What is a no-fault divorce?

California was the first state to adopt no-fault divorces and now 43 states currently provide for no-fault divorce. But what does no-fault mean for you, the individual? Simply put, no-fault divorce means that a family law court cannot look to fault when deciding things like dissolving marriage, property, or ordering support.  

In 1969, the Family Law Act eliminated the fault requirements for obtaining a divorce. In 1969, California enacted Fam.Code § 2310 (previously a civil code section) that allows for dissolution of marriage based on irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. See In re Marriage of Walton (1972) 28 Cal. App.3d 108, 119, 104 Cal.Rptr. 472: "After thorough study, the Legislature, for reasons of social policy deemed compelling, has seen fit to change the grounds for termination of marriage from a fault basis to a marriage breakdown basis."

This means that to file for divorce in California only one spouse or domestic partner must claim that the couple cannot get along or stipulate to what is known as “irreconcilable differences.”  This also means that the disposition of the case will not be impacted if one spouse has cheated, lied, or behaved poorly. 

Back in 1969, the law changed because establishing blame for the failure of a marriage became the focus of family court and both the Court and legislature agreed that usually both parties were responsible for the breakdown of a marriage.  Currently, fault is rarely a relevant consideration in the legal process by which a marriage is dissolved.  

The key takeaway, is that even if your spouse has behaved poorly during the marriage, California will rarely take that into consideration when dividing the property and ordering support. Instead, public policy focuses on helping each party reach an agreement concerning the community property they are entitled. You can contact me at Amanda@gordonfamilylaw.com for more information.