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When you’re ready to legally end your marriage, you need to select the grounds for divorce, which can be either no-fault or fault. Every state in the US has some version of no-fault divorce, where you don’t have to prove your spouse committed any wrongdoing. On the other hand, fault divorces cite one party as the cause of the marriage breakdown. But these aren’t available in every state.
Here’s a side-by-side look at no-fault and fault divorces.
|No-fault divorce||Fault divorce|
|How it works||The filing spouse states that the marriage is irretrievably broken.||The filing spouse states that the other spouse is the cause of the divorce, according to the state’s grounds for divorce.|
|Who it’s best for||For couples whose personality conflicts make married life impossible.||For couples where one spouse is accused of marital misconduct.|
|Grounds for divorce|
|Legal separation necessary||Yes, in some states||No|
|Possible to stop the divorce||No||Yes|
|State residency requirements||Yes||Yes|
|Cost||Less expensive||More expensive|
|Available through online DIY service||Yes||Yes|
|Learn more||Learn more|
To file for a no-fault divorce, only one spouse needs to want to end the marriage. Instead of assigning blame, the grounds for divorce is solely based on the fact that you and your spouse no longer get along. Some states require that you live apart for a specific amount of time before you can file for no-fault divorce, though it varies.
Once you meet the state residency and separation requirements, you can proceed with the divorce — regardless of whether your spouse is OK with it. Since there’s no need to prove fault, this type of divorce generally costs less because you may not need a court trial. And if it’s uncontested, you may even be able to complete the entire process online.
Though the grounds for a no-fault divorce vary by state, the two most common legal reasons include:
No-fault divorces have advantages and limitations.
Although states have different requirements, here’s a general idea of what you need to be eligible to file for no-fault divorce:
In a fault divorce, you file a petition alleging that your spouse is responsible for the breakdown of your marriage. For example, you may cite adultery or cruelty of emotional or physical pain as the grounds for divorce.
Before you can file, you need to fulfill the state’s residency requirement, though you don’t need to complete a separation period. Instead, you need to prove to a judge that your spouse is to blame for your divorce.
Keep in mind that your spouse also has the right to make a defense and stop the divorce if they can show that they aren’t at fault. And your case will likely have to go through the court system if it’s contested.
In some states, fault divorces may award the innocent spouse a greater portion of the shared property or assets and a larger alimony payment. But fault divorces are also generally more expensive and time-consuming than no-fault divorces because they involve presenting evidence and witnesses.
Comparative rectitude is a principle that kicks in if both spouses have grounds for a fault divorce. A divorce based upon comparative rectitude grants the divorce to the spouse that is more innocent or least at fault.
While each state has its own legal reasons for granting fault divorce, a few common grounds include:
Check your state’s court system website for the correct terminology of grounds for fault divorce before filing.
Weigh the costs and benefits of a fault divorce before deciding whether it’s for you.
Some states only offer the option of filing a no-fault divorce, meaning you can’t assert that the other spouse is responsible for the breakdown of your marriage. These include:
If you have an uncontested no-fault divorce, check if you can begin the process online using one of the following divorce services:
Every state has some version of no-fault divorce, which is typically cheaper and faster to complete since no one is pointing the finger at who’s to blame. It’s also easier to complete your divorce online and keep it out of the court system when you go the no-fault route. But if you’ve been wronged in your marriage and want your spouse to pay in terms of higher alimony or child support payments, then you might want to opt for a fault divorce if it’s available where you live.
Read our guide to getting divorced to learn more about how it works and compare legal services.
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