounts
Alimony is in fact available to spouses before the actual divorce is finalized. This is known as "alimony pendente lite." The court orders that the spouse be given financial assistance while the divorce is still pending. Once the divorce is finalized, this form of pre-divorce assistance is terminated.
However, following a divorce decree, the spouse may then be awarded alimony. There are four types of alimony.
- Permanent alimony is awarded when: the parties were married for a long time, one spouse supported the other during the marriage, and the unemployed spouse is unable to return to the workforce following a divorce.
- Rehabilitative alimony is awarded when: one spouse supported the other during the marriage and the unemployed spouse now needs education or training in order to enter the workforce. While the spouse is undergoing training, the rehabilitative alimony will cover his or her living expenses.
- Periodic alimony is short-term alimony. It will be used in situations such as when the spouse is injured or ill or when the spouse is a stay-at-home parent raising children who are not yet old enough to attend school.
- Reimbursement alimony compensates a spouse for contributions made to the other spouse’s education during the marriage. Thus if one spouse paid for the other spouse to attend law school, that spouse will be reimbursed for those costs after a divorce.
Divorce is a very burdensome and confusing process, and in the event that a divorce is contested, it can be extremely time-consuming and litigious. Alimony is not automatically given. A spouse must prove a right to alimony, as well as calculate the alimony required. A divorce attorney can advise you of your rights in a no-fault divorce, help you determine which type of alimony you are eligible for, and help advocate for your interests in a divorce proceeding.