No Fault Divorce vs Fault Divorce

No Fault Divorce vs Fault Divorce

by Sep 1, 2017Divorce

Whether acknowledged or not, either publicly or privately, when a divorce occurs there is usually plenty of blame and finger pointing going around. While many accusations may have no impact on the proceedings, certain ones do. This is why it’s important to understand the difference between a no fault divorce vs fault divorce.

What Is A Fault Divorce?

A fault divorce is when one, or both, parties in the relationship cite one or more specific grounds for the divorce and file based on those grounds.

Those grounds typically consist of:

  • Cruelty (inflicting unnecessary emotional or physical pain) — this is the most frequently used reason for fault divorce
  • Adultery
  • Desertion for a specified length of time
  • Confinement in prison for a set number of years
  • Physical inability to engage in sexual intercourse, if it was not disclosed before marriage

If one or both parties can prove any of the above conditions when filing for divorce, the court will likely grant permission for the proceedings to continue as a fault divorce.

It’s important to note, however, that not all states allow fault divorces, so those considering a fault divorce should first check whether or not it’s allowed in the state in which they reside. California, for example is a purely “no-fault” divorce state, which means it does not grant any fault divorces for any reason.

Why File For Fault Divorce?

For states that allow fault divorce, there are some very real implications when deciding to pursue no fault divorce vs fault divorce proceedings.

Some couples simply don’t want to wait out the period of separation required by their state’s law for a no fault divorce. Additionally, in some states, a spouse who proves the other’s fault may receive a greater share of the marital property or more alimony.

What If Both Spouses Are At Fault?

When both spouses have shown grounds for divorce, the court will grant a divorce to the spouse who is least at fault under a doctrine called “comparative rectitude.” Years ago, when both parties were at fault, neither was entitled to a divorce. The absurdity of this decision gave rise to the concept of comparative rectitude.

No Fault Divorce

The other half of the equation when evaluating no fault divorce vs fault divorce, a no fault divorce is the most common type of divorce proceeding and is available in every state.

In the case of a no fault divorce, the spouse asking for the divorce does not have prove that the other spouse did something wrong.

To get a no fault divorce, one spouse must simply state a reason for the divorce that is recognized by the state. In most states, it’s enough to declare that the couple cannot get along, which is most commonly filed as “irreconcilable differences”.

Finding An Attorney

Regardless of which type of divorce a spouse wants to file, it is extremely helpful to engage the services of a competent divorce and family law attorney to navigate the process.

While the term “no-fault divorce” may seem somewhat benign to someone just starting to consider a divorce, the reality is that most divorce proceedings are very complicated, time-intensive, and both physically and mentally exhausting.

Having a reliable attorney representing your best interests is a much better way to handle things than trying to navigate the process without any outside help.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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