No Fault Divorce – Whose Fault Is It anyway?

Aug 8, 2012 by

Divorce can be stressful for all of the parties involved, and it is not always the best way to handle marital strife. Unfortunately, circumstances may arise that forces one party to file for divorce because it may be the best decision for the whole family. Each state controls divorce laws and grounds for divorce, and while some divorce laws are similar in many states, others have completely different rules. Grounds for divorce and burden of proof vary slightly from state to state.

Grounds for divorce in most states fall under fault or no-fault categories. Some states have one or the other, some have only no-fault divorces.

States with no-fault divorce only:

  • Colorado
  • Washington D.C.
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

No-fault divorce means that the marriage can be dissolved if at least one party believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This spouse must show the court that the marriage is broken and that there is no chance of reconciling. If both spouses agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, neither spouse must submit proof. A marriage can be irretrievably broken if the couple has been living separate for a stated period of time or if there are any irreconcilable differences. It is not difficult to show that a marriage is irretrievably broken, but each state has different requirements or proof to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Most states have both fault and no-fault divorces where the petitioner can file for divorce on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or that the respondent has destroyed the marriage by committing acts, such as adultery, abusive treatment, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, imprisonment, desertion, or insanity. These acts are most common among states that have a fault divorce, but each state varies. Some states, including Alabama and Utah, allow one spouse to file for divorce if the other is impotent. The petitioner must prove a fault divorce to the court, or both spouses must agree and substantiate the claim.

Some states, such as Maryland and New York, require one spouse to be at fault unless the couple has been living apart for a certain period of time (usually at least one year or more).

Every state has different grounds for divorce, and while they may allow the same reasons to file for divorce, one state may require a spouse to proof that the marriage is irretrievably broken while another may not. It is up to you to know the laws in your state.


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