Divorce is a serious matter. It has a long-lasting impact on you, your spouse and of course your children, if you have any. The law takes it seriously, too. When asking a court to grant you a divorce, you must have grounds or a reason for it.
That's true whether it's considered no-fault grounds or whether you or your spouse is at fault for the marriage's breakup.
Fault and No-Fault Basics
A fault-based divorce requires you to give the court at least one of the grounds recognized in your state as a legally valid reason for a divorce. The specific words used to describe the grounds for divorce differ from state to state. You'll also need to prove your spouse was at fault for the breakup of the marriage.
In a no-fault divorce, you'll need to tell the court there's been a breakdown of your marriage. However, you won't need to prove your spouse was to blame for the failure of your marriage.
Most States Allow Both No-Fault and Fault-Based Divorces
Most states have both no-fault and fault-based divorces. Some states have only no-fault divorces, though. No-fault divorces are allowed in every state and the District of Columbia. Check the laws in your state or ask your attorney about which type of divorce is available in your state.
No-Fault Based Reasons for Divorce
The no-fault reasons are worded differently in the various state no-fault laws. However, all of the reasons fall into two broad categories: Those based on a breakdown of the marriage and those allowing divorce based on separation of the spouses by agreement for a required period.
In most states, you may get a no-fault divorce based on a breakdown of the marriage. The words used to describe a breakdown of the marriage vary from state to state but usually include:
In some states, it's not enough to claim a breakdown of the marriage. The couple must live apart for a period of months or years before they can get a no-fault divorce. Depending on the state, the time period may be 6 months, 1 year, 18 months or 2, 3 or 5 years.
Fault-Based Reasons for Divorce
In addition to no-fault divorces, most states allow you to get a divorce based on fault reasons, sometimes called traditional grounds. This requires one spouse to prove the other spouse is at fault. The most common fault-based grounds are:
- Abandonment or desertion
- Mental illness or incompetency
- Criminal conviction with or without imprisonment
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Cruelty or abuse
A divorce is usually a stressful and highly emotional event. Knowing some of the basics can ease your burden and help you make the decision that's right for you.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I just received a petition for divorce from my spouse, what should I do?
- Can I change the grounds for divorce from a no-fault reason to a fault-based reason after I have filed a complaint with the court?
- How long do I need to be a resident in a state before I can file for divorce?