There are two different types of divorce: fault divorce and no-fault divorce.

Fault divorce is the oldest form of divorce. The spouse seeking divorce files a complaint for divorce, alleging that the other party is to blame for the dissolution of the marriage. Common types of fault include cheating, cruelty and abuse, abandonment, financial ruin, and incarceration. The opposing spouse then files an answer to the complaint, and the parties litigate in court whether one of the parties breached the marital contract.

No-fault divorce is a relatively recent invention. No-fault divorce allows spouses to agree together to dissolve a marriage. No one is blamed for ruining the marriage. Rather, the parties simultaneously agree that they are no longer able to get along and wish to end the marriage. In this case, the parties jointly file a petition for divorce.

Which States Allow No-Fault Divorces?

As of 2010, all states now recognize no-fault divorce. California began the trend in 1969, and by 1985, all states had adopted no-fault divorce except for New York. However, as of August of 2010, New York signed a no-fault divorce bill into law, joining the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.

How Do I File for Divorce?

If you are the only party who wants a divorce, you must file a complaint for divorce. This will require your spouse to file an answer. If you and your spouse both wish to get divorced, you must file a petition for divorce.

Generally, if you have lived in a state for at least a year, you may file for divorce there, even if you did not get married in that state. Local courthouses will have family and probate divisions that accept divorce complaints and petitions.

When you file your divorce complaint or petition, you will be given a date for a hearing. If the divorce is uncontested, you may be able to receive a divorce decree at that hearing. An uncontested divorce hearing generally involves the judge asking the parties a series of questions. The questions include:

  • Whether the parties are residents of that state
  • The date of marriage and the date of separation
  • Whether the parties have entered into a spousal agreement
  • Whether the parties have any debt or assets that need to be divided up
  • Whether the parties have agreed on terms of child custody and support
  • Whether the parties consent to the divorce

A contested divorce is extremely difficult and may go on for years. Even after receiving a divorce decree, you may find yourself back in court to litigate child custody or alimony issues.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce?

While no-fault divorces may seem painless in some circumstances, dividing up assets and debts and figuring out child custody and support payments can be extremely confusing and stressful. Divorce lawyers are familiar with the law and can help facilitate negotiations. Lawyers can help you draft spousal agreements and divorce petitions and help facilitate the court process.