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What Is a No-Fault Divorce?


A no fault divorce is a one in which either spouse can end a marriage without needing to cite any wrong-doing from the other side. The laws that provide for a no fault divorce can grant a divorce to any petitioner without requiring a showing of evidence that the spouse has breached the marriage contract. The cited reason is actually irreconcilable differences, but it can be used to mean anything.

Irreconcilable differences could simply mean one spouse no longer wishes to remain married. It could also mean adultery. There's little if any consideration of why a divorce is requested when it's a no fault divorce. This speeds up the proceedings a lot, as judges do not have to consider the behavior of both parties in granting the divorce.


The concept of no fault divorce was created during the 1917 Russian Communist Revolution. Back then, religious institutions were in charge of the official registrations of birth, death, marriage and divorce. Under the non-secular laws, divorce was very restrictive. The 1918 Decree on Divorce removed the ecclesiastical law governing religious marriage and allowed civil marriage by the power of the state.

Married couples could then file a mutual consent document, or one party can request it of the court. The divorce law did not penalize the husband with alimony, child support, or debtor's prison in case of non-payment. Once the divorce has been granted, the two parties are entirely free of obligations from each other.  

This concept took longer to propagate to other countries. In the United States, no-fault divorce laws were implemented first in California when Ronald Reagan signed the Family Law Act of 1969, effective on January 1, 1970. It was only since 1985 that all states in the US permitted it, with slightly different interpretations depending on the state. In New York, however, couples must sign a separation agreement and wait for a full year before a court can turn it into a divorce.


If no fault divorce laws are applied, it is almost impossible to stop the dissolution of a marriage. The ground of irreconcilable differences is accepted as true, so there is no need to provide evidence. Some instances of fault can be applied when alimony or child support is being considered. Emergency petitions for financial help may also be entertained by the court.

A spouse can still sue the other if there were instances of criminal actions. Even while a no fault divorce is taking place, a spouse can be sued for abusive behavior in civil court, or prosecuted in criminal court. An unequal distribution of assets would result if there is significant proof of abuse.

The judge can still allow for arguments of fault when determining alimony or child custody. Fault still plays an important part in deciding the outcome of a divorce, even if no fault laws apply.

Studies have shown that no-fault divorce brings lesser emotional harm in the part of the children. It was also reported that states who implemented this concept had lesser rates of domestic violence.

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