The key feature of a "no fault" divorce is that the spouse filing for divorce need not prove any wrongdoing or "fault" on behalf of either party to get a divorce. Some states simply require the couple to declare they no longer can get along. Other states ask for more, such as requiring the couple to live apart for a period of time, ranging from months to years, before they can file for a no fault divorce. The grounds for "no fault" divorce are:

  • Incompatibility
  • Irreconcilable Differences
  • Irremediable Breakdown of the Marriage

Although there are three different grounds, they all stand for the same thing; the parties can’t get along. As a result, states that recognize no fault divorce often pick one ground and use it for most no fault divorces.

What Is a “Fault” Divorce?

A "fault" divorce is granted when the filing party cites a reason why their spouse is at fault for the failure of their marriage. The traditional grounds for a fault divorce are:

  • Cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Desertion for a specific length of time
  • Confinement in prison for a number of years
  • Inability to consummate the marriage

An advantage of filing for a fault divorce is that it may eliminate the mandatory period of separation that is required for a no fault divorce. Additionally, some states may grant a greater share of marital property or alimony to a party who proves the other’s fault.

Do All States Grant “Fault” Divorces?

No. Several states, including California and Florida, do not grant fault divorces. Instead, they only allow for no fault divorces, even in cases where a spouse has violated the traditional grounds for a fault divorce. The other states allow a spouse to choose to file for a fault or no fault divorce.

What If the Spouses Dispute Who Is at Fault?

It is common for spouses blame the other for ending the marriage. Spouses can fight over:

  • Whether there is fault
  • Who’s at fault
  • What the fault is

The judge determines each of these issues. The judge can decide one of the spouses is at fault, both spouses are at fault, or none of the spouses are at fault. Likewise, judges can decide if the marriage ended because of adultery or separation.

Obviously, the judge’s decision will significantly change the outcome of the divorce. Marital property or alimony are divided differently if the marriage ended because of adultery than if the marriage ended because of "irreconcilable differences."

In addition, there is an emotional factor involved. If a judge finds fault, one spouse will walk away feeling like he or she "won" the divorce while the other spouse may feel guilty, victimized, angry, or any other emotion involved with being blamed for ending a relationship.

Are There Any Other Types of Divorce?

Yes, and how the divorce is classified may also depend on whether the divorce was the result of fault or no fault.

  • Contested Divorce – A contested divorce is a type of divorce where either spouse cannot reach an agreement. This is the most complicated type of divorce because each spouse will need to go to hearings, settlement negotiations, and potentially even a trial in an effort to reach a fair resolution.
  • Uncontested Divorce – By contrast, an uncontested divorce occurs where the spouses collaborate and work together to reach an agreement. It is unlikely either party will need to see the inside of a courtroom.

Do I Need a Divorce Attorney?

Divorce can be a complicated and lengthy process. Additionally, it is often an emotional and stressful time. If you are facing divorce, you should contact a lawyer to handle your case. An experienced divorce lawyer will be able to explain what divorce options are available in your state, guide you through the process, and ensure that your rights are protected in the settlement.