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No-Fault Divorce LawsThere are two different methods when obtaining a divorce; fault and no fault. Traditionally, in many states, fault divorces were the standard, meaning, a couple could not get a divorce unless there was some good reason for doing so. Prior to no-fault divorce being adopted into law for each state, a divorce could be obtained only through a showing of fault of one of the parties in a marriage. This meant that the filing party had to show that one spouse had to plead that the other had committed adultery, abandonment, felony, or other similarly culpable acts. By 1983, every state but South Dakota and New York had adopted some form of no-fault divorce. South Dakota adopted no-fault divorce in 1985.Until August 2010, New York was the only state that still lacked a unilateral “no-fault” divorce statute. That is however, until New York governor David Paterson signed a no-fault divorce bill on August 15, 2010. As of October 2010, no-fault divorce is allowed in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

It is ironic because, today, no fault divorces are far more common throughout the United States and every state has a no-fault option. These options have a little more wiggle room as far as the reasoning behind the filing for divorce, therefore more people file under no fault. So, just what is the difference between the two?

No Fault Divorces
The main difference between a fault and a no fault divorce is the reason that the petitioner states on the filing documents as the reason for the filing in the first place. When spouses decide to file for a “no fault” divorce, essentially that means they are saying that neither party did any one specific action that resulted in the agreement of dissolution. The reasoning is pretty straight forward and as it sounds; both parties agree that nobody is at fault for the end of the marriage.

This agreement in turn, means that, they have both simply decided that they cannot or do not wish to be married any more. Often, the married couple will cite grounds such as “irreconcilable differences” when filing for a no fault divorce. In cases such as these, some courts will demand mediation or counseling before the filing can be completed. Many states feel that couples sighting differences can work them out and reconcile. Then if the court sees fit, they will grant the divorce if necessary.The fact that irreconcilable differences have arisen that neither time nor counseling will cure is sufficient grounds for a court to terminate the marriage and to return the former spouses to the legal status of unmarried.

No Fault and Uncontested Divorce

In a no fault divorce or dissolution of marriage, the actions of the respective spouses in the breakdown of the marriage does not affect property distribution or spousal support rights, with the exception of spousal and domestic violence or abuse. In some states, where one party can show that the other spouse perpetrated abuse, the spousal support award may be affected. In others, the property distribution may be affected by spousal abuse. Each state rules differently on these issues and ruling will vary on a case by case basis.  Note, when a spouse makes no effort to challenge a no fault divorce, it is then referred to as an uncontested divorce.  Once again, the legal claim for divorce comes from which grounds are cited, once a no fault divorce is cited, and not objected to by the spouse, it would then be referred to as uncontested divorce.

Fault Divorces
A “fault” divorce, is essentially the opposite of a no fault divorce. This means that there is an assertion that one party engaged in behavior that directly led to the need for the divorce. There are specific grounds that a fault divorce can fall under. These grounds vary by state to state but typically include: adultery, physical or mental cruelty, desertion, alcohol or drug abuse, insanity, impotence or infecting the other spouse with a venereal disease.

In order for a fault divorce to occur, the party alleging the grounds for fault generally needs to have some proof of those grounds. The respective rights to distribution of property and spousal support can be affected by a spouse’s fault in causing the breakdown of the marriage in some states.

Making the Right Choice
Now that the subtle differences have been defined, it’s important to remember that something very minute and finite, can be the difference between fault and no fault. however, when filing for one or the other, the proceedings can be drastic in difference. These laws are put into place to help those filing to come to a decision that is best for themselves, their spouse and often times, their children. Knowing the difference can be a great tool to have when going through a divorce.

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