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In a No-Fault State? What That Means for Your Divorce

If you live in a no-fault divorce state, you can divorce your spouse without having to prove your spouse did something wrong. In that same vein, they can divorce you without proving that you did something wrong. In other words, you don’t have to play the “blame game” with your spouse in front of a court just to end your marriage.

No-fault divorces are almost always quicker, less stressful, and less expensive than fault divorces. In a fault divorce, one party must prove to the court that the marriage crumbled due to the other party’s fault.

What is “fault,” anyway?

Merriam-Webster defines “fault” as a weakness, failure, or defect. In divorce, common faults (often labeled as “grounds for divorce”) include cheating, desertion, substance abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and incarceration. As you can imagine, taking your spouse to divorce court and exposing any of the above-mentioned “faults” would be painful for all involved. The freedom to divorce without having to “prove” anything is one of the major benefits of ending your marriage in a no-fault state.

Does this mean your path to divorce in a no-fault state will be clear and easy? Not necessarily – but you’ll have a much easier time if you begin the process with a solid understanding of the basics of no-fault divorce.

5 tips to keep in mind if you’re considering divorce in a no-fault state

You must indicate grounds for divorce in your petition, even in a no-fault state.

This isn’t as scary as it may sound. The grounds in a no-fault state involve vague terms like “irreconcilable differences” or an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. In other words, you don’t have to go into great detail about what prompted the split.

Even in a no-fault state, there may be a “fault” that affects the outcome of your divorce settlement.

A judge may be swayed by the circumstances that led to a divorce, even in a no-fault state. For example, if one spouse is an out-of-control alcoholic with a history of drinking and driving, the judge might decide to keep that information in mind when determining a child custody arrangement. However, the judge may not use the information about alcoholism to “punish” one spouse financially. (That is, they may not award a larger sum of spousal support based on the idea that the alcoholic has done something “wrong.”)

Some states require the couple to live apart for a period of time before a no-fault divorce will be granted.

For example, in Arkansas, you must live physically apart from your spouse for 18 months before a no-fault divorce will be granted. Otherwise, your Arkansas divorce must have a fault attached to it. Check your local laws to find out if separation is required before you and your spouse can get a no-fault divorce.

You must be a resident of a state to get a divorce in that state.

Some people get the idea to expedite their divorce by crossing state lines into a no-fault state and seeking divorce there. But this won’t work. In any state, you must establish residency before the court will grant you a divorce. The residency requirement for divorce in your state should be easy to find online.

You can get a no-fault divorce even if you don’t get along.

As long as the two of you agree to petition for a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to like or want to be in the same room with each other. (It’ll be easier if you’re friendly and totally amicable, but that’s rare, even in the tamest of divorces.) Help is available for people who want to work out their differences behind the scenes and peacefully file for divorce.

We recommend reading these Hello Divorce resources:

Hello Divorce offers flat-rate mediation services by phone or by Zoom. Click here to learn more.

What U.S. states are no-fault divorce states?

In these states, fault grounds are not factored into divorce cases and spouses cannot cite grounds for fault in the divorce paperwork and proceedings. Many states offer both the option for no-fault and fault. Usually, no fault is reserved for uncontested divorces yet fault grounds can be cited in a contested divorce. The purely no-fault states are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • Washington D.C.

Whether you’re in a no-fault state or a fault state, if you want to file for divorce, Hello Divorce is here for you. We’ve got the experience, expertise, and resources to help you navigate this time of change in your life, and we offer a menu of flat-rate services so you pay only for what you want and need.