Divorce is never easy. But it can be particularly challenging when parties must place blame on one another.
No-fault divorce brought noteworthy and longstanding changes to the court system. It is a legal mechanism that allows couples to split without having to prove that one party is at fault. This article will explore this concept, its history, and why it can matter to your plans to leave your spouse.
A Brief History of No-Fault Divorce (and why it matters)
Obtaining a divorce has always been a burdensome and traumatic experience. But before 1969, one side always had to prove fault, and bitter legal battles were typical. This was a time before any no-fault legislation.
Divorce Before No-Fault Legislation
In the before times, one of the parties had to allege a specific ground for divorce, such as adultery, cruelty, or desertion. These allegations could be arduous to prove. Furthermore, the fault-based system placed the burden of proof on the person seeking the divorce.
As a result, it made it more difficult for women to leave their spouses. Women were often economically dependent on their husbands and disadvantaged in the legal system. This problem was substantial since a divorce could be prohibitively expensive.
Fault-based divorce also has other negative consequences. It often led to couples remaining in unhappy or abusive marriages. Rather than face the court process, many people lived in miserable relationships. In addition, the fault-based system resulted in children being pawns in legal battles more often than not.
Divorce After No-Fault Legislation
The momentum for reform started in the late 1960s in response to rising divorce rates. The first state to enact no-fault divorce was California in 1969 when Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Family Law Act. This legislation allowed for irreconcilable differences as a valid reason for divorce.
Other states soon followed California’s lead. By the 1980s, all 50 states had some form of no-fault divorce. Nonetheless, the specifics of these laws vary by state.
The introduction of no-fault divorce generated avid criticism and support. Conservatives opposed it by arguing it made divorce too easy and contributed to the breakdown of the family unit. They also contended that no-fault divorce would lead to more single-parent households.
However, proponents of no-fault divorce argued that it was not the availability of divorce that was the problem. The factors that led to it were the issue. They argued that no-fault divorce made the process less adversarial and less costly. Moreover, it did not necessarily lead to an increase in the divorce rate.
Pure No-Fault Divorce States
In pure no-fault divorce states, neither party must demonstrate that the other was to blame. Living under these statutes means that couples can get a divorce even if one party does not want to get divorced. The only requirement is that one of them asserts there are irreconcilable differences.
There are only a few pure no-fault divorce states in the United States currently. These include the following:
The divorce process in these states is generally more straightforward and less contentious than in fault-based divorce states. Couples can usually file for divorce and get through quickly and with fewer legal fees.
Additionally, pure no-fault divorce states often have less stringent residency requirements. This flexibility makes it easier for couples to obtain a divorce if they have moved recently. For example, Florida Statutes only require a couple to live in the state for six months before filing with the courts.
While the process for obtaining a divorce may be less involved, it is still essential for couples to seek legal advice. It is often the only way to ensure they protect their rights and reach a fair settlement. The division of assets and child custody arrangements are particular sticking points to keep in mind.
Meet With a Local Attorney About a Fault or No-Fault Divorce
The details may seem insignificant compared to the emotional toll of this period. Placing or avoiding fault as a legal mechanism is little consolation for this traumatic and life-changing situation. Nonetheless, your action (or inaction) can impact your financial or emotional well-being.