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At Fault and No-Fault Divorce

The difference between an at-fault and no-fault divorce proceeding can be substantial. In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse have a requirement to prove that the other spouse did something wrong to justify ending the marriage. In contrast, at-fault divorce proceedings seek to gain advantages based on being a victim of wrongdoing.

While all US states recognize no-fault divorce, only the District of Columbia and 17 states are true no-fault divorce jurisdictions as they only permit divorce filings based on no-fault grounds giving no option to cast blame. Filing for an at-fault or no-fault divorce is permissible in all other 33 states, making them both at-fault and no-fault states.

Couples who opt for a no-fault divorce, even in the case of marital wrongdoing, usually make divorce proceedings simpler and quicker. However, establishing fault can be beneficial in certain circumstances and can change the distribution of property or alimony to the spouse who was not at fault. Still, fault divorces are not as common today and hinge on specific marital offenses.

Irretrievably Broken or Irreconcilable Differences

Many couples heading for divorce opt for a no-fault divorce to save time, money, and emotional toil. An irretrievably broken marriage is equivalent to irreconcilable differences as grounds for a no-fault divorce. When conflicts of personality, bickering, and resentment chip away at the stability and health of the marriage, couples may opt to move on. Irreconcilable differences can include:

  • Loss of relationship trust
  • Financial and debt disagreements
  • Work causing protracted separation
  • Lack of sexual intimacy
  • Communication difficulties
  • Personality conflicts
  • Failure to help in the household
  • Differing political views
  • In-law and family involvement
  • Changing life goals and interests
  • Conflicts in raising children
  • Religious differences

Choosing an At-Fault or No-Fault Divorce

If you reside in a state recognizing no-fault and at-fault divorces, you must decide which filing best suits your situation. Establishing fault is beneficial in some circumstances to garner more alimony and increased property distribution to the aggrieved spouse.

Before filing for a divorce, you must get legal knowledge and guidance from a divorce attorney in your state. A divorce lawyer can provide legal expertise to navigate the process effectively. They can help you understand your rights, explain the relevant laws in your state, and ensure you meet the legal requirements for a divorce. Your attorney can provide legal options for different scenarios.

Pros of a No-Fault Divorce

Choosing a no-fault divorce simplifies the divorce process by removing the need for one party to prove fault or wrongdoing. This avenue saves spouses time, money, and emotional stress because it avoids lengthy and contentious legal battles.

No-fault divorce also reduces conflict, as there is no need to assign blame to a party. Without assessing blame, the animosity and hostility between the divorcing spouses are reduced. When the focus becomes resolving the end of the marriage rather than assigning fault, reaching an amicable agreement regarding property division, child custody, and support tends to be easier.

Couples that seek divorce may want to keep the personal details of their marital dissolution private. Since there is no requirement to disclose intimate details or publicly accuse one another of misconduct, couples can maintain their dignity and protect their privacy.

In many traditional fault-based divorce systems, women were often disadvantaged because they were more likely to be blamed for the marriage breakdown. No-fault divorce removes this potential bias, promoting gender equality and fair treatment for spouses.

Cons of a No-Fault Divorce

Critics of no-fault divorce argue there is diminished accountability for the marriage breakdown. By eliminating the need to prove fault, the perception may be that one party is trying to end the marriage without facing the consequences and taking responsibility.

Others argue that the availability of no-fault divorce undermines marriage by making it easier than ever to dissolve and increasing the likelihood of divorce occurring for relatively trivial reasons.

A no-fault divorce can also create financial imbalance. When one spouse is financially dependent on the other, a no-fault divorce may lead to potential inequities. The financially dependent spouse may be disadvantaged during the property division and spousal support determinations.

Although no-fault divorce aims to reduce conflict, the process still creates emotional impacts and challenges for children and may make it harder for them to understand why the divorce is happening.

Can a Spouse Prevent a Court Granting Divorce?

No. The mere request to object to divorce constitutes an irreconcilable difference that would legally justify a divorce. However, a spouse can prevent an at-fault divorce by claiming the allegations presented to the court are false. Or a spouse may admit wrongdoing but present a defense or reason for the behavior. These reasons may include the following:

  • Condonation – Accepting inappropriate behavior as the status quo and staying in the marriage.
  • Connivance –A spouse who sets up a situation for the other spouse to commit marital wrongdoing.
  • Provocation – When a spouse encourages or prompts the other to commit a bad act and then uses that act as grounds for divorce.
  • Collusion – Try to shortcut the waiting period separation by manufacturing grounds for divorce.

These defenses are rarely used because most courts will eventually grant the divorce since there is a strong public policy against forcing a couple to stay married.

The Importance of a Divorce Attorney

Divorce laws and procedures can be complex, even in a no-fault context. An attorney specializing in family or divorce law can provide the necessary legal knowledge and counsel to navigate the process effectively.

Divorce involves significant paperwork, including filing various forms, financial disclosures, and settlement agreements. A family law lawyer can help complete and file these documents accurately and efficiently, minimizing the risk of errors or omissions that might delay the divorce proceeding.

Even in a no-fault divorce, various issues can be resolved through negotiation, such as division of assets, child custody, child support, and potentially spousal support. A divorce or family law attorney can advocate for your interests and negotiate a fair settlement that protects your rights and assets. They can provide objective advice and help you make informed decisions.

Should a dispute arise during divorce, an attorney can represent your interests in mediation sessions or court hearings, arguing on your behalf while working toward achieving the best possible divorce outcome.

Contact  our Houston family law attorneys at (713) 582-5088 whether you seek an at-fault or no-fault divorce. Divorce is an emotionally challenging experience. Our attorneys are at your side to provide emotional support and reassurance as we protect your rights, minimize potential pitfalls, and help you achieve a fair and favorable outcome.

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