An increasing trend in the family law world is the prioritization of no-fault divorce. Unlike in ages past when divorce was only granted when provable marital offenses were present, no-fault divorces exist to allow marriages to dissolve with simple “irreconcilable differences.”
A no-fault divorce is a method of legally dissolving a marriage that does not involve proving fault. No-fault divorces are more common than at-fault divorces, with 17 states and Washington DC only offering no-fault divorces. Unlike in an at-fault divorce, the filing spouse does not need to prove any claims in order to have the divorce proceed.
The grounds for divorce are intentionally left open-ended and feature such language as “irreconcilable differences” or an “irreconcilable breakdown of the marriage.” These broad and slightly vague justifications translate to allowing people to divorce their spouse for a number of reasons. In some cases, the fact that the other spouse opposes the divorce can itself be used as justification of claims of irreconcilable differences.
Legally a no-fault divorce is pretty straightforward. First the other spouse is served, then there is a hearing followed by a period of time in which spousal support, asset division, and custody are decided. Once they have been resolved, the divorce is finalized and the marriage is dissolved.
No-fault divorce has a few advantages compared to at-fault divorce. In order for an at-fault divorce to be successful, there must be a proven marital offense. By contrast, a no-fault divorce can proceed even if there is no provable harm actively being done. However, the settlement of issues such as alimony, asset division, and custody will be more egalitarian in a no-fault divorce than in a proven at-fault divorce.
In a no-fault divorce both spouses are usually determined to start on equal footing. Unless some drastic evidence arises, this means that the court will aim to equitably divide assets, determine alimony, and award child custody. All other things being equal, this means an even division of assets, alimony for the less prosperous spouse, and co-parenting equal custody.