In general, a “no-fault” divorce can be described as a process wherein the spouse filing for divorce will not be required to provide grounds for the divorce. They also don’t have to prove that either of the parties committed a wrongdoing which led to petitioning the court for a divorce. Although every state now recognizes no-fault divorces, each state will have its own separate requirements to file for divorce using this status.
For example, some states only ask that the couple explain why their marriage is no longer working. In comparison, other states have laws that prescribe mandatory periods of time that a couple has to live apart for before they can file and be granted a no-fault divorce.
Some common reasons that a court will accept when filing for a “no fault” divorce include:
- Irreconcilable differences;
- Irremediable breakdown of the marriage; or
- Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
On the other hand, a number of states still offer fault-based divorces. Traditionally, this meant that the spouse filing for divorce had to prove that the other spouse was at fault in order to obtain a divorce. Some examples of grounds for fault-based divorces include:
- Abuse or cruelty;
- Insanity; and
- Physical incapacity.
Again, since all 50 states and the District of Columbia now recognize no-fault divorce, a petitioning spouse will not need to prove any of the above grounds before filing a petition for divorce. However, some states do mandate that spouses follow different procedural guidelines when it comes to filing for a no-fault divorce.
To learn more about the requirements for a no-fault divorce in your state, or alternatively, if you need help with filing a standard petition for divorce, you should speak to a local divorce lawyer or family law attorney immediately for further legal guidance.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
A couple may need to file for a “contested divorce” if the parties cannot reach an agreement on any of the following items:
- Which spouse should pay alimony or spousal support;
- The amount of alimony or spousal support that should be paid to the recipient spouse each month;
- Issues involving child custody, child visitation rights, and/or child support payments;
- Disputes over the division of property and/or assets;
- How the couple intends to split their debts (if applicable); and/or
- Whether the parties disagree on filing for divorce at all.
If any of the above subjects are at issue or in dispute between the parties, then the couple must file a petition for a contested divorce.
In contrast, if the parties are able to reach an agreement on the majority of these issues, such as child custody arrangements and the division of assets, then they will most likely be eligible to file for an uncontested divorce. Generally speaking, uncontested divorces tend to be easier and less expensive to execute in comparison to contested divorces.
Will My Spouse Have to Pay Alimony after a No-Fault Divorce?
Similar to other types of divorce, a spouse may still need to pay alimony after a no-fault divorce decree has been finalized and issued by the court. In some instances, a recipient spouse may also petition the court to receive alimony while the couple is legally separated, before the couple files for divorce, or while the divorce case is pending. Again, every state has its own separate laws and procedural requirements that will apply to each of these scenarios.
It should be noted, however, that spouses who receive temporary spousal support before a divorce decree is issued, should bear in mind that such temporary payments will end once their divorce is finalized. Thus, these spouses must remember to include a request for alimony as part of their divorce case.
Some common types of alimony that a supporting spouse may need to pay to a receiving spouse after a no-fault divorce include the following:
- Rehabilitative alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is a type of spousal support that will assist the other spouse in covering necessary expenses until they are able to gain financial independence. This kind of alimony usually comes up in cases where one of the spouses requires special training or a specific degree to enter the workforce and apply for a job that would enable them to support themselves.
- Permanent alimony: Permanent alimony is typically awarded when the divorcing couple was married for a long time and one of the spouses was financially dependent on the other spouse throughout the course of their marriage. Permanent alimony may also be provided when one of the spouses is unable to support themselves due to a medical condition or the inability to secure a job that would enable them to support themselves.
- Reimbursement alimony: Reimbursement alimony is exactly what its name implies. Basically, if one of the spouses was forced to take care of household expenses or pay for the other spouse’s education or job training during the marriage, then that spouse will be ordered to pay reimbursement alimony to the original supporting spouse.
- Periodic alimony: Periodic alimony is a type of spousal support that exists for a short time frame. It is often requested when a recipient spouse has an illness or injury that will last for a temporary duration, or when a recipient spouse is considered to be the “stay at home” parent and is raising children who are not yet old enough to attend school.
In addition, the court will determine which spouse to award alimony as well as the amount of alimony to be paid each month by examining several factors, such as the ability of the supporting spouse to pay alimony or the couple’s lifestyle during the marriage. Again, these factors will vary in accordance with the laws of each individual state.
Do I Need a Divorce Attorney?
It is generally recommended that spouses filing for divorce retain their own separate counsel, even if they are filing for a no-fault divorce. This is because there are many rules and procedures that must be complied with when filing a petition for divorce, and most of them will usually vary based on the state. There are also specific requirements for when and how a spouse can request alimony in a divorce matter.
Thus, given the complexity of such cases and the emotional toll that filing for divorce can take on a person, you should strongly consider hiring a local divorce lawyer or family law attorney immediately to provide further assistance with your matter. A lawyer who has experience in handling divorce cases will be able to advise you of your rights and protections under the laws in your state as well as the rules for obtaining a no-fault divorce.
Your lawyer will be able to determine what type of alimony you may be eligible for and can make sure you put in a request for alimony at the proper time in your divorce case. Your lawyer can also help you to draft and review any necessary legal documents that pertain to your divorce matter, and can assist you in filing those documents with the appropriate court.
Lastly, should you need legal representation in court or at a settlement conference, your lawyer will be able to provide this service. Additionally, if you ever need to modify or terminate alimony support, your lawyer will be able to help you with these procedures as well.