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What's the Difference Between a Fault and No Fault Divorce?

What’s the Difference Between a Fault and No Fault Divorce?

The difference between a fault and a no fault divorce is the grounds for the divorce. In the first case, the spouse filing the divorce claims the other spouse is responsible for ruining the marriage, while in the other case no blame is placed on either party. State laws  vary greatly.  Some states have only fault grounds although many have fault and no fault grounds (Georgia, for example, has one no fault ground and 12 fault grounds). It is always a good idea to consult an attorney to navigate state-specific laws.


What Are the Grounds to File a Fault and No Fault Divorce?


Possible grounds for fault divorce include (not all states have all these grounds):

  • Adultery

  • Pregnancy of the wife at the time of marriage unkown to the husband

  • Desertion or abandonment (specified length of time depends on state)

  • Abuse (physical, emotional or mental cruelty) or Cruel Treatment

  • Incarceration (specified length of time depends on state)

  • Insanity

  • Impotence

  • Substance abuse

  • Infection with a sexually transmitted disease

  • Marriage between people too closely related (in some states grounds for annulment)


Possible grounds for no fault divorce include (most states have only one, and you must use the correct wording. Some states use one or more of the following):


  • Living apart for a period of time

  • Irreconcilable differences

  • Irremediable breakdown of marriage

  • The marriage is irretrievably broken


With a fault divorce, no legal separation time is necessary, while with a no fault divorce, certain states may demand an initial period of separation lasting up to two years.



Why File for a Fault Divorce?


It is generally harder and more expensive to get a divorce for fault grounds, however, in some states certain fault grounds present a strategic advantage.  Some for example treat adultery as a basis to deny alimony.