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No-Fault Divorce in California

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According to California law, couples can file divorce papers without exposing marital mistakes or formally placing blame on one another. The reason: California is a no-fault divorce state. You can simply tell the court that your marriage is broken due to irreconcilable differences and cannot be fixed. You don't need to offer details or proof when presenting your divorce case.

A no-fault divorce is usually a cleaner, quicker, and less expensive dissolution of marriage than the alternative: at-fault divorce, also known as fault divorce. It’s often preferred by both parties if they want to move forward quickly.

Keep reading to find out why California's no-fault divorce process exists and how you can take advantage of it. 

Why don't you have to prove fault in California? 

Legally speaking, much of the nitty-gritty of divorce involves the division of marital assets and debts. Married couples who part ways must decide who gets which items and who assumes which debts going forward. If they cannot make these decisions on their own, the court will step in and decide for them.

California is a community property state, which means divorcing couples can place their marital assets and debts into two buckets: individual property and community property.

Individual property in California

Items and debts that are considered individual property are usually kept out of divorce proceedings. These things are thought to be the sole possession or responsibility of the person who owned them before marriage or received them after separation.

Communal property in California

Items and debts the couple accrued together during the marriage are considered communal property. In a California divorce, this property is split 50/50 in divorce.

Are exceptions ever made to the no-fault law?

There's no wiggle room in a no-fault divorce for asserting fault or blame. In legal terms, any "wrongdoing" is irrelevant.

In a state that grants fault divorces, however, a harmed party could potentially ask the court for an extra helping of marital assets due to the other states. 

Notably, the court can and does consider child welfare in a divorce judgment. Spouses who show egregious behavior that could harm a child could potentially end up with a bigger child support bill and fewer visitation rights. That said, the court is required to determine the child's needs, not the parent's faults, when making these decisions.  

Spouses who lie about their assets during the divorce process could face a court reprimand. If a judge finds out about this level of deception, they could take assets away as a penalty. But this problem is rare, and it’s relatively easy to avoid.

Can someone stop a no-fault divorce?

To marry in the state of California, both parties must agree to the wedding. Divorce is different. You can get a divorce in California even if the other party doesn't want one. 

To initiate divorce in California, you must file paperwork, deliver (or "serve") documents on your partner, and wait 30 days for a response. Your partner, the respondent, can contest your plans and ask for different child support options, and you may disagree on things like spousal support. But your partner cannot deny your request for a divorce altogether. 

If your partner doesn't respond within 30 days, you can ask the court to issue a default judgment. Essentially, the court decides your case without your spouse’s input. This judgment from the court is final and ends your marriage. 

How long does a no-fault divorce take?

Getting a divorce in California takes a minimum of six months. Couples move through four steps, and a waiting period of six months from serving papers to finalizing is required before the process is final. 

While you can't make the process move faster, you can certainly slow it down. Arguing over the specifics of your settlement agreement or delaying responses to paperwork can make things drag on for much longer than they otherwise would.

Benefits of a no-fault divorce

Any divorce is difficult, and no-fault divorces are no exception. But there are some benefits to going the no-fault divorce route. 

A no-fault divorce where both parties agree can be relatively inexpensive. Although a filing fee of $435 to $450 is necessary for the divorce paperwork, if it's an uncontested divorce in which both parties agree on property division, child support, child custody, spousal support, and other issues, you won't have to hire divorce attorneys to untangle your estate. (Note: If you cannot afford the filing fee in the state of California, you can apply for a waiver for this expense.)

In divorce, attorney fees alone can surge to tens of thousands of dollars if things get messy. But with no-fault divorce, you won’t need to pay for private investigators to uncover your spouse’s mistakes to help you win in court. 

Since you’re not discussing each other's mistakes or faults in court, a no-fault divorce is less embarrassing and much more private than a standard divorce. You won’t need to reveal intimate details about yourself or your partner to end your marriage. Most people find that the reduced stress of this type of divorce well worth it. 

At Hello Divorce, we are knowledgeable about divorce law in different states. We offer multiple online divorce plans as well as help with divorce forms, divorce coaching, legal advice, and a host of other services. 

References

 Divorce in California. Judicial Branch of California. 
 Property and Debts in a Divorce. Judicial Branch of California. 
 How to Finish Your Divorce if Your Spouse Didn't Respond. Judicial Branch of California.
 Overview: Getting a Divorce in California. Judicial Branch of California. 
 File Your Divorce Petition and Summons. Judicial Branch of California.