Which is Better, At-Fault or No-Fault Divorce?

Which is Better, At-Fault or No-Fault Divorce?

In a no-fault divorce, a spouse can simply state that the marriage is not working because of incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or because it has irretrievably broken down. The courts don’t require spouses to provide any evidence to prove any of these reasons.

In an at-fault divorce, the petitioner has to allege and conclusively prove marital wrongdoing (bigamy, infidelity, abandonment, fraud, abuse, addiction, etc.) on the part of the other spouse.

In almost all cases, at-fault divorces are expensive and take a long time to complete – therefore, they are rarely filed.

Divorce is sad and when it cannot be avoided, a spouse has to choose between an at-fault divorce and a no-fault divorce. The pros and cons of both these types of divorce laws along with our concluding remarks may help you choose between one:

Advantages of No-Fault Divorce

  • There is evidence that after the introduction of the no-fault divorce laws, wives’ suicide rates fell by up to 16% and there was a 30% reduction in domestic violence.
  • No-fault divorce laws are easy and make it simple for a spouse to exit an abusive relationship. The only requirements are the state’s residency requirements and the mandated cooling-off period.
  • A spouse does not have to provide evidence of marital wrongdoing nor allege any misconduct on the part of the other spouse. Therefore, it reduces the chances of a conflict, thereby shielding children from any emotional pain.
  • It is a quicker and simpler way to divorce so long one hires an experienced and effective divorce attorney. About 98% of no-fault divorce cases are resolved amicably before the trial stage.
  • A no-fault divorce costs much less than an at-fault divorce.

Disadvantages of No-Fault Divorce

  • Critics of no-fault divorce say it is too liberal, and perhaps immoral, because it may embolden any spouse to file a divorce petition for frivolous reasons on an impulse, without much thought.
  • A majority of no-fault divorces are uncontested and the courts do not require the consent of the other spouse. Critics say that a no-fault divorce makes people lose faith in marriage.
  • There may be a state-mandated cooling-off period (a period during which the spouses have to live separately before filing a divorce petition) which can frustrate spouses and/or emotionally harm the children.

Advantages of At-Fault Divorce

  • There is no state-mandated waiting period for at-fault divorce petitioners.
  • The spouse who was wronged gets a chance to highlight the other spouse’s misdeeds and prove the allegations. The courts can award suitable punishment/penalties to the other spouse if the allegations proved against him/her are serious. The petitioning spouse gets the feeling that justice has been delivered.
  • If the petitioning spouse proves that the other spouse committed a serious marital offense, he/she may be awarded a higher alimony amount or a larger share in the marital property.

Disadvantages of At-Fault Divorce

  • An at-fault divorce process is more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. To prove allegations, the petitioning spouse must produce indisputable evidence in the courts. He/she may have to hire expert witnesses, private investigators, forensics professionals, etc.
  • If the evidence produced in the courts does not impress the judge, the case may be treated as no-fault divorce and the petitioning spouse may be left counting the wasted time and dollars.
  • Most at-fault divorce cases are marred by conflicts, acrimony, false allegations/counter-allegations, and bitterness. It could cause a great deal of emotional harm to the spouses and the children, which can make co-parenting very challenging.

Summing Up

No-fault divorce makes sense for:

  • Couples who have mutually decided to divorce and are looking for a simple and inexpensive exit
  • Spouses who are trapped in an abusive relationship
  • Spouses who are convinced that the marriage is beyond repair and the other spouse is refusing to end it

An at-fault divorce makes sense for spouses having solid evidence of marital wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse, along with enough time and patience to wait for justice, higher share of the marital property, a higher alimony, or higher chances of gaining more child custody time.

Finally, know that as of December 2021, only 19 U.S. states are true no-fault divorce states. A spouse cannot file for an at-fault divorce in these states. All other states follow the at-fault divorce law but allow spouses to file a no-fault divorce petition.

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