Definition of no Fault Divorce

No fault divorce laws emerged in the United States during the 1970s with California being the first state to legalize no-fault divorce. No fault divorce laws allow for one spouse to file for divorce without proving the other spouse’s actions were wrong or led to the dissolution of the marriage. Common reasons for no fault divorce are living apart for a period of time, irreconcilable differences, or an irremediable breakdown of the marriage.
Prior to the implementation of no-fault divorce laws, it was more difficult to get a divorce and reasons for divorce were limited. Common grounds for divorce prior to the implementation of no fault divorce laws include adultery, desertion, emotional or physical abuse, incarceration, impotence, insanity, infection with a sexually transmitted disease or a substance addiction.

On August 15, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed New York’s no fault divorce law, the last state to do so (although before this time divorce was allowed if both parties notarized a separation agreement and lived separately for one year). No fault divorce laws have been controversial with opponents arguing their proliferation has led to a general break down of the American family, allowing marriage to be dissolved with little thought and little difficulty. Governor Ronald Reagan acknowledged as much claiming that signing California’s no fault divorce legislation was “one of the worst mistakes he ever made in public office.”

Some states still require an initial period of separation for no fault divorces. Other states only grant no fault divorces, while other states allow a spouse to choose either a no fault or fault divorce. Talk to a divorce lawyer if you have questions about your state’s laws.

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