To understand the goal(s) of no-fault divorce, one must learn why and how it was introduced.
In the 1940s, a husband or wife had to prove adultery or abandonment to complete a divorce. Though obtaining a divorce was tough, expensive, and time-consuming, the courts were slowly getting more open-minded. In 1942, the Kreyling vs. Kreyling case made history. The courts ruled that the wife was within her rights to refuse sex with her spouse because he insisted on using contraceptives every time. Mr. Kreyling moved out of the house and the court equated his moving out with abandonment, and granted the couple a divorce. This was a sign that the courts were becoming liberal.
Though the courts were getting more liberal, Americans still viewed marriage from the duty and obligation points of view. In the 1950s, family courts were established and age-old notions of marriage began to change. Law firms specializing in divorce started setting up shop throughout the country, a flood of marriage help and advice books hit the bookstores, and spouses started thinking differently about marriage.
In the 1960s, the divorce rate continued its upward trend. In a 1966 case, the California Supreme Court ruled that property purchased during marriage should be divided among both spouses. The 60s and 70s also witnessed a psychological revolution that made people focus on self-happiness and individual fulfillment. The age-old notion of marriage got erased (for many couples) and was replaced by a new philosophy of subjective happiness.
Then, in 1969, the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, signed the no-fault divorce bill. According to the no-fault divorce bill, all that a spouse had to state is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, the spouses were incompatible, or the differences between the spouses had reached a level of zero reconciliation. There was absolutely no need to allege marital wrongdoing on the part of either spouse.
The rest, as you may be aware, is history.
Goals of No-Fault Divorce
So, if we were to analyze the circumstances that led to the introduction of the no-fault divorce bill, the following benefits can be said to be its objectives (no matter how critics view it as, unethical or immoral):
To reduce hurt and acrimony between the spouses
When a spouse alleges marital wrongdoing, the other spouse is likely to get defensive and make counter-allegations, leading to a bitter exchange of accusations, including false accusations. A no-fault divorce may eliminate such unpleasantness. Also, in a no-fault divorce, a spouse can easily exit an abusive relationship without having to prove anything.
To reduce the time taken to obtain a divorce decree
An at-fault divorce requires the petitioning spouse to provide evidence of marital wrongdoing, and this process takes a long time. In a no-fault divorce, the petitioning spouse does not have to prove any marital misdemeanor or wrongdoing. Therefore, a no-fault divorce can be resolved much faster as compared to an at-fault divorce.
To reduce costs
As no evidence of wrongdoing is required in a no-fault divorce, the petitioning spouse does not have to hire expert witnesses or private investigators to dig deeper, or pay for the extra attorney time. This can substantially cut costs unless the case is high-conflict. In high-conflict divorces, the case goes to trial and it may drag on for 2–3 years.
To reduce stress and protect children
A no-fault divorce is mostly shorn of animosity and feuds. Our experience suggests that 98% of no-fault divorces are resolved peacefully. An amicable resolution reduces the stress on the spouses and the children.
To reduce the court backlog
Imagine what would happen if the no-fault divorce law wasn’t around! The courts would be crammed with at-fault cases, which would probably be witnessing multiple adjournments, straining the judicial system. The no-fault divorce law, aside from making a divorce simple for the spouses, is also easy on the courts.
These, in our opinion, are the goals of no-fault divorce.