Did you know that divorce law used to be very different in the United States? While states now primarily follow “no-fault” divorce law, in the past, divorces could be granted only for specific grounds such as adulterous conduct or desertion for a specified time period (typically a year or more). However, this approach to divorce resulted in one spouse filing the divorce, in an uncontested case, and then testifying as to all of the bad behavior of the other spouse – even in cases where the behavior was not actually all that bad nor was it the real reason for the divorce. Now, divorce is generally granted as long as the marriage is irretrievably broken. Simply not wanting to be married is therefore sufficient in a no-fault case.
History: Fault-Based Divorce
A fault-based divorce requires the party filing the papers to provide proof of fault. Examples of fault behavior (grounds for divorce) are:
- Cruel and barbarous treatment
- Conviction of felony or misdemeanor for which incarceration is possible
- Indignities (a pattern of objectionable behavior)
Modern No-Fault Divorce
Today, a no-fault divorce occurs when a couple wants to end their marriage but one party has not necessarily wronged the other. When a marriage falls apart because the parties no longer wish to be together, a no-fault divorce is appropriate.
The exact requirements for a no-fault divorce vary by state. In some jurisdictions, the couple must live apart for a set period before the papers are filed. In other jurisdictions, no separation time is required (but there may be a brief waiting period required after filing).
The no-fault divorce process does not necessarily depend on whether the spouses are able to agree on issues regarding property division, child custody and child support. Generally, spouses attempt to resolve these issues together. Reducing conflict in a divorce is better for both spouses and prevents trauma and emotional turmoil for other family members, including children. These days, couples work together to come to an official divorce agreement. Frequently, no written agreement is necessary or required.
If couples cannot reach an agreement, the divorce case would proceed to court. However, since the development of no-fault divorce, the collaborative process has reduced stress, time and money involved in ending a marriage.
If you are considering a divorce, you may want to speak to an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can help you sort through issues and assist you with completing the dissolution process.