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Fault vs. No Fault Divorce 
 


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Fault Versus No Fault Divorce

NO FAULT DIVORCE

Most states are  “no fault” divorce states.  In the not so distant past, divorces could only be granted for specified reasons such as infidelity or abandonment. This resulted in much highly emotional litigation that pitted one spouse against another with each painting the other as the “bad guy.” Most states have eliminated fault from their statutes. In most states, for a divorce to be granted there must only be an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. 

In many states, the couple must live apart for a period of months or even years in order to obtain a no fault divorce.

 FAULT BASED DIVORCE AND WAITING PERIODS

In the limited states that have retained "fault designations" proving "fault" does not affect the issue as the y relate to custody, spousal maintenance (alimony) or property settlements.  Instead, they allow a party to seek an expedited divorce without a waiting period.

These states generally have waiting periods before a divorce can be finalized or before a divorce can be filed.. For example, in Maryland, the parties must live separately for on calendar year before a divorce can be finalized.  By proving fault the waiting period can be avoided and the divorce can be filed and finalized immediately if the parties have an agreement.

Some grounds for divorce include:

  • separation for a period of time 

  • adultery

  • desertion

  • conviction of felony or misdemeanor

  •  insanity

  • cruelty  

  • physical inability to engage in sexual intercourse, if it was not disclosed before marriage.

 A brief overview through the year 200 of fault based and no fault states appears below.  Remember that laws are constantly changing and these general figures may not be accurate. 

State

Fault based

No-fault 

Length of Separation Necessary

Alabama

X

X

2 years

Alaska

X

X

 

Arizona

 

X

 

Arkansas

X

 

18 months

California

 

X

 

Colorado

 

X

 

Connecticut

X

X

18 months

Delaware

X

X

 

District of Columbia

 

 

6 months

Florida

 

X

 

Georgia

X

X

 

Hawaii

 

X

2 years

Idaho

X

X

5 years but may be reduced if both parties consent

Illinois

X

X

2 years

Indiana

 

X

 

Iowa

 

X

 

Kansas

 

X

 

Kentucky

 

X

 

Louisiana

 

X

180 days

Maine

X

X

 

Maryland

X

 

1 year

Massachusetts

X

X

 

Michigan

 

X

 

Minnesota

 

X

180 days

Mississippi

X

X

 

Missouri

 

X

 

Montana

 

X

 

Nebraska

 

X

 

Nevada

 

X

1 year

New Hampshire

X

X

 

New Jersey

X

 

18 months

New Mexico

X

X

 

New York

X

 

1 year

North Carolina

X

 

1 year

North Dakota

X

X

 

Ohio

X

X

1 year

Oklahoma

X

X

 

Oregon

 

X

 

Pennsylvania

X

X

2 years

Rhode Island

X

X

3 years

South Carolina

X

 

1 year

South Dakota

X

X

 

Tennessee

X

X

2 years

Texas

X

X

3 years

Utah

X

X

3 years

Vermont

X

 

6 months

Virginia

X

 

1 year but may be reduced to 6 months if there are no children

Washington

 

X

 

West Virginia

X

X

1 year

Wisconsin

 

X

120 days to finalize a divorce. You cannot remarry for one year following a divorce. 

Wyoming

 

X

 

 

 

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